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Blackwater is operating in Guam and Shariki, Japan

May 4, 2010 

Another blogger shared the following articles about Blackwater and their involvement in Guam and Shariki, a tiny village in Japan that hosts a missile defense radar facility.  She points out:

• In 2006, Blackwater’s aviation division won a $91 million contract for air charter work in Guam, a contract the Navy had set aside for small businesses. Two losing bidders challenged the award, saying Blackwater had more than 1,500 employees, the threshold for an aviation contract. An administrative judge ruled for Blackwater, saying the company’s 1,000-plus guards working overseas did not count as employees…

• Blackwater teamed up with the Chenega, an Alaskan Native American tribe of 69 people, to guard a missile defense installation in northern Japan. As a native-owned company, Chenega can win special no-bid contracts because of rules crafted by Alaska’s powerful U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

• And this is from Wikipedia:  In Asia, Blackwater has contracts in Japan guarding AN/TPY-2 radar systems.

More:  A U.S. military mobile BMD radar (AN/TPY-2, i.e., “X-Band Radar”) was deployed in June 2006 to the. ASDF Shariki Sub-base in Aomori Prefecture, Japan. A new detachment, consisting of a small team of military service members and contractors who will operate and maintain the Forward Based X-Band Radar Transportable (FBX-T) system, was honored during an activation ceremony 26 September 2006 at Camp Shariki in Aomori Pref., hosted by Brig. Gen. John E. Seward, commanding general of 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command of the U.S. Army Pacific Command. The FBX-T radar is designed to provide early detection and tracking of ballistic missile threats while providing a key element to the layered defense strategy. The radar is a defensive system with no offensive capability and will fall under the command and control of the 94th AAMDC, which is based at Fort Shafter, Hi. The command officially joined USARPAC in Oct. 2005.

I found the information fascinating that Blackwater was teaming with Chenega, an Alaska Native Corporation that has “Special 8A” status to get no-bid, unlimited contracts from the federal government.   This arrangement is ripe for corruption.  The federal government has issued scathing reports on the abuses of the Special 8A status whereby, native corporations get the sole source contract as a front for a larger military contractor.

Native Hawaiian Organizations also get special 8A status for military contracts thanks to Senator Inouye.  However, since Native Hawaiians are not listed as a federally recognized tribe, every year Senator Inouye must add Native Hawaiians into the existing statutes via provisions of defense spending bills.  The so-called Akaka Bill to list Native Hawaiians as a native tribe under the U.S. government would solidify Native Hawaiian access to these special 8A contracts.  Some of the leading proponents of the Akaka Bill are already getting the no-bid contracts for defense projects.  The passage of the Akaka Bill will further militarize Hawai’i by co-opting Native Hawaiians into the military industrial complex.

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http://www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/1575255/

Blackwater’s Aggressive, Entrepreneurial Culture Keeps its Business Growing

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

May 17, 2008

Blackwater was all over the news last fall, and the news wasn’t good. The North Carolina company created a diplomatic crisis when its guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians in a Baghdad square.

The Iraqi government promised to evict the company from Iraq. Blackwater’s reclusive owner, Erik Prince, was called to Congress to testify; and afterward, he began a PR blitz of the national media. He even appeared on “60 Minutes.”

Today, however, the trouble has subsided. Last month, the State Department renewed its contract with Blackwater to provide security in Iraq. It’s still in Afghanistan for the military. In the fall, Blackwater won a new contract, for $92 million, to fly soldiers and cargo around Pakistan and Afghanistan for the Army. And the company was one of five picked to support the Pentagon’s Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program, a five-year contract worth up to $15 billion.

As the company grows, so do its headaches: a persistent congressional investigation, several high-profile lawsuits and a federal weapons investigation. Still, Blackwater is thriving because of its aggressive and entrepreneurial business culture and a strong network of Republican connections. The company has hired extensively from the top levels of the CIA, Defense Department and State Department, and named the former No. 2 official at the CIA to its Board of Advisors.

“Their connections certainly help a lot,” said Peter Singer, an expert on military contractors at the Brookings Institution. “But they may be a vulnerability in the future, if the regime changes in Washington.”

This is a company that barely existed at the start of the decade; Blackwater grew from $204,000 in federal contracts in 2000 to almost $600 million in 2006. Its rise is a case study in business timing and the power of financial and political capital to take advantage of a new market.

Blackwater Lodge and Training Center was the brainchild of Al Clark, a Navy SEAL and instructor. Dissatisfied with the Navy’s rented training grounds, Clark told colleagues he would open his own when he left the service. Clark hooked up with Erik Prince, a young Navy SEAL who shared his interest in training. Clark didn’t know it at the time, but Prince was an heir to a billion-dollar auto-parts fortune.

When the two broke ground on Blackwater Lodge and Training Center in Currituck and Camden counties in northeast North Carolina in 1997, the timing was good. The military had closed and consolidated bases after the Cold War and neglected training facilities. Blackwater built the largest shooting facility in the country, with indoor ranges, mock urban landscapes, a 1,200-yard firing range, driving tracks and a lake for naval training. Blackwater boasted it could design any sort of training a client might want.

The location was excellent, within four hours of the Pentagon in Washington, and Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The country’s biggest naval base in Norfolk, Va., was less than an hour away. Despite the steady stream of business, Blackwater wasn’t making money. Clark recalled how Prince summoned him to his office, on Christmas Eve 1999 and said, “I want this place profitable tomorrow.”

Clark said his relations with Prince went downhill when Prince complained that he was training the students so well that no one would come back for more training.

Clark left Blackwater in the summer of 2000. Business was growing steadily, Clark said, but the company wasn’t making a profit.

“There are two people who put Blackwater on the map,” Clark said _ “Al Clark and Osama bin Laden.”

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the demand for training from military and law enforcement filled Blackwater’s ranges and classrooms.

Blackwater’s most lucrative line of business wouldn’t be in the Eastern North Carolina town of Moyock, but overseas. It was the brainchild of a former CIA employee, Jamie Smith.

While working at Blackwater before Sept. 11, Smith had suggested that Blackwater go into the private security business, guarding businessmen or government officials. Prince was initially skeptical, but warmed to the idea after the attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.

Prince contacted Alvin “Buzzy” Krongard, the No. 2 official at the CIA. Krongard had known Prince since at least 1999, when Krongard’s son, a Navy SEAL, had trained at Blackwater, according to Al Clark. Krongard had visited Blackwater and shot at the firing ranges, Clark said. (In October, Krongard stepped down from Blackwater’s Board of Advisors because his brother, Howard Krongard, was the State Department inspector general responsible for investigating Blackwater. Howard Krongard later resigned.)

The CIA was stretched thin in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and the invasion of Afghanistan. Blackwater landed a sole-source, no-bid contract to provide security at CIA stations in Afghanistan.

When Blackwater won the contract, the company had no one to staff it. Smith advertised for security contractors in the Washington Post, according to author Robert Young Pelton. Smith led the security team when it arrived in the early spring of 2002.

The contract was not a big one; it called for 16 Blackwater security personnel, plus dozens of Afghan guards hired locally. But it was profitable, a Blackwater budget spreadsheet shows. Blackwater expected a 26 percent profit on the job.

Most important, the contract was a start, a foot in the door of what would expand into a billion-dollar industry once the U.S. invaded Iraq.

The invasion created a huge demand for private security in Iraq. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld sent about half the troops recommended by his Army chief of staff. There weren’t enough soldiers to secure the country, let alone protect U.S. diplomats and civilian workers.

In August 2003, Blackwater won a $27 million sole-source contract to guard Paul Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority and probably the top assassination target of insurgents.

The contract called for helicopters to fly Bremer around Iraq. Blackwater was well positioned for that; the company had bought a Florida aviation company four months earlier.

Peter Singer, an expert on private military contractors, said this was typical of Blackwater’s business savvy.

“They are very good and very savvy at identifying market needs and pushing hard to enter into those markets, even before clients have recognized the need,” Singer said.

The private security business turned Blackwater into a heavyweight government contractor; the company went from $204,911 in government contracts in fiscal 2000 to $593 million in 2006, an average annual growth rate of 277 percent. Blackwater went from having 16 guards in Afghanistan to more than 850 personnel in Iraq.

By the end of 2006, Blackwater had received more than $1 billion in government contracts. That doesn’t include classified contracts, including providing security at CIA sites overseas.

The CIA contracts are lucrative, according to a document Blackwater filed in a federal lawsuit.

Blackwater had a contract since 2003 to protect a CIA site in Pakistan, the document said. “The profit potential is high (25%+ margin),” because of the classified nature of the budgets, and the knowledge gained from past performance on existing contracts.

During congressional testimony in October, Erik Prince said that Blackwater made a 10 percent profit on his State Department contracts, but he declined to elaborate or discuss the company’s annual profits. He also declined to comment for this report. But there is a healthy markup for the company’s services: Blackwater bills the State Department $1,221 for a security guard earning $500 a day.

For all the controversy, Blackwater has an unblemished record on its main task in Iraq: None of the diplomats in the company’s care have been killed or wounded. Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy recently told The New York Times that the diplomats could not function in Iraq without Blackwater: “If the contractors were removed, we would have to leave Iraq.”

A company that has banked more than $1 billion in federal payments since Sept. 11, 2001, doesn’t sound like a small business, but Blackwater says it is.

For a company providing security services, the threshold for a small business is $17 million in annual revenue. Blackwater passed that threshold in 2003, yet continued to list itself as a small business.

In 2006, Blackwater’s aviation division won a $91 million contract for air charter work in Guam, a contract the Navy had set aside for small businesses. Two losing bidders challenged the award, saying Blackwater had more than 1,500 employees, the threshold for an aviation contract. An administrative judge ruled for Blackwater, saying the company’s 1,000-plus guards working overseas did not count as employees.

Blackwater’s contention that its guards are not employees has generated a lot of controversy.

Last year, an Internal Revenue Service hearing officer ruled that a Blackwater security guard was an employee, not an independent contractor. U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman has asked the IRS to investigate whether the company used the independent contractor designation to avoid paying federal taxes. Blackwater disputes Waxman’s complaint. If that ruling were applied to Blackwater’s entire work force, the company could be on the hook for $50 million in unpaid Medicare and Social Security taxes that companies must pay for their workers.

Prince, Blackwater’s founder, is known for his libertarian views. He touts the virtues of the free market and entrepreneurs. But the company is not averse to exploiting contracting loopholes and government giveaways.

Blackwater teamed up with the Chenega, an Alaskan Native American tribe of 69 people, to guard a missile defense installation in northern Japan. As a native-owned company, Chenega can win special no-bid contracts because of rules crafted by Alaska’s powerful U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

But to fulfill the terms, Chenega needed a partner to supply the guards, so it turned to Blackwater. The contract was worth $5 million for Blackwater in 2006 and $6 million for the first half of 2007.

In North Carolina, the Department of Commerce approved a $120,000 grant for Blackwater to support the company’s production of its Grizzly armored vehicle. The department projected that Blackwater would file for $637,500 in tax credits for the same project.

Despite the phenomenal growth, Prince has been quietly looking for more investors. At the end of April, the giant hedge fund Cerberus said it had decided against investing as much as $200 million in Blackwater. After news broke of Cerberus’ interest, Blackwater President Gary Jackson sent an e-mail message saying the company was anticipating even more growth, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“The company has “had two successive quarters of unprecedented growth,” Jackson wrote, and is “exploring multiple avenues to finance our continued expansion.”

© 2008, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.).

External link: http://www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/1575255/

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http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=49341

Tiny base assimilates into Japanese town

To allay locals’ health fears, housing built close to radar

By Teri Weaver, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Monday, October 8, 2007

SHARIKI, Japan

In Shariki, selecting the right place for American workers’ housing involved more than worrying about a daily commute.

For the 100 or so government contractors and two U.S. Army soldiers now living in and around the tiny Japanese village near the Sea of Japan, setting up a homestead also sent a message about their mission, according to the company commander at Shariki Communications Site.

“There were some people that told us, if you build that housing (elsewhere), it will be a public relations disaster,” said Capt. Will Hunter, whose unit in Shariki is attached to the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command in Hawaii. “It implies that you don’t think it’s safe to live around the radar.”

The radar is the AN/TPY-2, which points high-powered radio waves westward toward mainland Asia to hunt for enemy missiles headed east toward America or its allies. The system is serious — it could burn a person standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, Hunter says.

That hasn’t happened, he says, and occasional testing by the Americans and Japanese has found the radar does not interfere with local cell phones or harm local farming. Still, showing is better than telling, and that means building a housing complex for the Americans only a five-minute drive from the site.

It’s an apt example of how community relations can take on special meaning when a seaside village of 5,500 Japanese residents finds itself hosting several dozen Americans.

Hunter, the first commander of the year-old unit, has spent much of the past year making and implementing decisions like housing location. He’s also become a local ambassador of sorts at festivals, parades, Japanese military ceremonies and even afternoon cookouts.

“I think that’s my bigger job,” he said when weighing building relationships with local residents against his other tasks, working with the contractors and ensuring security of the radar site.

First Sgt. Ben Williams, the only other soldier in the unit, has picked up the role as well. Williams has been in the Army 16 years, and this is his first assignment without soldiers to lead and with a foreign language to negotiate. “I’m still feeling this out,” he says.

On one of his first days in town, he, Hunter and about 20 other workers from base helped drag a 16-ton float for a festival in Goshogawara, the biggest city about 45 minutes from base. “I was drenched,” he said of the sweaty work on the humid summer night.

For Hunter, much of the community relations means establishing safety procedures and conveniences for the Americans. He has set up phone lists and emergency procedures with local police and other officials so languages won’t be barriers to a response to Americans in need.

He’s even collected menus from local restaurants and had them translated to make it easier for the Americans to dine out and for local businesses to attract more customers.

The local community has responded as well. Lt. Col. Masaru Ohta, the Japan Air Self Defense Force’s 21st Air Defense Missile Squadron commander, ensures Americans get invited to festivals and meetings. And the city of Tsugaru, which oversees the smaller community of Shariki, has built a police koban in the village.

“I choose to say this police box was built for us, not because of us,” Hunter says.

Vehicle accidents have been the one sore spot for Hunter. There have been quite a few since the Americans came to Shariki, where an average of 12 meters of snow falls each winter.

Most of the accidents involve simple mistakes, not paying attention or slipping on ice, Hunter says. Still, a couple of Japanese people have been injured and gomen money, traditional compensation and condolence money, has been paid.

“In all honesty, I have beat up the contractors a lot about making their people drive correctly,” Hunter says while driving on a narrow two-lane road through rice paddies. The highway connects Shariki and Goshogawara, the closest place to big-city life that includes karaoke parlors, a dance club and two malls.

It’s hard to have absolute control, however, over a workforce that reports to a private company rather than a company commander, he says.

The Americans work for Raytheon and Chenega Blackwater Solutions, who, respectively, run the missile radar and provide security at the base.

In the past year, a couple of workers were sent home as punishment. But Hunter has no direct control over their privilege to hold a license, as he does over soldiers.

At the Shariki police station, inspector Yoshifumi Nakagawa warmly welcomes Hunter and gives business cards printed in English and Japanese to the two members of his staff – Williams and translator Yuko Akita.

Nakagawa was happy to learn Hunter has an interpreter, his first even though the Army unit officially stood up on Sept. 26, 2006. Previously, the captain relied on a handful of the contractors who speak Japanese, or a few of Ohta’s command staff who speak English.

The police official and the translator exchange cell phone numbers, then Nakagawa praises Hunter for participating in a recent community walk. It’s a formal thank-you for two men who see each other regularly. Both take the same language exchange course on Fridays, and the group has dinner together once a month.

Ohta credits the Americans’ involvement in the community with appeasing some of the fears first raised when the radar was built. “Because they participate in local events,” he says through a translator, “now there are no objections.”

The objections haven’t quite gone away. A Japanese Ministry of Defense office, at Shariki city hall, is where the Defense Facilities Administration Bureau works as liaison between the community and the U.S. Army base, Hunter says. It’s also where locals can go with concerns about the radar site.

In the past year, complaints have fallen off so much that the office has reduced its hours twice.

A couple of months ago, Hunter met with the bureau to hear about any recent complaints. One resident said his pacemaker had acted oddly when he drove on Shariki’s main street. Another man said his radio transmitted only static at 5 a.m. on a recent day. Both men suspected the radar.

“Things like that still come up,” Hunter said. “I think for the most part, people understand the radar is not going to hurt them.”

Blackwater Secrets Exposed

May 4, 2010 

Blackwater is in the news again with the release of secret tapes of Blackwater owner Erik Prince speaking candidly about the chilling details of Blackwater’s covert operations.  Democracy Now! aired these recordings today:

EXCLUSIVE…Secret Recording of Erik Prince Reveals Previously Undisclosed Blackwater Ops

Investigative journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill obtains a rare audio recording of a recent, private speech delivered by Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater, to a friendly audience in January. The speech, which Prince attempted to keep from public consumption, provides a stunning glimpse into his views and future plans and reveals details of previously undisclosed activities of Blackwater. In a Democracy Now! exclusive broadcast we play excerpts of the recording and speak with Scahill about the revelations.

Jeremy Scahill also wrote a story in The Nation .

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Published on Tuesday, May 4, 2010 by The Nation

Secret Erik Prince Tape Exposed

by Jeremy Scahill

Erik Prince, the reclusive owner of the Blackwater empire, rarely gives public speeches and when he does he attempts to ban journalists from attending and forbids recording or videotaping of his remarks. On May 5, that is exactly what Prince is trying to do when he speaks at DeVos Fieldhouse as the keynote speaker for the “Tulip Time Festival” in his hometown of Holland, Michigan. He told the event’s organizers no news reporting could be done on his speech and they consented to the ban. Journalists and media associations in Michigan are protesting this attempt to bar reporting on his remarks.

Despite Prince’s attempts to shield his speeches from public scrutiny, The Nation magazine has obtained an audio recording of a recent, private speech delivered by Prince to a friendly audience. The speech, which Prince attempted to keep from public consumption, provides a stunning glimpse into his views and future plans and reveals details of previously undisclosed activities of Blackwater. The people of the United States have a right to media coverage of events featuring the owner of a company that generates 90% of its revenue from the United States government.

In the speech, Prince proposed that the US government deploy armed private contractors to fight “terrorists” in Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia, specifically to target Iranian influence. He expressed disdain for the Geneva Convention and described Blackwater’s secretive operations at four Forward Operating Bases he controls in Afghanistan. He called those fighting the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan “barbarians” who “crawled out of the sewer.” Prince also revealed details of a July 2009 operation he claims Blackwater forces coordinated in Afghanistan to take down a narcotrafficking facility, saying that Blackwater “call[ed] in multiple air strikes,” blowing up the facility. Prince boasted that his forces had carried out the “largest hashish bust in counter-narcotics history.” He characterized the work of some NATO countries’ forces in Afghanistan as ineffectual, suggesting that some coalition nations “should just pack it in and go home.” Prince spoke of Blackwater working in Pakistan, which appears to contradict the official, public Blackwater and US government line that Blackwater is not in Pakistan.

Prince also claimed that a Blackwater operative took down the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W Bush in Baghdad and criticized the Secret Service for being “flat-footed.” He bragged that Blackwater forces “beat the Louisiana National Guard to the scene” during Katrina and claimed that lawsuits, “tens of millions of dollars in lawyer bills” and political attacks prevented him from deploying a humanitarian ship that could have responded to the earthquake in Haiti or the tsunami that hit Indonesia.

Several times during the speech, Prince appeared to demean Afghans his company is training in Afghanistan, saying Blackwater had to teach them “Intro to Toilet Use” and to do jumping jacks. At the same time, he bragged that US generals told him the Afghans Blackwater trains “are the most effective fighting force in Afghanistan.” Prince also revealed that he is writing a book, scheduled to be released this fall.

The speech was delivered January 14 at the University of Michigan in front of an audience of entrepreneurs, ROTC commanders and cadets, businesspeople and military veterans. The speech was titled “Overcoming Adversity: Leadership at the Tip of the Spear” and was sponsored by the Young Presidents’ Association (YPO), a business networking association primarily made up of corporate executives. “Ripped from the headlines and described by Vanity Fair magazine, as a Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier and Spy, Erik Prince brings all that and more to our exclusive YPO speaking engagement,” read the event’s program, also obtained by The Nation. It proclaimed that Prince’s speech was an “amazing don’t miss opportunity from a man who has ‘been there and done that’ with a group of Cadets and Midshipmen who are months away from serving on the ‘tip of the spear.'” Here are some of the highlights from Erik Prince’s speech:

Send the Mercs into Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria

Prince painted a global picture in which Iran is “at the absolute dead center… of badness.” The Iranians, he said, “want that nuke so that it is again a Persian Gulf and they very much have an attitude of when Darius ran most of the Middle East back in 1000 BC. That’s very much what the Iranians are after.” [NOTE: Darius of Persia actually ruled from 522 BC-486 BC]. Iran, Prince charged, has a “master plan to stir up and organize a Shia revolt through the whole region.” Prince proposed that armed private soldiers from companies like Blackwater be deployed in countries throughout the region to target Iranian influence, specifically in Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. “The Iranians have a very sinister hand in these places,” Prince said. “You’re not going to solve it by putting a lot of uniformed soldiers in all these countries. It’s way too politically sensitive. The private sector can operate there with a very, very small, very light footprint.” In addition to concerns of political expediency, Prince suggested that using private contractors to conduct such operations would be cost-effective. “The overall defense budget is going to have to be cut and they’re going to look for ways, they’re going to have to have ways to become more efficient,” he said. “And there’s a lot of ways that the private sector can operate with a much smaller, much lighter footprint.”

Prince also proposed using private armed contractors in the oil-rich African nation of Nigeria. Prince said that guerilla groups in the country are dramatically slowing oil production and extraction and stealing oil. “There’s more than a half million barrels a day stolen there, which is stolen and organized by very large criminal syndicates. There’s even some evidence it’s going to fund terrorist organizations,” Prince alleged. “These guerilla groups attack the pipeline, attack the pump house to knock it offline, which makes the pressure of the pipeline go soft. they cut that pipeline and they weld in their own patch with their own valves and they back a barge up into it. Ten thousand barrels at a time, take that oil, drive that 10,000 barrels out to sea and at $80 a barrel, that’s $800,000. That’s not a bad take for organized crime.” Prince made no mention of the nonviolent indigenous opposition to oil extraction and pollution, nor did he mention the notorious human rights abuses connected to multinational oil corporations in Nigeria that have sparked much of the resistance.

Blackwater and the Geneva Convention

Prince scornfully dismissed the debate on whether armed individuals working for Blackwater could be classified as “unlawful combatants” who are ineligible for protection under the Geneva Convention. “You know, people ask me that all the time, ‘Aren’t you concerned that you folks aren’t covered under the Geneva Convention in [operating] in the likes of Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan? And I say, ‘Absolutely not,’ because these people, they crawled out of the sewer and they have a 1200 AD mentality. They’re barbarians. They don’t know where Geneva is, let alone that there was a convention there.”

It is significant that Prince mentioned his company operating in Pakistan given that Blackwater, the US government and the Pakistan government have all denied Blackwater works in Pakistan.

Taking Down the Iraqi Shoe Thrower for the ‘Flat-Footed’ Secret Service

Prince noted several high-profile attacks on world leaders in the past year, specifically a woman pushing the Pope at Christmas mass and the attack on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, saying there has been a pattern of “some pretty questionable security lately.” He then proceeded to describe the feats of his Blackwater forces in protecting dignitaries and diplomats, claiming that one of his men took down the Iraqi journalist, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at President Bush in Baghdad in December 2008. Prince referred to al-Zaidi as the “shoe bomber:”

“A little known fact, you know when the shoe bomber in Iraq was throwing his shoes at President Bush, in December 08, we provided diplomatic security, but we had no responsibility for the president’s security–that’s always the Secret Service that does that. We happened to have a guy in the back of the room and he saw that first shoe go and he drew his weapon, got a sight picture, saw that it was only a shoe, he re-holstered, went forward and took that guy down while the Secret Service was still standing there flat-footed. I have a picture of that–I’m publishing a book, so watch for that later this fall–in which you’ll see all the reporters looking, there’s my guy taking the shoe thrower down. He didn’t shoot him, he just tackled him, even though the guy was committing assault and battery on the president of the United States. I asked a friend of mine who used to run the Secret Service if they had a written report of that and he said the debrief was so bad they did not put it in writing.”

While the Secret Service was widely criticized at the time for its apparent inaction during the incident, video of the event clearly showed another Iraqi journalist, not security guards, initially pulling al-Zaidi to the floor. Almost instantly thereafter, al-Zaidi was swarmed by a gang of various, unidentified security agents.

Blackwater’s Forward Operating Bases

Prince went into detail about his company’s operations in Afghanistan. Blackwater has been in the country since at least April 2002, when the company was hired by the CIA on a covert contract to provide the Agency with security. Since then, Blackwater has won hundreds of millions of dollars in security, counter-narcotics and training contracts for the State Department, Defense Department and the CIA. The company protects US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and other senior US officials, guards CIA personnel and trains the Afghan border police. “We built four bases and we staffed them and we run them,” Prince said, referring to them as Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). He described them as being in the north, south, east and west of Afghanistan. “Spin Boldak in the south, which is the major drug trans-shipment area, in the east at a place called FOB Lonestar, which is right at the foothills of Tora Bora mountain. In fact if you ski off Tora Bora mountain, you can ski down to our firebase,” Prince said, adding that Blackwater also has a base near Herat and another location. FOB Lonestar is approximately 15 miles from the Pakistan border. “Who else has built a [Forward Operating Base] along the main infiltration route for the Taliban and the last known location for Osama bin Laden?” Prince said earlier this year.

Blackwater’s War on Drugs

Prince described a Narcotics Interdiction Unit Blackwater started in Afghanistan five years ago that remains active. “It is about a 200 person strike force to go after the big narcotics traffickers, the big cache sites,” Prince said. “That unit’s had great success. They’ve taken more than $3.5 billion worth of heroin out of circulation. We’re not going after the farmers, but we’re going after the traffickers.” He described an operation in July 2009 where Blackwater forces actually called in NATO air strikes on a target during a mission:

“A year ago, July, they did the largest hashish bust in counter-narcotics history, down in the south-east. They went down, they hit five targets that our intel guys put together and they wound up with about 12,000 pounds of heroin. While they were down there, they said, ‘You know, these other three sites look good, we should go check them out.’ Sure enough they did and they found a cache–262,000 kilograms of hash, which equates to more than a billion dollars street value. And it was an industrialized hash operation, it was much of the hash crop in Helmand province. It was palletized, they’d dug ditches out in the desert, covered it with tarps and the bags of powder were big bags with a brand name on it for the hash brand, palletized, ready to go into containers down to Karachi [Pakistan] and then out to Europe or elsewhere in the world. That raid alone took about $60 million out of the Taliban’s coffers. So, those were good days. When the guys found it, they didn’t have enough ammo, enough explosives, to blow it, they couldn’t burn it all, so they had to call in multiple air strikes. Of course, you know, each of the NATO countries that came and did the air strikes took credit for finding and destroying the cache.”
December 30, 2009 CIA Bombing in Khost

Prince also addressed the deadly suicide bombing on December 30 at the CIA station at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan. Eight CIA personnel, including two Blackwater operatives, were killed in the bombing, which was carried out by a Jordanian double-agent. Prince was asked by an audience member about the “failure” to prevent that attack. The questioner did not mention that Blackwater was responsible for the security of the CIA officials that day, nor did Prince discuss Blackwater’s role that day. Here is what Prince said:

“You know what? It is a tragedy that those guys were killed but if you put it in perspective, the CIA has lost extremely few people since 9/11. We’ve lost two or three in Afghanistan, before that two or three in Iraq and, I believe, one guy in Somalia–a landmine. So when you compare what Bill Donovan and the OSS did to the Germans and the Japanese, the Italians during World War II–and they lost hundreds and hundreds of people doing very difficult, very dangerous work–it is a tragedy when you lose people, but it is a cost of doing that work. It is essential, you’ve got to take risks. In that case, they had what appeared to be a very hot asset who had very relevant, very actionable intelligence and he turned out to be a bad guy… That’s what the intelligence business is, you can’t be assured success all the time. You’ve got to be willing to take risks. Those are calculated risks but sometimes it goes badly. I hope the Agency doesn’t draw back and say, ‘Oh, we have to retrench and not do that anymore,’ all the rest. No. We need you to double down, go after them harder. That is a cost of doing business. They are there to kill us.”
Prince to Some NATO Countries in Afghanistan: ‘Go Home’

Prince spoke disparagingly of some unnamed NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan, saying they do not have the will for the fight. “Some of them do and a lot of them don’t,” he said. “It is such a patchwork of different international commitments as to what some can do and what some can’t. A lot of them should just pack it in and go home.” Canada, however, received praise from Prince. “The Canadians have lost per capita more than America has in Afghanistan. They are fighting and they are doing it and so if you see a Canadian thank them for that. The politicians at home take heavies for doing that,” Prince said. He did not mention the fact that his company was hired by the Canadian government to train its forces.

Prince also described how his private air force (which he recently sold) bailed out a US military unit in trouble in Afghanistan. According to Prince, the unit was fighting the Taliban and was running out of ammo and needed an emergency re-supply. “Because of, probably some procedure written by a lawyer back in Washington, the Air Force was not permitted to drop in an uncertified drop zone… even to the unit that was running out of ammo,” Prince said. “So they called and asked if our guys would do it and, of course, they said, ‘Yes.’ And the cool part of the story is the Army guys put their DZ mark in the drop zone, a big orange panel, on the hood of their hummer and our guys put the first bundle on the hood of that hummer. We don’t always get that close, but that time a little too close.”

Blackwater: Teaching Afghans to Use Toilets

Prince said his forces train 1300 Afghans every six weeks and described his pride in attending “graduations” of Blackwater-trained Afghans, saying that in six weeks they radically transform the trainees. “You take these officers, these Afghans and it’s the first time in their life they’ve ever been part of something that’s first class, that works. The instructors know what they’re talking about, they’re fed, the water works, there’s ammunition for their guns. Everything works,” Prince said. “The first few days of training, we have to do ‘Intro to Toilet Use’ because a lot of these guys have never even seen a flushed toilet before.” Prince boasted: “We manage to take folks with a tribal mentality and, just like the Marine Corps does more effectively than anyone else, they take kids from disparate lifestyles across the United States and you throw them into Paris Island and you make them Marines. We try that same mentality there by pushing these guys very hard and, it’s funny, I wish I had video to show you of the hilarious jumping jacks. If you take someone that’s 25 years old and they’ve never done a jumping jack in their life–some of the convoluted motions they do it’s comical. But the transformation from day one to the end of that program, they’re very proud and they’re very capable.” Prince said that when he was in Afghanistan late last year, “I met with a bunch of generals and they said the Afghans that we train are the most effective fighting force in Afghanistan.”

Prince also discussed the Afghan women he says work with Blackwater. “Some of the women we’ve had, it’s amazing,” Prince said. “They come in in the morning and they have the burqa on and they transition to their cammies (camouflage uniforms) and I think they enjoy the baton work,” he said, adding, “They’ve been hand-cuffing a little too much on the men.”

Hurricane Katrina and Humanitarian Mercenaries

Erik Prince spoke at length about Blackwater’s deployment in 2005 in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, bragging that his forces “rescued 128 people, sent thousands of meals in there and it worked.” Prince boasted of his company’s rapid response, saying, “We surged 145 guys in 36 hours from our facility five states away and we beat the Louisiana National Guard to the scene.” What Prince failed to mention was that at the time of the disaster, at least 35% of the Louisiana National Guard was deployed in Iraq. One National Guard soldier in New Orleans at the time spoke to Reuters, saying, “They (the Bush administration) care more about Iraq and Afghanistan than here… We are doing the best we can with the resources we have, but almost all of our guys are in Iraq.” Much of the National Guard’s equipment was in Iraq at the time, including high water vehicles, Humvees, refuelers and generators.

Prince also said that he had a plan to create a massive humanitarian vessel that, with the generous support of major corporations, could have responded to natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis across the globe. “I thought, man, the military has perfected how to move men and equipment into combat, why can’t we do that for the humanitarian side?” Prince said. The ship Prince wanted to use for these missions was an 800 foot container vessel capable of shipping “1700 containers, which would have lined up six and a half miles of humanitarian assistance with another 250 vehicles” onboard. “We could have gotten almost all those boxes donated. It would have been boxes that would have had generator sets from Caterpillar, grain from ADM [Archer Daniels Midland], anti-biotics from pharmaceutical companies, all the stuff you need to do massive humanitarian assistance,” Prince said, adding that it “would have had turnkey fuel support, food, surgical, portable surgical hospitals, beds cots, blankets, all the above.” Prince says he was going to do the work for free, “on spec,” but “instead we got attacked politically and ended up paying tens of millions of dollars in lawyer bills the last few years. It’s an unfortunate misuse of resources because a boat like that sure would have been handy for the Haitian people right now.”

Outing Erik Prince

Prince also addressed what he described as his outing as a CIA asset working on sensitive US government programs. He has previously blamed Congressional Democrats and the news media for naming him as working on the US assassination program. The US intelligence apparatus “depends heavily on Americans that are not employed by the government to facilitate greater success and access for the intelligence community,” Prince said. “It’s unprecedented to have people outed by name, especially ones that were running highly classified programs. And as much as the left got animated about Valerie Plame, outing people by name for other very very sensitive programs was unprecedented and definitely threw me under the bus.”

© 2010 The Nation

Jeremy Scahill is the author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.

Former Employees accuse Blackwater of Defrauding government, hiring prostitute

February 14, 2010 

Here are two articles aboutt the lawsuit brought by two former employees of Blackwater / Xe private military company accusing the company of defrauding the government and hiring prostitutes with government funds.   Two former Blackwater workers allege:

a Filipino prostitute in Afghanistan was put on the Blackwater payroll under the “Morale Welfare Recreation” category, and that the company had billed the prostitute’s plane tickets and monthly salary to the government.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/11/us/11suit.html

2 Ex-Workers Accuse Blackwater Security Company of Defrauding the U.S. for Years

By MARK MAZZETTI

Published: February 10, 2010

WASHINGTON — Two former employees of Blackwater Worldwide have accused the private security company of defrauding the government for years by filing bogus receipts, double billing for the same services and charging government agencies for strippers and prostitutes, according to court documents unsealed this week.

In a December 2008 lawsuit, the former employees said top Blackwater officials had engaged in a pattern of deception as they carried out government contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The lawsuit, filed under the False Claims Act, also asserts that Blackwater officials turned a blind eye to “excessive and unjustified” force against Iraqi civilians by several Blackwater guards.

Blackwater has earned billions of dollars from government agencies in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks, when the company won contracts to protect American diplomats in Iraq and Afghanistan. The former employees who filed the lawsuit, a married couple named Brad and Melan Davis, said there was little financial oversight of the money.

Last year, an audit by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction and the State Department’s inspector general found that the State Department had overpaid Blackwater $55 million because the company had failed to adequately staff its teams assigned to protect American diplomats in Iraq.

The documents detailing the Davises’ accusations were unsealed after the Justice Department declined to join in the case against Blackwater, which last year changed its name to Xe Services. A Xe spokeswoman did not return a message seeking comment about the case.

In an interview on Wednesday, Ms. Davis said that she and her husband had decided to proceed with the case because “it’s the right thing to do,” and that it was time for “the truth from inside the company” to be made public. If the government is able to recover money from Blackwater as a result of the lawsuit, the Davises could claim a percentage as whistleblowers.

Mr. Davis, a former Marine, performed a number of jobs for the company, including working as a private security guard in Iraq.

Ms. Davis was fired from the company, and she is challenging the legality of her dismissal. Mr. Davis voluntarily resigned from the company.

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Davis raised concerns about the company’s bookkeeping with her bosses in March 2006, when she was handling accounts for the company’s contracts with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The lawsuit claims she was told to “back off,” and that she “would never win a medal for saving the government money.”

Ms. Davis also asserts that a Filipino prostitute in Afghanistan was put on the Blackwater payroll under the “Morale Welfare Recreation” category, and that the company had billed the prostitute’s plane tickets and monthly salary to the government.

She also said Blackwater management used a subsidiary company, Greystone Ltd., to double bill the government for plane tickets between the United States and Amman, Jordan, which served as a transit point for the company’s employees in Iraq.

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/11/AR2010021100232.html

Former Blackwater employees accuse security contractor of defrauding government

By Carol D. Leonnig and Nick Schwellenbach

Friday, February 12, 2010

This report is a collaboration between the Center for Public Integrity and The Washington Post.

Two former employees of Blackwater Worldwide have accused the private security contractor of defrauding the government for years through phony billing, including charging taxpayers for alcohol-filled parties, spa trips and a prostitute.

In court records unsealed this week, a husband and wife who worked for Blackwater said they have firsthand knowledge of the company falsifying invoices, double-billing federal agencies and improperly charging the government for personal expenses. They said they witnessed “systematic” fraud in the company’s security contracts with the State Department in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

Blackwater is the State Department’s largest security contractor, and a State Department spokesman said Thursday that his agency and the Justice Department reviewed the allegations in 2008, when the lawsuit was filed under seal in federal court in Virginia. The spokesman, P.J. Crowley, could not determine what came of the review.

Brad Davis, a former Marine, served as a Blackwater team leader and security guard, including in Iraq. His wife, Melan Davis, worked as a finance and payroll employee, starting in Louisiana. Their lawsuit was filed under the False Claims Act, which allows whistle-blowers to win a portion of any money the government recovers as a result of the information. However, the Justice Department has chosen not to join them in pursuing their lawsuit, a decision that led to the suit being unsealed this week.

The company changed its name to Xe Services LLC last year. Xe spokeswoman Stacy DeLuke said Thursday that the Davises’ allegations are false. “The allegations are without merit and the company will vigorously defend against this lawsuit,” she said. “It is noteworthy that the government has declined to intervene in this action.”

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Blackwater became the largest of the State Department’s private security contractors. It has since been paid billions of dollars to protect diplomatic employees in Iraq and Afghanistan and for other agencies’ security missions. The company also became a major source of anti-American sentiment in Iraq because of repeated deadly shootings involving its guards.

Iraq moved to expel Blackwater after a September 2007 incident in which witnesses told the FBI that the company’s security guards fired guns without provocation into a busy intersection, killing at least 14 Iraqis. The Justice Department charged six Blackwater guards in that incident. One pleaded guilty, and a judge dismissed the charges against the five others in December.

In their suit, the Davises assert that Blackwater officials kept a Filipino prostitute on the company payroll for a State Department contract in Afghanistan, and billed the government for her time working for male Blackwater employees in Kabul. The prostitute’s salary was categorized as part of the company’s “Morale Welfare Recreation” expenses, they alleged.

Melan Davis said in court papers that while working in Blackwater’s finance department, she questioned how the company could bill the government for its workers’ travel expenses to and from Iraq when it lacked the documentation for those trips. She said she later traveled to a hotel in Amman, Jordan, where Blackwater personnel often stopped en route to Iraq. While there, she said, corporate officers directed her and two co-workers to generate reams of false invoices for plane travel at inflated rates, so her Blackwater bosses could overcharge the government.

In one instance, the Davises allege, the company was paying inflated prices to a vendor whose work was billed to the Department of Homeland Security for services related to security after Hurricane Katrina. They said the overpayments allowed the vendor to provide a barbecue pit for Blackwater staff parties.

Melan Davis argues that Blackwater terminated her in February 2008 because she questioned fraudulent billing. Brad Davis resigned.

Schwellenbach works for the Center for Public Integrity. Staff writer Jerry Markon contributed to this report.

“Blackwatergate”

January 10, 2010 

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/8/blackwatergate_private_military_firm_in_firestorm

“Blackwatergate”–Private Military Firm in Firestorm of Controversy over Involvements in Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany

Blackwater-graphic2

Blackwater is all over the news. In the last seventy-two hours, a series of breaking developments involving the notorious private military firm have come to light, ranging from their involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, and even Germany, as well as legal cases here at home. We speak with investigative journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a leading member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, who is launching an investigation into why two Blackwater contractors were among the dead in the

December 30 suicide bombing at the CIA station at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan.

Guests:

Jeremy Scahill, investigative journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent, author of the international bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D – IL), leading member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

JUAN GONZALEZ: Blackwater is all over the news. In the last seventy-two hours, a series of breaking developments involving the notorious private military firm have come to light, ranging from their involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, and even Germany, as well as legal cases here at home.

In the latest news, two former Blackwater operatives were arrested yesterday on murder charges stemming from their alleged involvement in the shooting deaths of two Afghan civilians in Kabul in May.

The news broke just hours after it was revealed Blackwater had reached a settlement with Iraqi victims of a string of shootings, including the Nisoor Square massacre, who had sued the company for what they called “senseless slaughter.” Blackwater is reportedly paying $100,000 for each of the Iraqis killed by its forces and between $20,000 to $30,000 to each Iraqi wounded. News of the settlement came a week after a federal judge dismissed manslaughter charges against five Blackwater operatives involved in the Nisoor Square massacre that killed seventeen Iraqi civilians.

Then, on Wednesday, prosecutors in Germany announced they had launched a preliminary investigation into a report that the CIA and Blackwater had planned a secret operation in 2004 to assassinate a German citizen in Hamburg with suspected ties to al-Qaeda.

AMY GOODMAN: And last but not least, Blackwater’s continued involvement with the CIA surfaced this week when it was revealed two Blackwater contractors were among the eight dead in the December 30th suicide bombing at the CIA station in Khost, Afghanistan. Last month, the CIA announced the agency had canceled its contract with Blackwater.

Illinois Representative Jan Schakowsky, a leading member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, says she’ll launch an investigation. Congress member Schakowsky joins us now on the phone from Washington, DC.

And we’re joined here in the studio by investigative journalist, Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill, author of the international bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Jeremy, let’s begin with you. The piece you have in The Nation magazine says “Blackwater and the Khost Bombing: Is the CIA Deceiving Congress?” Two Blackwater operatives killed there?

JEREMY SCAHILL: My understanding is that there were two Blackwater operatives killed at this bombing—one was a former Navy Seal; the other was an Army master chief sergeant—and that there was a third Blackwater operative that was wounded in the blast, I understand from my sources.

Let’s remember here that this was the worst attack on a CIA base that we know about since the 1980s. And here you have three Blackwater guys in the center of this blast at the time. Now, we’re not sure what the role was of the Blackwater guys there. That’s what Representative Schakowsky is investigating right now. But let’s say for a moment that they were doing security, because Blackwater has, since 2002, had a contract with the CIA to do force protection in Afghanistan for the CIA. They not only guard static outposts of the CIA, but when CIA operatives move around the country, Blackwater guys travel with them as their security.

So if they were doing the security there, and you have, on their watch, this incredibly devastating attack, not just against some random CIA outpost in the middle of Canada or something, but against the epicenter of the forward operating maneuvers that the intelligence community of the US is engaged in to hunt down Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden, because this asset made it onto that base, we understand, claiming that he had just met with Ayman al-Zawahiri. So how is it that he walks in there with explosives? And then, I think that should be one of the things that’s investigated as Congresswoman Schakowsky takes this on.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Congresswoman Schakowsky, your concerns about this latest report and what you’re hoping to look into?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: You know, regardless of what the role that the Blackwater operatives were playing in this incident, why is the CIA, why is any unit of the government, the State Department, the Department of Defense—why would anyone hire this company, which is a repeat offender, threatening the mission of the United States, threatening, endangering the lives of American, well, CIA and military, and then—and also known to threaten and kill innocent civilians? It is just amazing to me, astonishing to me, that we still find Blackwater anywhere in the employ of the United States government at any place around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, during the primaries, Hillary Clinton supported a ban on Blackwater. President Obama didn’t. How does that relate to what you’re introducing now, the legislation that you’re introducing?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: Look, I’m introducing legislation called Stop Outsourcing Our Security, and the idea of that is that when we have mission-sensitive activities, inherently governmental functions in battle zones around the world, that we should have only people that bear the stamp of the United States government. And that means that that would include no private military contractors at all in those operations.

Now, look, when we have a situation where you can question whether or not these contractors can get away with murder—after all, this case against those shooters at Nisoor Square has been dismissed—hopefully that there will be another effort by the Justice Department to go after these people, because it was dismissed for prosecutorial misconduct, which is true. I think there were many mistakes made. But right now, these contractors are in a legal limbo. And so, if these individuals can get away with murder, imagine—you don’t have to imagine, you know what it does to our relations with the Iraqi government and with governments around the world. And now you’ve got a situation where Germany is asking, what were Blackwater people doing in Germany?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I’d like to ask you about that, in particular, Congresswoman. Here you have a situation not just of being involved in murder, but apparently of being involved in government-sanctioned assassination attempts. And that is being, to some degree, contracted out. Forget about whether the government should be involved in such a kind of assassination attempts, but to contract out that activity? That is really astounding.

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: This really is part of an ongoing investigation that I can’t talk about, but even the fact that there is that allegation, I think, gives one a picture of the degree to which Blackwater has been completely enmeshed in these secret operations. And, you know, at least the allegation that they are, I think is disturbing enough. And there is an investigation going on around activities, you know, like that.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, what do you know about what happened?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, Erik Prince gave this interview to Vanity Fair magazine, and he gave the interview to a former CIA lawyer, Adam Ciralsky, who, himself, has had a history of doing what’s called “graymailing,” which is that you believe or you fear that the government is going to come after you in some way, and so you then leak parts of information about what it was that you were involved with, which is what Erik Prince was doing in that Vanity Fair article as a way of sort of saying to the government, “If you come after me, I’ll blow the whistle on all these things.”

One of the things, though, that came out in that article is that Erik Prince, shortly after 9/11, assembled, he claims, a team, a secret clandestine team for the CIA that trained not at any of the official CIA facilities, but at one of Erik Prince’s homes in Virginia. He trains this team, and then they deployed around the world. And they would go into countries, and, in the parlance of the intelligence community, they would go “in dark,” meaning that, in some cases, the CIA chief of station in the countries that they went into wasn’t even notified that they were going in there.

So, what Representative Schakowsky is talking about here, or, Juan, you were asking about, is that one of these operations allegedly took place in Hamburg, Germany, where a Blackwater-led team inserted inside of Germany to hunt down this man who was a Syrian-born naturalized citizen of Germany that had been alleged to have had connections with three of the 9/11 plotters. And they were doing what’s called—they were trying to find him, fix his location, and finish him off, is what they call it. And my understanding is that someone actually in government, not a Blackwater person, called off that operation, so the trigger was never pulled.

Another operation took place, we understand, inside of Dubai. And Erik Prince talks about working on covert operations inside of Syria, as well, where he was helping the Joint Special Operations Command, JSOC, the Special Forces, identify targets inside of Syria.

So all of this needs to be very deeply probed, because you have not only a situation where these hit teams are being contracted out, but the German politicians are now saying, What if the German intelligence outsourced to a private company assassination operations in New Orleans, in the United States? How would your government respond to this? So this could be a substantial diplomatic problem for the Obama administration, because the Merkel government is now starting to ask questions. Not just Green Party politicians, but today one of Angela Merkel’s biggest allies in Germany said that they’re probing it, and they want answers from Washington.

AMY GOODMAN: Congress member Schakowsky, what kind of support do you have from the White House on either of your efforts—the legislation to stop outsourcing or the investigation?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: Well, we have met with various agencies about the issue of just the outsourcing of security issues and security matters in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And I think that the thing that’s really frightening is it seems that the United States military, the United States government, doesn’t have the capacity, at least when we talk about private security contractors, to do the job and seems to think that it is—makes us more agile and nimble to be able to contract out.

My question is, how many times do we have to—does the mission have to be endangered or do people have to be killed before we understand that it is so important for us to have people who are within the standard chain of command, where the accountability mechanisms are built in, who aren’t going to go rogue on us and do things that are improper? And so, so far, what we’re finding is that even in Iraq—and Jeremy was able to turn that up—that contracts that were supposed to be terminated continued because Blackwater had a capacity that even the United States government does not have.

This is a very unwholesome, unhealthy situation. We have to build that capacity, and we have to end this relationship with companies that don’t have the same standard of transparency and accountability as those who work directly for the United States of America.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Jeremy, what about that Iraq situation, the Nisoor Square killings? There were some settlements that Blackwater has reached with some of the victims, but not all of them. And what’s been the reaction of the Iraqi government to the acquittals of the Blackwater people?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, first, on the settlement that was announced yesterday, we’re talking about not just the Nisoor Square massacre, but we’re also talking about six other incidents—the shooting of bodyguards at an Iraqi TV station, the killing of three other individuals shortly before Nisoor Square. And my understanding from sources is that the victims who—the families of people who died were paid somewhere in the ballpark of $100,000, and then injuries were compensated between $20,000 and $30,000. And then there were a couple of people that got more because of the nature of their injuries. But you’re talking about Blackwater getting—they get $1.5 billion in Iraq. Ninety percent of this company’s revenue comes from the US government. For them to pay, you know, five, six million dollars is chump change. In fact, one source that’s been involved with these cases told me that Blackwater got a real bargain here. And indeed, Blackwater released a statement saying that they were pleased with it, and it allows the company to get on with its business.

But one story that people are not really looking at, the way that these guys got off on these manslaughter charges for Nisoor Square is identical to the way that Oliver North got off on the criminal charges stemming from Iran-Contra, because they were granted immunity by the State Department immediately after the shooting. And so, the prosecutors then, from the Justice Department, had to use—could not use any information from the statements that they gave, because the had been promised immunity by the State Department. Why on earth did the State Department give these guys immunity? These were the prime suspects, and you give them an immunity that generally is reserved for people that you’re trying to flip as witnesses, not the actual suspects.

But I spoke to—and this is something no one’s reported yet—I spoke to a source with direct knowledge of the US military’s official investigation of Nisoor Square, and this source told me that military investigators had determined that it was a criminal event, that it was unprovoked fire, and—and this is what the important part is—and that military investigators had determined that those men who did the shooting at Nisoor Square were not entitled to immunity under the Bremer-era Order 17 that granted immunity to contractors, because they shot unprovoked civilians, which violated the terms of their contract, and had disobeyed orders from superiors not to leave a post where they were, meaning that they were not eligible for that immunity.

And the investigators determined that the appropriate legal venue would have been in Iraq, that the Iraqis should have been allowed to go and arrest those individuals, but they were secretly ferried out of Iraq in the dead of night by the State Department and Blackwater, taken to the US, where they then got off on murder—on manslaughter charges, on the same technicality that Oliver North got off on.

AMY GOODMAN: Could they be extradited?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, Scott Horton, who is an international and military law expert that you interviewed last week, I talked to him about this, and the United States and Iraq do have an extradition treaty of 1934. The Status of Forces Agreement gives Iraq jurisdiction. And if they were ineligible for Order 17 immunity, then Iraq could say that the appropriate place for their trial, now that you’ve failed to do it for technical reasons, would in fact be in Iraq.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And was that military determination done before they left the country or afterwards?

JEREMY SCAHILL: No, this was—the military started investigation within less than an hour of the last bullets being fired there. They went on the scene. They gathered forensic evidence. But this was an investigation that went on for months. And so, it’s not as though the military, you know, determined it within twenty-four hours and said, “Oh, wait a minute, we have to hand these guys over to Iraqis.” It was investigators looking and carefully and meticulously documenting this incident and then saying this was improper that they were removed from the country.

AMY GOODMAN: In the settlement, which is incredibly low, $100,000 per death, did some of the Iraqi families want to pull out?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, first of all, there is another lawsuit. There are other Iraqis that have different legal representation. And there’s a case that’s gotten no attention yet in the state of North Carolina. The man who was perhaps the single most prominent witness to the Nisoor Square shooting, he was driving a vehicle right behind the first vehicle that the Blackwater guys shot. His nine-year-old son was shot in the head. His head exploded on a van, on his cousins and other people in the vehicle. That man has retained counsel in North Carolina and is suing. That could be a very problematic case for Blackwater, because they’re not only suing Erik Prince of Blackwater, they’re suing the individual shooters in state court in North Carolina. So that could be the one that ends up actually going to trial.

There also—you could read it in the papers—there were—some of the plaintiffs in this case were very, very disappointed in the settlement that they got and felt that $100,000 for a death is a complete injustice.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, the latest news of the two former Blackwater operatives who were arrested on murder charges stemming from the killing of two Afghans?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Remember, these killings took place under the Obama administration. And what’s significant about this is that the men who are alleged to have murdered—these second-degree murder charges with the indictment—two Afghan civilians were there as military trainers. These weren’t security operatives. The Obama administration is dramatically expanding the US training of Afghan forces, meaning that you’re going to have more of these types of guys on the ground. So these individuals were alleged to have opened fire unprovoked on a civilian vehicle, killing two people. They weren’t even—they weren’t guarding any diplomats. They weren’t even in the country to be guarding anyone. They were there as trainers. And yet, they’re involved with this incident that has caused some significant diplomatic problems between the US and the Karzai government.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Congresswoman Schakowsky, I’d like to ask you, finally, in terms of how, in your experience and—how the military is reacting to these continual problems with Blackwater and how it’s affecting its ability to continue its mission, whether it’s in Iraq or in Afghanistan?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: Well, I think there’s a good deal of resentment, in general, toward the contractors. You know, the companies like Blackwater recruit out of the military. We train them. They take the highly skilled people, and they skim them off. They pay them a good deal more. They are indistinguishable often to the people on the ground, to the Iraqis or the Afghans, from people who are actually in the military. And yet, they conduct themselves in a much more reckless way and—often, not always. And so, I think that the military itself—I’m talking now not about necessarily the top brass, but—would appreciate the fact if the jobs were done by the military themselves, as opposed to hiring out these companies who have proven themselves to be so unreliable and dangerous.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there. Congress member Jan Schakowsky, leading member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, thanks for joining us from Washington, DC. And Jeremy Scahill, thank you so much for your work, investigative journalist, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, and Democracy Now! correspondent.