Sightings from The Catbird Seat
~ o ~
August 20, 2009
AP source: CIA hired
contractor to kill al-Qaida
Associated Press Writer Pamela Hess
WASHINGTON – The CIA hired private contractors from Blackwater USA in 2004 as part of a secret program to kill top-level members of al-Qaida, but a spokesman says it never resulted in the capture or killing of any terrorist suspects.
Former Rep. Porter Goss was CIA director at the time, and the contract ended during his time in office, according to a former senior intelligence official and another person familiar with the program. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the program remains classified.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who is chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Thursday the CIA broke the law by failing to notify Congress about the program earlier, her strongest statement yet condemning the agency's actions.
The CIA began the hit squad program shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but it never became fully operational.
CIA Director Leon Panetta terminated the program in June upon learning of it, then informed the congressional intelligence committees in an emergency briefing the next day. CIA spokesman George Little said the program yielded no successes.
The New York Times, citing unidentified current and former government officials, said Blackwater executives helped with planning, training and surveillance for the program.
The officials told the Times that the CIA's use of an outside company for a potentially lethal program was a major reason Panetta called the emergency congressional briefing. The Times first reported Blackwater's involvement late Wednesday on its Web site.
Blackwater, a North Carolina company now known as Xe Services, has come under heavy criticism for its alleged role in a September 2007 shooting in Baghdad's Nisoor Square that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead.
It was unclear whether the CIA had planned to use the contractors to capture or kill al-Qaida operatives or just to help with training and surveillance. Government officials said bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations, the Times reported.
The Times reported that the CIA did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including founder Erik D. Prince.
The revelation of the program created a small political firestorm on Capitol Hill. The House Intelligence Committee in June launched an investigation to determine whether the CIA broke the law by not informing Congress about the secret program as soon as it was begun.
The program had several lives under four successive CIA directors: George Tenet canceled it during his tenure because it never produced results. His successor, Goss, restarted it and inked the Blackwater contracts. Michael Hayden, Goss' successor, downgraded the program from a planned covert action to an intelligence gathering activity. Panetta drove the final stake into the program in June.
Hayden, speaking Thursday at a panel discussion at the National Press Club, said he was initially puzzled by the urgency and excitement surrounding Panetta's briefing to Congress, knowing what he did already about the program. He said he believes Panetta called the emergency meeting because of the political sensitivity of the program rather than concerns about its legality. Hayden would not discuss details of the still-classified effort.
Jack Devine, a 32-year veteran of the CIA's clandestine operations office, said Thursday that the government should be extremely cautious about outsourcing lethal and sensitive CIA operations, in part because those are important capabilities the spy agency should be developing in-house, but also because it looks bad if the operation becomes public.
"If it won't pass the giggle test, you don't want to be involved in it," Devine said.
Feinstein said Thursday she believes the intelligence agencies are using too many contractors for duties that are inherently the responsibility of the government.
The CIA regularly uses contractors for intelligence analysis and operations, Hayden told Congress last year. Contractors participated in the secret harsh interrogations of terrorist suspects, he said. Contractors are no longer allowed to conduct interrogations, Panetta told Congress in April.
More than a quarter of the U.S. intelligence agencies' employees are outside contractors, hired to fill in gaps in the military and civilian work force. About a quarter of them conduct intelligence collection and operations, according to data released last year by the office of the director of national intelligence.
The CIA lost about 25 percent of its manpower and budget in the post-Cold War years, so when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks happened the agency was forced to hire a large number of contractors to plug gaps while it recruited more personnel. About half the CIA is made up of officers hired since the attacks.
Calls to Xe spokeswoman Stacy DeLuke were not immediately returned.
* * * * *
SECRETS FROM THE CATBIRD’S NEST!
(S-h-h-h ... don’t tell anybody)
* * * * *
May 6, 2009
Informants allege proposed
Blackwater weapons dump
By MIKE BAKER, Associated Press Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. – A defense contractor charged with trying to smuggle firearms out of Iraq claimed Blackwater guards asked him to help get rid of weapons after a deadly 2007 shooting in Baghdad, two government informants say in court documents.
The contractor told one of the informants that Blackwater guards wanted to dispose of the weapons before an investigation into the September 2007 shooting that left several civilians dead, according to a criminal complaint filed in the smuggling case. The contractor, John Houston, did not work for Blackwater.
Both informants, whose names weren't revealed by federal investigators, were Army reservists stationed in Iraq. Houston approached them for help with smuggling, the complaint states, and one of them tipped off investigators about the scheme.
Five Blackwater guards face manslaughter and weapons charges in the shooting, which prosecutors say was an unprovoked attack on civilians. The shooting strained relations between Baghdad and Washington and led Iraqi leaders to order Blackwater out of the country.
A spokeswoman said the North Carolina-based company, now known as Xe, only recently learned of Houston's claims and has never been contacted by investigators about them.
"This individual's claims may make for a juicy story, but time may tell a more truthful one," spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said in a release.
Houston, a retired Special Forces soldier, was indicted last week in federal court in Maryland on a charge of conspiracy to smuggle firearms into the United States and attempted smuggling. Houston was working with New York-based SOS International Ltd. at the time of the 2007 shooting but left the company a year later to work for another defense contractor.
A second man, Michael Henson, was charged with the same attempted smuggling counts and making false statements. Court documents do not describe Henson's employer or role in Iraq.
An attorney for Houston did not return a call seeking comment, and court documents didn't list an attorney for Henson.
Court documents say Houston offered to ship weapons for Henson to Fort Bragg, N.C., and asked Henson to pick up the weapons when they arrived.
Houston told one informant that Blackwater guards gave him firearms after the Nisoor Square shooting, and Houston asked the reservist to ship the weapons to the United States, court documents say. In return, the informant could keep two guns, but the person instead reported the matter to military investigators.
Houston told the second informant that "after Blackwater 'got into trouble,' they had to get rid of the firearms so that they didn't get caught with them," court documents say.
It's not clear, though, whether the weapons Houston discussed with the informants were used in the shooting, or if they could have been confiscated firearms. Houston told both informants that Blackwater employees had filled a shipping container with firearms they seized from Iraqi insurgents, a possible violation of company policy.
After they were tipped off, investigators seized eight machine guns and a pistol from an Iraq base that they say Houston intended to smuggle. At that point, Houston claimed he had asked one of the informants to hand the weapons over to authorities.
Two of the firearms seized were AK-47 style rifles — a type favored by insurgents but likely not allowed for use by Blackwater contractors.
"The company has strict policies and procedures in place regarding the possession of firearms by its contractors overseas and they are prohibited from possessing any other than those issued to them by the company or the U.S. government," Tyrrell said.
February 13, 2009
In shift, Blackwater dumps
tarnished brand name
By MIKE BAKER, Associated Press Writer Mike Baker
RALEIGH, N.C. – Blackwater Worldwide is still protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq, but executives at the beleaguered security firm are taking their biggest step yet to put that work and the ugly reputation it earned the company behind them.
Blackwater said Friday it will no longer operate under the name that came to be known worldwide as a caustic moniker for private security, dropping the tarnished brand for a disarming and simple identity: Xe, which is pronounced like the letter "z."
It's a rare surrender for a company that cherished a brand name inspired by the dark-water swamps of northeastern North Carolina, one that survived another rebranding effort about a year ago, following a deadly shooting in Baghdad's Nisoor Square. The decision to give it up underscores how badly the Moyock-based company's brand was damaged by that incident and other security work in Iraq.
"They have established themselves as the bad guys," said Katy Helvenston, who sued the company following her son's death during a mission in Fallujah while working for Blackwater in 2004. "They've established such a horrible reputation. Why else would they change their name?"
Blackwater acknowledged last year in an interview with the The Associated Press the damage to its reputation had persuaded the company to focus on lines of business other than private security contracting.
The issue came to a head last month, when the State Department said it would not rehire Blackwater to protect its diplomats in Iraq after its current contract with the company expires in May. The company has one other major security contract, details of which are classified.
"It's not a direct result of a loss of (that) contract, but certainly that is an aspect of our work that we feel we were defined by," said spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell.
The company is also replacing its bear paw logo with a sleeker black-and-white graphic based on letters that make up the company's new name. In a note to employees, president Gary Jackson said the name change reflects the company's new focus, and he indicated Xe would not actively pursue new security business.
"This company will continue to provide personnel protective services for high-threat environments when needed by the U.S. government, but its primary mission will be operating our training facilities around the world," Jackson said.
It has expanded other businesses such as aviation support, recently building a fleet of 76 aircraft that it has deployed to such hotspots as West Africa and Afghanistan. The company got its start in training and continues to build up that business. Last year, some 25,000 civilians, law enforcement and military personnel attended a Blackwater class.
The company's changes aren't entirely voluntary. The 2007 shooting in Nisoor Square involving Blackwater guards left at least a dozen Iraqi civilians dead, infuriated politicians in Baghdad and Washington, triggered congressional hearings and increased calls that the company be banned from Iraq.
Late last year, prosecutors charged five of the company's contractors — but not Blackwater itself — with manslaughter and weapons violations. In January, Iraqi officials said they would not give the company a license to operate. The State Department responded by informing Blackwater it would not renew a contract that comprises a third of the company's nearly $1 billion in annual revenue.
"It would hurt us," company CEO Erik Prince said in an interview before losing the State Department deal. "It would not be a mortal blow, but it would hurt us."
Blackwater has rebranded before, introducing a new name — Blackwater Worldwide — and slight changes to its logo about a year ago. But Friday's announcement cuts ties entirely with a name created in 1997 when Prince and some of his former Navy SEAL colleagues launched the company.
Xe will cover the parent brand for the two-dozen subsidiaries, and none of those subsidiaries will retain the word "Blackwater" in their names.
Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky, chair of the Intelligence Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and a longtime Blackwater critic, said the new name won't change the fact that its actions have resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians.
"Blackwater's notorious reputation will outlast its name," she said.
See also: Who’s Guarding the Hen House?
December 18, 2008
Clinton Donors Include Saudi Arabia, Blackwater, AIG
By Timothy J. Burger and Kristin Jensen
Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Former President Bill Clinton, meeting a precondition for his wife, Hillary, to become secretary of state, revealed at least $41 million in donations to his foundation from foreign nations such as Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia was the most generous among the countries, giving between $10 million and $25 million, according to the list published on the foundation’s Web site today. Only two donors gave more than $25 million: the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, dedicated to easing poverty for children in developing countries, and the disease relief group UNITAID.
Clinton is trying to forestall criticism that his pursuit of donations, especially from foreign governments, might complicate the work of his wife. President-elect Barack Obama chose New York Senator Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state on Dec. 1, an appointment subject to Senate confirmation.
“Everyone has their magnifying glass out for this one,” said Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. “But there is so much else going on that unless there is another Madoff hidden in all this, the story will be overshadowed by events,” he said, referring to alleged fraud mastermind Bernard Madoff.
The William J. Clinton Foundation does charitable work and funded the construction of the presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas. The median gift to the foundation since it was formed in 1997 was $45, and almost 90 percent of all donations were $250 or below, the organization said.
All told, the foundation has raised more than $500 million from more than 200,000 donors. Among the biggest contributors on the 2,922-page list released today are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an Australian government overseas aid program and a Dominican Republic agency dedicated to AIDS. All three gave between $10 million and $25 million.
Norway donated $5 million to $10 million; Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Brunei all contributed between $1 million and $5 million, as did the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office. An Irish government aid program gave at least $500,000. Donations are listed according to a range, making it impossible to know the precise amount of the contribution; foreign government donations may well have topped $100 million.
Groups with ties to foreign leaders or royalty gave to the foundation as well, including the Dubai Foundation and Friends of Saudi Arabia, which each offered up at least $1 million.
And outside of government, a range of foreign interests contributed. Charity lotteries in Sweden and the Netherlands were among the biggest donors. An Indian business association, the Confederation of Indian Industry, donated between $500,000 and $1 million.
One donor whose business may pose a quandary for Hillary Clinton in her next job is Blackwater Training Center Inc., listed as giving between $10,000 to $25,000. On Dec. 8, five Blackwater security guards were charged with manslaughter and weapons violations in the deaths of 14 Iraqi civilians.
The list also includes donations from some of the companies embroiled in the financial crisis, including such firms as insurer American International Group Inc. that got government aid. AIG gave between $250,000 and $500,000 to the foundation, according to the disclosure.
Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., which filed for bankruptcy in September after the government declined to step in with aid, gave between $100,000 and $250,000. So did Citigroup Inc. and the Merrill Lynch & Co. Foundation. Merrill Lynch agreed to a takeover by Bank of America Corp. on the day Lehman collapsed.
The Bank of America Foundation gave between $500,000 and $1 million, and Citigroup’s Citi Foundation contributed between $1 million and $5 million. Freddie Mac, General Motors Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. each gave between $50,000 and $100,000.
Other financial firms on the givers list include Credit Suisse Group AG and Charles Schwab Corp.
Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, gave between $50,000 and $100,000 to the foundation, according to the disclosure. Bloomberg LP’s founder and majority owner is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Some of the donors are drawing scrutiny. The contributions include $250,000 to $500,000 from Denise Rich, whose husband Marc Rich (see witness Eric Holder) received a controversial pardon from Clinton in his final hours in the White House. Former securities lawyer William Lerach, who is now serving two years in federal prison for his role in a kickback scheme, gave between $100,000 and $250,000.
The list includes at least one of Clinton’s political adversaries. Richard Mellon Scaife, a Pittsburgh media titan who helped finance efforts to discredit Clinton during his presidency, gave $100,000 to $250,000.
The family foundations of two fundraisers who sided with Obama over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries also appear on the disclosure. Film producer David Geffen’s foundation sent in between $500,000 and $1 million. The family foundation of Alan Solomont, who headed Obama’s Northeast steering committee, contributed between $100,000 and $250,000.
Clinton’s foundation, with a focus on health issues, received sizable donations from drugmakers as well. Pfizer Inc. gave between $500,000 and $1 million. Generic drugmakers Mylan Inc. and Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals Inc. were among those that contributed from $100,000 to $250,000.
As the global economic crisis sends a chill through fund- raising, humanitarian groups are increasingly looking to less traditional sources, such as Middle Eastern governments. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has tried to work with more Middle Eastern governments and banks to gain support for the treatment programs it sponsors, said Michel Kazatchkine, the Geneva-based group’s executive director.
“There is increasing attention to the Middle East,” said Kazatchkine, who said he recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Jeddah, Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank to invest jointly in anti-malaria programs.
Clinton’s foundation was key to ramping up global HIV treatment efforts that now serve 3 million people in Africa, negotiating lower prices for drugs and advising countries how to work together to get the best bang for their buck.
The foundation runs its own relief and development efforts, which may make it possible to maintain operations if funding restrictions force cutbacks, said Kevin Frost, executive director of AmFAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research.
“My guess is that they would be able to continue, probably on a smaller scale,” if its support is diminished, Frost said.
Donors who gave more than $25 million:
The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation
$10,000,001 to $25,000,000:
AUSAID (Australian government aid program)
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Stephen L. Bing
COPRESIDA-Secretariado Tecnico (Dominican Republic AIDS agency)
Frank Giustra, chief executive officer, The Radcliffe Foundation
The Hunter Foundation
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The ELMA Foundation
Theodore W. Waitt
$5,000,001 to $10,000,000:
Government of Norway
Nationale Postcode Loterij (Netherlands charity lottery)
Haim Saban and The Saban Family Foundation
The Wasserman Foundation
To contact the reporters on this story: Kristin Jensen in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Timothy J. Burger in Washington at email@example.com
Last Updated: December 18, 2008 16:45 EST
December 6, 2008
Sources: 5 Blackwater guards charged in shooting
By LARA JAKES JORDAN and MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writers Lara Jakes Jordan And Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press Writers -17 mins ago
WASHINGTON – More than a year after the deadly shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians, the Justice Department has indicted five Blackwater Worldwide security guards and is negotiating a plea deal with a sixth, according to people close to the case that strained U.S. diplomacy and rallied anti-American insurgents.
Prosecutors ordered the five guards to surrender Monday to the FBI, but details of where and precisely when were still being worked out Friday, according to these people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the charges remained secret.
The six guards have been under investigation since a convoy of heavily armed Blackwater contractors opened fire in a crowded Baghdad intersection on Sept. 16, 2007. Witnesses say the shooting was unprovoked, but Blackwater, hired by the State Department to guard U.S. diplomats, says its guards were ambushed by insurgents while responding to a car bombing.
Young children were among the victims and the shooting strained relations between the U.S. and Iraq. Following the shooting, Blackwater became the subject of congressional hearings in Washington and insurgent propaganda videos in Iraq.
The Justice Department obtained the indictment late Thursday and got it sealed, according to the people close to the case. The indictment could be made public as early as Monday.
The exact charges in the indictment are unclear, but prosecutors have been considering manslaughter and assault charges against the guards for weeks. The Justice Department has also considered bringing charges under a law, passed as part of a 1988 drug bill, that carries a mandatory 30-year prison sentence for using a machine gun in a crime of violence.
One of the six guards has been negotiating to reduce the charges against him in return for cooperation. If completed, such a deal could provide prosecutors with a key witness against the other five. Others in the convoy have already testified before a federal grand jury about the shooting.
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd declined comment.
Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said, "We've consistently said that we do not believe the guards acted unlawfully. If it is determined they did, we would support holding them accountable."
Regardless of the charges they bring, prosecutors will have a tough fight. The law is unclear on whether contractors can be charged in the U.S., or anywhere, for crimes committed overseas. The indictment sends the message that the Justice Department believes contractors do not operate with legal impunity in war zones.
Based at a sprawling compound in Moyock, N.C., Blackwater itself is not a target of the FBI investigation. Company officials have cooperated with the investigation.
To prosecute, authorities must argue that the guards can be charged under a law meant to cover soldiers and military contractors. Since Blackwater works for the State Department, not the military, it's unclear whether that law applies to its guards.
Further complicating the case, the State Department granted all the Blackwater guards limited immunity in exchange for their sworn statements shortly after the shooting. Prosecutors will need to show that they did not rely on those statements in building their case.
The State Department declined to comment and referred questions to the Justice Department.
Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
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December 4, 2008
US mulls unusual tactic as Blackwater charges loom
By MATT APUZZO and LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writers Matt Apuzzo And Lara Jakes Jordan, Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON – Blackwater Worldwide guards involved in the deadly 2007 Baghdad shooting of Iraqi civilians could face mandatory 30-year prison sentences under an aggressive anti-drug law being considered as the Justice Department readies indictments, people close to the case said.
Charges could be announced as early as Monday for the shooting, which left 17 civilians dead and strained U.S. relations with the fledgling Iraqi government.
Prosecutors have been reviewing a draft indictment and considering manslaughter and assault charges for weeks. A team of prosecutors returned to the grand jury room Thursday and called no witnesses.
Though drugs were not involved in the Blackwater shooting, the Justice Department is pondering the use of a law, passed at the height of the nation's crack epidemic, to prosecute the guards. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 law calls for 30-year prison terms for using machine guns to commit violent crimes of any kind, whether drug-related or not.
The people who discussed the case did so on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose matters that are not yet public.
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd declined to comment on the report.
Blackwater, the largest security contractor in Iraq, was thrust into the national spotlight after the Sept. 16, 2007, shooting. Its guards, all decorated military veterans hired to protect U.S. diplomats overseas, were responding to a car bombing when a shooting erupted in a crowded intersection.
The guards carried government-issued machine guns and drove heavily armored trucks equipped with turret guns.
Blackwater insists its convoy was ambushed by insurgents. Witnesses said the guards were unprovoked. When the shooting subsided, Nisoor Square was littered with dead bodies and blown-out cars. Weeks later, amid a growing furor over the shooting, the Justice Department dispatched FBI agents to Iraq to investigate.
The company is not a target in the case and Blackwater has cooperated with investigators.
"The company has consistently said that we do not believe the individuals acted unlawfully," company spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said Thursday. "If it is determined that an individual acted improperly, Blackwater would support holding that person accountable."
Prosecutors questioned dozens of witnesses in the case, including the father of a young boy killed in the shooting. The investigation has focused on between three and six guards who could face charges.
The 30-year minimum sentence was passed as part of a broad law passed in the final days of the Reagan administration. It created the position of drug czar and boosted penalties for violence and drug crimes.
"Our ultimate destination: a drug-free America," President Reagan said in signing the law. "And now in the eleventh hour of this presidency, we give a new sword and shield to those whose daily business it is to eliminate from America's streets and towns the scourge of illicit drugs."
Regardless of the charges they bring, prosecutors will have a tough fight. The law is unclear on whether contractors can be charged in the U.S., or anywhere, for crimes committed overseas. An indictment would send the message that the Justice Department believes contractors do not operate with legal impunity in war zones.
To prosecute, authorities must argue that the guards can be charged under a law meant to cover soldiers and military contractors. Since Blackwater works for the State Department, not the military, it's unclear whether that law applies to its guards.
It would be the first such case of its kind. The Justice Department recently lost a similar case against former Marine Jose Luis Nazario Jr., who was charged in Riverside, Calif., with killing four unarmed Iraqi detainees.
Further complicating the case, the State Department promised several Blackwater guards limited immunity in exchange for their sworn statements shortly after the shooting.
Prosecutors will need to show that they did not rely on those statements in building their case.
May 29, 2008
Blackwater sues San Diego
by: Eartha Jane Melzer
Blackwater Worldwide, the private military contracting company founded by Michigan native Eric Prince, is suing San Diego for denying a permit for an indoor military training facility.
Blackwater's plans in San Diego have met resistance from people unhappy with the growing power of private military firms. Efforts to oppose the company's San Diego expansion informed a Michigan group that organized against a private disaster response project proposed by a former CEO for the private military company Triple Canopy.
Earlier this month Prince promoted his company in a speech to the Economic Club of Grand Rapids. He was accompanied by his sister, Betsy DeVos, and her husband, Dick DeVos, the Republican candidate for Michigan governor in 2006.
October 3, 2007
Mom: Blackwater should
never forget my boy
Katy Helvenston never wants Blackwater or America to forget her boy. Scott Helvenston was a decorated Navy man who, at age 17, became one of the youngest Navy SEALs in U.S. history.
But her son's life was cut short on March 31, 2004 -- one of four Blackwater employees savagely attacked that day. It was Scott Helvenston's first mission inside Iraq with Blackwater, his mother says.
The burned and mutilated remains of two of the employees were strung up from a bridge over the Euphrates River, an image that fueled American outrage and triggered the first of two attempts to retake the city from Sunni insurgents.
Scott's mom has led the charge in seeking answers about her slain son. She has constantly pressed Blackwater for answers to what led to the killings that day despite, she says, running into resistance from the private security contractor at every turn.
"I've been put through the ringer," she says. "I just want them to be held accountable."
Just last week, the House Oversight Committee said Blackwater "delayed and impeded" its congressional probe into the 2004 killings, saying the company stalled the investigation by "erroneously claiming" documents related to the incident were classified.
"Blackwater agreed to the Falluja mission before its contract officially began, ignored multiple warnings about the risks involved and did not provide its team with adequate equipment, intelligence or directions," the House report said. "According to one account, the result was an 'incident that could have been avoided or at least the risk minimized.'"
One Blackwater employee described to the committee an unorganized operation in Iraq. "Some of these lazy f**ks care about one thing, money," the employee was quoted as saying in the report. Contractors can make $600 a day, and sometimes much more than that.
The night before the four Blackwater employees were killed, according to the congressional report, an urgent e-mail was sent to Blackwater managers by the contractor's Baghdad operations manager, Tom Powell, asking for much-needed equipment.
"I need new vehicles. I need new COMs, I need ammo, I need Glocks and M4s. All the client body armor you got, guys are in the field with borrowed stuff and in harm's way," Powell said in the e-mail titled, "Ground Truth," according to the House report.
He concludes with: "Ground truth is appalling."
Blackwater employees Helvenston, Jerry Zovko, Mike Teague and Wesley Batalona were killed the next day. The families of the slain men have sued Blackwater, alleging the company failed to provide their relatives with adequate gear and weaponry. Blackwater has denied the allegations and argued the men agreed to assume the risks of working in a war zone.
Katy Helvenston has testified before the House committee.
And so Tuesday, she turned on her television in Leesburg, Florida, to watch the testimony of Blackwater chairman and CEO Erik Prince, who has only spoken rarely in the public.
At the start of the hearing, Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, acknowledged some of the other Falluja Blackwater family members who were in attendance.
"I know many of you believe that Blackwater has been unaccountable to anyone in our government. I want you to know that Blackwater will be held accountable today," Waxman said.
Prince told the panel that he too "shares the committee's interest in ensuring the accountability and oversight of contractor personnel supporting U.S. operations." »
"Blackwater believes that more can and should be done to increase accountability, oversight and transparency," he said.
Katy Helvenston was almost in disbelief. "Well, gee, that's strange," she said. "That's what I've wanted from day one."
She recalled how she repeatedly called Blackwater the day her son was killed. She says she finally got word Scott was killed around 3 a.m. "I said, 'Will someone be here with me?' And they said, 'No, you're on your own.'"
Her voice breaks over the phone as she cries. "Six months, I tried to call them after that. I never spoke to a person. I just got answering machines and voice mails. Not one time did they ever call me back."
Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said she couldn't speak to specific charges raised by family members of those killed in Falluja due to ongoing litigation. But she insisted Blackwater has "always argued in favor of stringent accountability."
"Blackwater does what it can to advocate accountability and it always has, but the company is not a governing body and is, thus, not in a position to enforce the existing laws that relate to contractor accountability," she said in an e-mail.
For Katy Helvenston, that brings little relief. She says she's "not had a life" since that day her boy was killed -- and that she'll never give up in her fight.
"They gave [Scott] nothing to protect himself, and they took away anything that could possibly save him."
October 4, 2007
Grilled Blackwater chairman
a major GOP donor
by Andrew Malcolm, Swamp Politics
You saw a lot of Erik Prince on TV the last couple of days, spending considerable time calmly fending off inquiries from agitated Democratic congressmen about his security company's suddenly controversial activities in Iraq. One explanation may be that Prince, the head of Blackwater, U.S.A., has a lengthy political pedigree as a Republican.
Members of the House Oversight Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), accused Blackwater employees of being "cowboys" who acted recklessly during their contracted security duties for the State Department in Iraq. It also came out that Blackwater, which has lost some three dozen employees in Iraq hostilities, has a 100 percent success rate in protecting VIPs under its contract.
This may shock some, but it also turns out that the target of the committee's angry questions was a 38-year-old former Navy SEAL who has donated $230,000 to federal campaigns and causes in the last decade. Almost all of that money has gone to Republicans, according to a check of Federal Election Commission records by The Times' campaign finance expert, Dan Morain.
Prince's latest donation was in July, when he gave $20,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. California recipients of Prince’s $1,000 checks include Reps. Jerry Lewis and Duncan Hunter, a current GOP presidential candidate, and former Rep. Richard Pombo....
So far, Prince has stayed out of presidential campaign donations. However, his family members have given to former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Prince’s lineage includes his late father, Edgar, who owned a large auto parts company in Michigan and was a major donor and advisor to Christian conservative Gary Bauer, a past GOP presidential candidate.
Prince’s mother, Elsa Prince, has donated $140,000 to federal Republican causes and candidates in the last decade. His sister, Betsy, is a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party who has given at least $61,000 to Republican campaigns on the federal level since 1997.
Betsy’s husband is Richard DeVos, who hails from the family that founded Amway. He ran unsuccessfully for Michigan governor in 2006. The Republican stalwart has given more than $2 million to federal causes and candidates in the last 10 years, FEC records show....
Andrew Malcolm writes for Top of the Ticket, the Los Angeles Times' political blog.
October 29, 2007
Immunity deal hampers
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - The State Department promised Blackwater USA bodyguards immunity from prosecution in its investigation of last month's deadly shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians, The Associated Press has learned.
The immunity deal has delayed a criminal inquiry into the Sept. 16 killings and could undermine any effort to prosecute security contractors for their role in the incident that has infuriated the Iraqi government.
"Once you give immunity, you can't take it away," said a senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.
A State Department spokesman did not have an immediate comment Monday. Both Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd and FBI spokesman Rich Kolko declined comment.
FBI agents were returning to Washington late Monday from Baghdad, where they have been trying to collect evidence in the Sept. 16 embassy convoy shooting without using statements from Blackwater employees who were given immunity.
Three senior law enforcement officials said all the Blackwater bodyguards involved — both in the vehicle convoy and in at least two helicopters above — were given the legal protections as investigators from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security sought to find out what happened. The bureau is an arm of the State Department.
The investigative misstep comes in the wake of already-strained relations between the United States and Iraq, which is demanding the right to launch its own prosecution of the Blackwater bodyguards.
Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell declined comment about the U.S. investigation. Based in Moyock, N.C., Blackwater USA is the largest private security firm protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq.
The company has said its Sept. 16 convoy was under attack before it opened fire in west Baghdad's Nisoor Square, killing 17 Iraqis. A follow-up investigation by the Iraqi government, however, concluded that Blackwater's men were unprovoked. No witnesses have been found to contradict that finding.
An initial incident report by U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in Iraq, also indicated "no enemy activity involved" in the Sept. 16 incident. The report says Blackwater guards were traveling against the flow of traffic through a traffic circle when they "engaged five civilian vehicles with small arms fire" at a distance of 50 meters.
The FBI took over the case early this month, officials said, after prosecutors in the Justice Department's criminal division realized it could not bring charges against Blackwater guards based on their statements to the Diplomatic Security investigators.
Officials said the Blackwater bodyguards spoke only after receiving so-called "Garrity" protections, requiring that their statements only be used internally — and not for criminal prosecutions.
At that point, the Justice Department shifted the investigation to prosecutors in its national security division, sealing the guards' statements and attempting to build a case based on other evidence from a crime scene that was then already two weeks old.
The FBI has re-interviewed some of the Blackwater employees, and one official said Monday that at least several of them have refused to answer questions, citing their constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination. Any statements that the guards give to the FBI could be used to bring criminal charges.
A second official, however, said that not all the guards have cited their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination — leaving open the possibility for future charges. The official declined to elaborate.
Prosecutors will have to prove that any evidence they use in bringing charges against Blackwater employees was uncovered without using the guards' statements to State Department investigators. They "have to show we got the information independently," one official said.
Garrity protections generally are given to police or other public law enforcement officers, and were extended to the Blackwater guards because they were working on behalf of the U.S. government, one official said. Experts said it's rare for them to be given to all or even most witnesses — particularly before a suspect is identified.
"You have to be careful," said Michael Horowitz, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan and senior Justice Department official. "You have to understand early on who your serious subjects are in the investigation, and avoid giving these people the protections."
It's not clear why the Diplomatic Security investigators agreed to give immunity to the bodyguards, or who authorized doing so.
Bureau of Diplomatic Security chief Richard Griffin last week announced his resignation, effective Thursday. Senior State Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said his departure was directly related to his oversight of Blackwater contractors.
Tyrrell, the Blackwater spokeswoman, said the company was alerted Oct. 2 that FBI would be taking over the investigation from the State Department. She declined further comment.
On Oct. 3, State Department Sean McCormack said the FBI had been called in to assist Diplomatic Security investigators. A day later, he said the FBI had taken over the probe.
"We, internally and in talking with the FBI, had been thinking about the idea of the FBI leading the investigation for a number of different reasons," McCormack told reporters during an Oct. 4 briefing.
Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ordered a series of measures to boost government oversight of the private guards who protect American diplomats in Iraq. They include increased monitoring and explicit rules on when and how they can use deadly force.
Blackwater's contract with the State Department expires in May and there are questions whether it will remain as the primary contractor for diplomatic bodyguards. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said his Cabinet is drafting legislation that would force the State Department to replace Blackwater with another security company.
Congress also is expected to investigate the shootings, but a House watchdog committee said it has so far held off based on a Justice Department request that lawmakers wait until the FBI concludes its inquiry.
October 22, 2007
Waste, Fraud, and Abuse, Defense and Security
Evidence of Tax Evasion
New documents suggest that Blackwater may have engaged in significant tax evasion, failing to withhold and pay millions of dollars in Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, and related taxes, and sought to conceal its conduct from Congress and law enforcement officials.
In a letter to Erik Prince, the Chairman of the Prince Group, which owns Blackwater, Chairman Waxman writes:
I have received documents which suggest that Blackwater may have engaged in significant tax evasion. According to an IRS ruling in March 2007, Blackwater violated federal tax laws by treating an armed guard as an “independent contractor.” The implication of this ruling is that Blackwater may have avoided paying millions of dollars in Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, and related taxes for which it is legally responsible.
Unlike DynCorp and Triple Canopy, the two other major private military contractors providing security services to the State Department in Iraq, Blackwater classifies its armed guards as independent contractors rather than as employees. Under federal tax laws, this classification has important ramifications. Businesses must pay Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes for their employees. They must also withhold federal income taxes on their salaries. By classifying its armed guards and other personnel as independent contractors instead of employees, Blackwater has apparently evaded withholding and paying these taxes....
There is also evidence that Blackwater has tried to conceal the IRS ruling and the evasion of taxes from Congress and law enforcement officials. The IRS determination was issued in response to an inquiry by an individual security guard who questioned his classification as an independent contractor.
In June, Blackwater required this employee to sign a nondisclosure agreement before it agreed to pay the back pay and other compensation that he was owed. The terms of this agreement explicitly prohibited the guard from disclosing any information about Blackwater to “any politician” or “public official.”
The agreement further provided: “THE UTMOST PROTECTION AND NONDISCLOSURE OF CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION IS OF CRITICAL IMPORTANCE AND IS THE ESSENCE OF THIS AGREEMENT.”...
October 10, 2007
Soldiers: Blackwater guards
fired at fleeing cars
First U.S. troops on scene found no evidence of shooting by Iraqis
By Sudarsan Raghavan and Josh White
BAGHDAD, Oct. 11 - Blackwater USA guards shot at Iraqi civilians as they tried to drive away from a Baghdad square on Sept. 16, according to a report compiled by the first U.S. soldiers to arrive at the scene, where they found no evidence that Iraqis had fired weapons.
"It appeared to me they were fleeing the scene when they were engaged. It had every indication of an excessive shooting," said Lt. Col. Mike Tarsa, whose soldiers reached Nisoor Square 20 to 25 minutes after the gunfire subsided.
His soldiers' report -- based upon their observations at the scene, eyewitness interviews and discussions with Iraqi police -- concluded that there was "no enemy activity involved" and described the shootings as a "criminal event." Their conclusions mirrored those reached by the Iraqi government, which has said the Blackwater guards killed 17 people.
The soldiers' accounts contradict Blackwater's assertion that its guards were defending themselves after being fired upon by Iraqi police and gunmen.
Tarsa said they found no evidence to indicate that the Blackwater guards were provoked or entered into a confrontation. "I did not see anything that indicated they were fired upon," said Tarsa, 42, the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. He also said it appeared that several drivers had made U-turns and were moving away from Nisoor Square when their vehicles were hit by gunfire from Blackwater guards.
In Washington on Thursday, an injured Iraqi man and the families of three Iraqi civilians who were killed in the Sept. 16 shootings sued the company in federal court, calling the incident a "massacre" and "senseless slaughter" that was the result of corporate policies in the war zone.
Attorneys for Talib Mutlaq Deewan, who was injured in the shootings, and the families of Himoud Saed Atban, Usama Fadhil Abbass and Oday Ismail Ibraheem, who were killed, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, asking for unspecified damages to compensate for alleged war crimes, illegal killings, wrongful death, emotional distress and negligence. The lawsuit names Blackwater USA, the Prince Group and Blackwater founder and chief executive Erik Prince as defendants.
"Blackwater created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company's financial interests at the expense of innocent human life," the 17-page complaint says.
Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said the company was aware of the lawsuit and would defend itself vigorously. She declined to comment further on the Nisoor Square incident until an ongoing FBI investigation is completed.
Susan L. Burke, one of the lawyers who filed the suit, said the families approached legal representatives in Baghdad in the hope of obtaining accountability for the shootings.
The families "are hopeful we can make a difference," Burke said, adding that she hopes the case will shed light on the "cowboy culture" she believes contractors have fostered in Iraq. "There is a sense of wanting to do something to make it right."
In the hours and days after the Nisoor Square shootings, the U.S. military sought to distance itself from Blackwater. Dozens of soldiers went door-to-door to seek out victims, offer condolence payments and stress that the military was not involved in the shootings, Tarsa and his soldiers said. Their actions underscore the long-standing tensions between the U.S. military and private security companies -- and the military's concerns that such shootings, and the lack of accountability for the private security industry, could undermine U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq.
"It was absolutely tragic," said Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division and the Army's top commander for Baghdad. "In the aftermath of these, everybody looks and says, 'It's the Americans.' And that's us. It's horrible timing. It's yet another challenge, another setback," he said.
The Washington Post on Thursday examined a storyboard of the soldiers' assessment that has been forwarded to senior U.S. military commanders, photos taken by aerial drones shortly after the shooting and sworn statements by two U.S. soldiers at the scene that day. The Post also reviewed photos taken by U.S. soldiers of the shootings' aftermath. These, along with interviews with four of Tarsa's soldiers who inspected the scene, revealed previously undisclosed details:
At least two cars, a black four-door taxi and a blue Volkswagen sedan, had their back windshields shot out, but their front windshields were intact, indicating they were shot while driving away from the square, according to the photos and soldiers. The Volkswagen, which crashed into a bus stand, had blood splattered on the inside of its front windshield and windows. One person was killed, soldiers said.
U.S. soldiers did not find any bullets that came from AK-47 assault rifles or BKC machine guns used by Iraqi policemen and soldiers. They found evidence of ammunition used in American-made weapons, including M4 rifle 5.56mm brass casings, M240B machine gun 7.62mm casings, M203 40mm grenade launcher casings, and stun-grenade dunnage, or packing.
A white sedan, carrying a doctor and her son, had not entered the Nisoor Square traffic circle, where the Blackwater vehicles had stopped, when it was fired upon, according to the aerial photos. News reports have said the guards shot at the car because they believed it approached them in a threatening manner.
"I was surprised at the caliber of weapon being used," said Capt. Don Cherry, 32. "My guys have 203s with nonlethal rounds we use as a warning shots. It's a rubber ball that bounces off the windshield."
"This is a hand grenade you are flying out there," he added.
From Forward Operating Base Prosperity, inside the Green Zone, Capt. Peter Decareau recalled seeing thick black smoke rising on Sept. 16 and thinking it was from a car bomb. He and other soldiers got into their Humvees and drove toward Nisoor Square.
They arrived around 12:30 p.m. and saw that Iraqi police had blocked in a second Blackwater convoy. By then, the Blackwater guards who had opened fire had left. The second Blackwater convoy had been apparently sent to support the first convoy, according to an initial State Department report.
But Iraqi police officials refused to let the Blackwater convoy leave until another U.S. military unit escorted it back to the Green Zone.
Decareau headed on to the square. It was flooded with more than 50 Iraqi security force personnel, including top generals. The police were evacuating victims. By then, the smoke, which had risen from the burning white sedan, had vanished. Two charred bodies were still in the car.
"People were upset," recalled Sgt. Derrek Martin.
By 1:30 p.m., both Cherry and Tarsa had arrived. Some Iraqi police officials told them that the Blackwater guards fired at the white car as it neared the square. The officials guessed that the driver may have accidentally pressed on the accelerator instead of the brakes, Tarsa said. Witnesses have said that the car was driving slowly and posed no threat.
"With a vehicle speeding up to a convoy, that's grounds for escalation of force," said Sgt. Jesse Fegurgur, 30.
‘This was uncalled for’
Cherry said he could consider the assault on the white sedan "a mistake," but he didn't understand why the guards fired down the road at cars whose drivers had turned around and were moving away.
"I was upset this happened," Cherry said. "This was uncalled for."
Decareau saw cars pointed away from the square with their rear windshields shot out, many bullet holes and smears of blood, he said.
An Iraqi colonel walked up to Tarsa and described the Blackwater shooters as men in "tan uniforms, black helmets, and that flag," pointing at the U.S. flag on Tarsa's sleeve. The colonel added that he knew the U.S. military wasn't involved. Still, Tarsa dispatched his soldiers across their sector over the next few days.
"I wanted our guys to be on the ground, to look people in the eye, to listen to their anguish, listen to their outrage, to let them know we're going to help those people personally affected," Tarsa said.
"I was concerned about acts of vengeance and misinformation somehow indicating we were part of this event," he said. Tarsa spoke with community and tribal leaders.
"It was a very tense 24 hours," said Maj. David Shoupe, the battalion spokesman. "We didn't know which way it was going to go."
© 2007 The Washington Post Company
October 4, 2007
Iraqi probe implicates Blackwater
By STEVEN R. HURST and QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press
BAGHDAD - The official Iraqi investigation into the Blackwater shooting last month recommends that the security guards face trial in Iraqi courts and that the company compensate the victims, an Iraqi government minister told The Associated Press on Thursday
The three-member panel, led by Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi, determined that Blackwater guards sprayed western Baghdad's Nisoor Square with gunfire Sept. 16 without provocation, Minister of State for National Security Sherwan al-Waili told AP.
The panel also found that 13 Iraqis were killed, not 11 as earlier disclosed, according to al-Waili told AP.
A parallel but unofficial investigation by seven members of the Interior Ministry found that 17 Iraqis were killed and 24 wounded, a member of the Interior Ministry panel said on condition that he not be identified because the findings were not public. He said its recommendations were nearly identical to those issued by the al-Obeidi investigative team.
Both reports were to go to the larger joint U.S.-Iraqi panel studying the shooting. The Sept. 16 incident was one of at least six involving deaths allegedly caused by Blackwater that authorities here have brought to the attention of the Americans.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has also dispatched a team to Baghdad, and retired veteran diplomat Stapleton Roy is leading a diplomatic review, along with a former State Department and intelligence official, Eric Boswell. The panel, led by Patrick Kennedy, one of the most senior management experts in the U.S. foreign service, was to present an interim report early this month.
Security officials in Baghdad said the State Department report was expected to include information that two Blackwater guards involved in the incident suffered gunshot wounds. The officials would not be further identified because the report had not yet been made public.
Blackwater has said its guards used their weapons only after they came under fire.
But the official Iraqi investigation found that the Blackwater guards had not been fired on when they unleashed the fusillade. It said no shots were fired at Blackwater personnel throughout.
The report said that the Blackwater guards had violated accepted rules of engagement, should face trial in the Iraqi justice system and that the company should compensate the victims families.
The guards currently are immune from prosecution in Iraq under a 2004 decree by L. Paul Bremer, a U.S. administrator in Iraq after the war. He issued the decree shortly before leaving Baghdad when political sovereignty was turned over to a provisional government.
In Washington on Thursday, the House passed a bill that would make all private contractors working in Iraq and other combat zones subject to prosecution by U.S. courts....
Blackwater is paid millions to protect State Department employees in Baghdad's dangerous environment and is widely known among Iraqis as a group to stay away from as convoys roar through the city, heavy guns at the ready on speeding armored vehicles.
October 4, 2007
House OKs Bill to
By ANNE FLAHERTY, AP
WASHINGTON (AP) - The House passed a bill Thursday that would make all private contractors working in Iraq and other combat zones subject to prosecution by U.S. courts. It was the first major response by Congress to a deadly shooting in Baghdad involving Blackwater USA security guards.
Democrats called the 389-30 vote an indictment of the incident, which left at least 13 Iraqis dead. Senate Democratic leaders said they planned to follow suit with similar legislation and send a bill to President Bush as soon as possible.
"There is simply no excuse for the de facto legal immunity for tens of thousands of individuals working in countries" on behalf of the United States, said Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas.
The FBI arrived in Baghdad Thursday to investigate the Sept. 16 shooting. Bush administration officials acknowledge they are unsure whether U.S. courts would have jurisdiction in the case or others like it.
In a separate incident, a drunken Blackwater employee left a Christmas eve party in Baghdad and fatally shot the guard of one of Iraq's vice presidents. That contractor was fired, fined and returned home to the United States; no charges have been filed.
The current law, called the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, covers personnel supporting the mission of Defense Department operations overseas. But because Blackwater's primary mission is to protect State Department officials, defense lawyers probably would argue the law does not apply.
At the same time, all U.S. contractors are immune from prosecution by Iraqi courts.
The bill's passage came on the same day that a government minister told The Associated Press that the official Iraqi investigation said Blackwater security guards involved in the September incident face trial in Iraqi courts and the company should pay compensation to the victims.
The White House and congressional Republicans said they support the intent of the bill, but thought it was drafted poorly.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the White House said the bill would have "unintended and intolerable consequences for crucial and necessary national security activities and operations." The statement did not explain further or give examples on how the bill would affect national security.
The White House referred questions to the Justice Department, which declined to comment....
Before passage, the House voted 342-75 to ensure the legislation would not affect intelligence operations....
Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., accused Democrats of rushing the bill through Congress in a partisan bid to criticize the Bush administration's handling of the war.
"It is amazing to me the number of men in Blackwater that have lost their lives and we never hear it on the other side of the aisle," Shays said. "Blackwater is evil. That's the way it appears in all the dialogue."
Rep. David Price, who sponsored the bill, said the White House's objections were unfounded and "should infuriate anyone who believes in the rule of law."
Blackwater founder Erik Prince told a House panel Tuesday that he supports expanding the law.
"Beyond firing him for breaking the rules, withholding any funds we can, we can't flog him," Prince said of the intoxicated Blackwater guard. "We can't incarcerate him. We can't do anything beyond that."
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the FBI was assuming control of the Sept. 16 probe from the State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The step was taken, in part, on the possibility that the investigation might lead to the case being referred to the Justice Department for prosecution.
McCormack stressed that the move does not necessarily mean criminal charges will be filed or that the investigation will show any laws or regulations had been violated.
While McCormack said there were "ambiguities" in the law that may complicate the prosecution of criminal acts by civilian contractors, he declined to say whether there were "gaps" that required wholesale revisions. Such an admission could jeopardize cases now being considered for prosecution under current statutes.
Under the State Department's contract with Blackwater, the company's guard's would have provided security for the FBI team while in Iraq. But FBI spokesman John Miller said the team will rely on U.S. government personnel "to avoid even the appearance of any conflict."
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
September 28, 2007
Members of Panel Reviewing State Department’s Security Practices in Iraq
Director of Management Policy Ambassador Patrick Kennedy has been tasked by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with coordinating a distinguished panel of outside experts to review the State Department's security practices in Iraq.
The panel is composed of General George Joulwan, Ambassador Stapleton Roy, and Ambassador Eric Boswell. Ambassador Kennedy and Ambassador Boswell will depart for Baghdad this weekend and be joined by the other panel members shortly thereafter.
With respect to the panel's mandate, Secretary Rice said: "My instructions to the panel are simple: their review should be serious, probing, and comprehensive. Once they have established baseline facts, I look forward to hearing their recommendations on how to protect our people while furthering our foreign policy objectives."
General Joulwan currently is President of One Team, Inc. and recently served on the congressionally mandated Iraqi Security Forces Independent Assessment Commission. His distinguished military career includes service as the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; Commander in Chief of the United States European Command; and as Commander in Chief of the United States Southern Command.
Ambassador Roy currently is the Vice Chairman of Kissinger Associates, Inc., a Director of ConocoPhillips and Freeport-McMoRan Cooper and Gold, and trustee of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He served as U.S. Ambassador to the People's Republic of China, Singapore, and Indonesia, as well as Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research.
Ambassador Boswell has extensive experience in security and management positions including Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, the Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Security, and service in the United Nations system.
September 28, 2007
Blackwater probe expands to 5 deadly incidents
U.S. conducting several investigations into security firm incidents
WASHINGTON - Five cases this year in which private Blackwater USA security guards killed Iraqi civilians are at the core of a U.S. review of how the hired protection forces guard diplomats in Iraq, officials said Friday....
The United States has not made conclusive findings about the incidents, which include a Sept. 16 case in which at least 11 Iraqis died. A State Department official said investigators are not aware of others. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the inquiries are in progress.
The United States is conducting several inquiries spawned by the deadly Baghdad shooting this month involving the private security contractor that protects U.S. diplomats and others in Iraq.
The Sept. 16 killings outraged many Iraqis, who have long resented the presence of armed Western security contractors, considering them an arrogant mercenary force that abuses Iraqis in their own country.
Blackwater is the largest of three private companies contracted by the State Department to provide security for U.S. diplomats in Iraq.
Blackwater in 56 shooting incidents
The State Department has counted 56 shooting incidents involving Blackwater guards in Iraq this year. All will be reviewed as part of a comprehensive inquiry ordered by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but the five fatal shootings involving Iraqi civilians are paramount, two officials said.
Rice announced Friday that she has brought in outside military, diplomatic and security advisers to help guide the inquiry.
September 21, 2007
Feds probe Blackwater
links to arms smuggling
Reports: Weapons linked to employees
may have gone to terrorist groups
MSNBC News, Associated Press
BAGHDAD - Federal prosecutors are investigating whether employees of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, officials said Friday.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh, N.C., is handling the investigation with help from Pentagon and State Department auditors, who have concluded there is enough evidence to file charges, the officials told The Associated Press. Blackwater is based in Moyock, N.C.
The U.S. attorney for the eastern district of North Carolina, George Holding, and a spokeswoman for Blackwater did not return calls seeking comment Friday. Pentagon and State Department spokesmen declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ordered a review of security practices for U.S. diplomats in Iraq following a deadly incident involving Blackwater USA guards protecting an embassy convoy.
Rice’s announcement came as the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad resumed limited diplomatic convoys under the protection of Blackwater outside the heavily fortified Green Zone after a suspension because of the weekend incident in that city....
September 20, 2007
The Age of Irresponsibility
How Bush has created a moral vacuum in Iraq
in which Americans can kill for free.
By Michael Hirsh, Newsweek
Imagine a universe where a man can gun down women and children anytime he pleases, knowing he will never be brought to justice. A place where morality is null and void, and arbitrary killing is the rule. A place that has been imagined hitherto only in nightmarish dystopian fiction, like “1984,” or in fevered passages from Dostoevsky—or which existed during the Holocaust and Stalinist purges and the Dark Ages.
Well, that universe exists today. It is called Iraq.
And the man who made it possible is George W. Bush.
The moral vacuum of Iraq—where Blackwater USA guards can kill 10 or 20 Iraqis on a whim and never be prosecuted for it—did not happen by accident. It is yet another example of something the Bush administration could have prevented with the right measures but simply did not bother about as it rushed into invading and occupying another country.
With America’s all-volunteer army under strain, the Pentagon and White House knew that regular military cannot be used for guarding civilians. As far back as 2003, then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld convened a task force under Undersecretary of Defense David Chu to consider new laws that might be needed to govern the privatization of war.
Nothing was done about its recommendations.
Then, two days before he left Iraq for good, L. Paul Bremer III, the Coalition Provisional Authority administrator, signed a blanket order immunizing all Americans, because, as one of his former top aides told me, “we wanted to make sure our military, civilians and contractors were protected from Iraqi law.” (No one worried about protecting the Iraqis from us; after all, we still thought of ourselves as the “liberators,” even though by then the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib and other places were known.)
Nor can these private armies even be prosecuted in America under U.S. law. The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000, which permits charges to be brought in U.S. courts for crimes abroad, apparently applies only to Defense Department contractors (and even then the administration has rarely used it).
Blackwater and other security firms work for the State Department. Even today, despite the crucial role of Blackwater and other private security firms—who employ up to 30,000 operatives in keeping the civilian side of the U.S. occupation going — Iraqis can do nothing if they are abused or killed by them.
While many Blackwater operatives are brave and honorable—the company has lost some 30 of its employees in Iraq—many of these paramilitaries have long been known to be cowboys who act as if they are free to commit homicide as they please. And according to numerous Iraqi witnesses, they sometimes do.
Take the case of the Blackwater guard who got drunk at a Green Zone party last Christmas Eve and reportedly boasted to his friends that he was going to kill someone. According to both Iraqi and U.S. officials, he stumbled out and headed provocatively over to the “Little Venice” section, a lovely area of canals where Iraqi officials live. He had an argument with an Iraqi guard, then shot him once in the chest and three times in the back. The next day Blackwater put him on a private plane out of the country—probably only because the incident involved a rare killing inside the Green Zone and the victim was a security guard for a high-ranking politician. That was it. The company has refused to disclose his name. (Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell did not return phone calls seeking comment.)
Then there was last week’s incident, when Blackwater guards killed between 10 and 20 Iraqis at a traffic stop, including a woman and a child. The company later said in a statement that “the ‘civilians’ reportedly fired upon by Blackwater professionals were in fact armed enemies … Blackwater professionals heroically defended American lives in a war zone on Sunday.” However, even President Bush acknowledged at a news conference Thursday that “evidently” innocent lives were lost in the incident.
As anyone who has been in Iraq (like me) knows, on the ground the unspoken rule of Bush’s counterinsurgency efforts over the past four years has been that almost all Iraqis, at least the males, are guilty until proven innocent. Arrests, beatings and sometimes killings at the hands of security firms and sometimes U.S. military units are arbitrary, often based on the flimsiest intelligence, and Iraqis have no recourse whatever to justice except in a few cases like Haditha. Imagine the sense of helpless rage that emerges from this sort of treatment. Apply three years of it and you have a furious, traumatized population.
And a country out of control.
And now we have the awful absurdity of U.S. diplomats going out to make allies among Iraqis and build civil society—winning “the battlefield of the mind,” Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone told The Washington Post—surrounded by security guards who operate in an amoral universe and are hated by Iraqis.
The Blackwater phenomenon undermines the Petraeus surge, which applies counterinsurgency principles that require winning over the local population, and isolating the bad guys from them. Instead, Blackwater is seen by Iraqis as the face of a malignant occupation.
Remember the scene at the beginning of the movie “Braveheart,” when the evil English lord claims droit du seigneur—the right to deflower Mel Gibson’s bride—over the powerless Scots? Well, that medieval reality is something like what Iraqis are living with today. This is the “model” George W. Bush will bequeath to the world.
Morality begins when people take responsibility for their actions. But no one in the Bush administration has taken responsibility for one disaster after another in Iraq. Nor does anyone seem to care.
As Maureen Dowd has pointed out, so passé is the concept of taking responsibility that people who do bad things are even skipping the usual stage of shame, or “slinking away.” Instead they are “slinking back” into public life.
The Bush administration’s lack of concern about holding its employees responsible for their actions extends to obstructing civil suits against rogue contractors under the False Claims Act. “None of the lawsuits has been successful,” says lawyer Alan Grayson. “In a couple of the cases the government has said the case has to be shut down because it involves state secrets.” (The Justice Department has said it is carefully looking at the suits.)
Who has been in charge of this? None other than Peter Keisler, the former head of Justice’s civil division who is now acting attorney general, says Grayson, who is involved in several cases against Blackwater and other contractors.
“They run people off the road. They treat the local population like it’s some big shooting gallery. It’s not just Blackwater; it’s everybody.”
No, that’s letting the responsible party off too easily: it’s the Bush administration.
© 2007 Newsweek, Inc.
Durbin Asks Defense Subcommittee to Investigate Private Contractors in Iraq
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] — U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today sent a letter to Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense asking for a hearing on private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, specifically Blackwater Security.
In today’s letter, Durbin noted: “Companies such as Blackwater have enjoyed enormous government contracts. Their ties to the Administration have allowed them to grow significantly and reap large wartime profits. Yet their accountability has been limited.”
Text of the letter appears below:
September 19, 2007
Dear Senator Inouye:
The recent incident in Iraq involving Blackwater Security and the Iraqi government’s decision to ban the company from operating in that country shines a light on yet another critical issue in Iraq: the use of private security forces. There are approximately 20,000-30,000 private security contractors in Iraq; the exact number is unknown. I have serious concerns about the inadequate regulation and oversight of these companies.
Companies such as Blackwater have enjoyed enormous government contracts. Their ties to the Administration have allowed them to grow significantly and reap large wartime profits. Yet their accountability has been limited.
Stories abound of contract employees placed in war zones without the proper personal protection or equipment and of units being undermanned. If these companies are unnecessarily risking American lives while their profits increase, they should be held accountable just as a military commander would be held accountable under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice for a failure to protect the troops. The connections Blackwater has established with the Administration and that fact that its work is done in Iraq should not prevent it from being held legally accountable for its actions.
Many of the men and women working for Blackwater in Iraq and Afghanistan are honorable, professional and patriotic. But any organization with as wide a footprint as Blackwater is likely to have some exceptions in its midst. While in theory security contractors are bound by the same Rules of Engagement as our soldiers are, the limited oversight of their work by the Administration has made it exceedingly difficult to hold them accountable for their actions. In practice there has been little or no accountability exercised.
Finally, the Administration’s haphazard planning for this war has fostered an over-reliance on private security forces to fill gaps that should have been anticipated. When the Administration has needed more security than our over-stretched armed forces can provide, it has turned to private security contractors paid by American tax dollars. Those contractors are seen abroad as representing the United States, even though U.S. oversight has been limited.
These issues need greater attention. Accordingly, I request that the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee conduct a hearing to investigate, among other things, the following issues:
1. How many private security contractors currently work in Iraq and Afghanistan?
2. Under what rules do they operate? What are their specific rules of engagement?
3. Under what legal authority are they held accountable?
4. How many lethal and non-lethal incidents have they been involved in since the beginning of the war? Who investigates these incidents and ensures that they are held accountable for any lapses or illegal acts?
5. What no-bid contracts has Blackwater received from the Administration? Are there ties between Blackwater and the Administration that raise concerns about any of these no-bid contracts?
6. What are Blackwater and other companies doing to ensure the maximum protection of their employees on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan? Who, if anyone, monitors whether the companies are placing profit ahead of the protection of their employees?
7. What U.S. laws, if any, are groups like Blackwater required to obey in their operations abroad? What Iraqi or Afghan laws are they subject to when they work in Iraq and Afghanistan? Are there any restrictions that prevent such groups from being hired by foreign governments or entities as private mercenaries?
Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.
Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator
February 08, 2007
The Missing Billions: Ex-Iraq Occupation Chief Paul Bremer Questioned on Oversight, Spending of Iraqi Money
Three former Army officers and two civilians have been indicted for diverting $3.6 million in Iraq reconstruction money to a contractor in exchange for cash, luxury cars and jewelry. The announcement came one day after the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing about how billions of dollars set aside for the Iraq Reconstruction have gone missing. Corpwatch Managing editor Pratap Chatterjee attended the hearing. He joins us from Washington....
The Justice Department has indicted three former Army officers and two civilians. They are accused of diverting $3.6 million in Iraq reconstruction money to a contractor in exchange for cash, luxury cars and jewelry. The announcement came one day after the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing about how billions of dollars set aside for the Iraq Reconstruction have gone missing. The committee’s chair Henry Waxman questioned Paul Bremer, former Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Rep. Henry Waxman, questioning Paul Bremer, former Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Earlier in the hearing Paul Bremer admitted errors had been made during his time as Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Investigative journalist Pratap Chatterjee attended Tuesday’s hearing and joins us now from Washington, D.C....
AMY GOODMAN: As we continue on the issue of reconstruction, so-called, and private armies, we will continue with Jeremy Scahill, and we’ll also be joined by Pratap Chatterjee. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes. The Justice Department has indicted three former Army officers and two civilians. They are accused of diverting $3.6 million in Iraqi reconstruction money to a contractor in exchange for cash, luxury cars and jewelry. The announcement came one day after the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing about how billions of dollars set aside for the Iraq reconstruction have gone missing. The committee’s chair, Henry Waxman, questioned Paul Bremer, former Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN: Little more than a year, $12 billion in US currency removed from the vaults of the Federal Reserve and flown into Iraq, this money, mainly $100 bills, were packed into bricks, and each brick was worth $400,000 each. And I think we have a picture of the bricks on the screen. They were assembled into large palettes containing over $60 million in cash and flown into Iraq. In December 2003, Ambassador Bremer and the Coalition Provision Authority asked for a shipment of $1.5 billion to be flown into Iraq, and a Federal Reserve official described this in an email as the largest payout of US currency in US history. But this didn’t remain the largest for very long, because in June, $2.4 billion was sent to Iraq, and this time the Federal Reserve official wrote, quote, “Just when you think you’ve seen it all, the CPA is ordering $2,401,600,000 in currency.”
Well, the question this committee is trying to answer is, what happened to the money? Was it spent responsibility? Was it misspent? Was it wasted? Did it go out to pay off corrupt officials? Or, worst of all, did some of this money get in the hands of the insurgents and those who are fighting us today in Iraq? Ambassador Bremer, are you concerned about the possibility that some of this money went to ghost employees—we don’t know where it went—and might be showing up in the hands of insurgents that are fighting US troops?
PAUL BREMER: If there were evidence of that, I would certainly be concerned.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN: We don’t know whether there’s evidence of it, but we don’t—
PAUL BREMER: I don’t know.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN:—know whether the people who got the money were entitled to it or what they did with it.
PAUL BREMER: Well, as the inspector general pointed out, the problem of ghost employees was certainly there, and it was there even before the invasion. But I have no knowledge of monies being diverted. I would certainly be concerned if I thought they were.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN: Well, $12 billion is a lot of money. It could have been used for a lot of projects that American taxpayers ended up funding through appropriations. It seems to me inconceivable that we can’t explain what happened to it, but that seems to be the situation we’re in.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Henry Waxman, questioning the former Iraq pro-consul Paul Bremer. Investigative journalist Pratap Chatterjee attended Tuesday’s hearing and joins us now from Washington, D.C. He’s managing editor of corpwatch.org and author of Iraq, Inc.: A Profitable Occupation. Can you talk about the significance of this hearing and what Paul Bremer said, Pratap?
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: Amy, this is a very important hearing. This hearing yesterday was the first what Henry Waxman promises will be two years of hearings. And they’re going to be looking into corruption, waste and abuse in Iraq, and also, for example, in border surveillance. Today’s hearing, he’s going to look at the money being spent on protecting the border ostensibly. What they were talking about yesterday and what Paul Bremer was on the stand to talk about was the $19.6 billion worth of Iraq’s money that the Coalition Provisional Authority spent in Iraq and squandered, much of it.
Dennis Kucinich at one point held up a piece of paper and said, “Mr. Bremer, what happened to this $500 million, which says, ‘For security, TBD,’ to be determined?” And, in fact, there were no answers, partly it’s because Bremer had not been briefed, and so he didn’t recognize the piece of paper, but I think what was more telling was the fact that he said, “I never read those minutes.” There were meetings twice a week of US officials, where they decided how to spend Iraq’s own oil money. And Paul Bremer, who ultimately was responsible for that, candidly admitted at the hearing yesterday that he didn’t know what happened to the money.
His assistant, David Oliver, was present. He was his budget chief. And there was a quote played back, where he was interviewed, where somebody asked him from the BBC if he knew what happened to the money, and he said, “Frankly, it’s not important.” And the interviewer said, “Billions of dollars worth of money, and you didn’t know where it went?” And so they said, “Well, you know, this wasn’t American money. Why should we care?”
And really, there was — Paul Bremer had this sort of cocksure attitude that came across. The Democrats, unfortunately, didn’t have all their facts marshaled. They weren’t able to go after him in that sense, because they weren’t really involved in the detailed kind of questioning that Waxman has been good on so far.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Pratap, of course, they obviously haven’t been reading your CorpWatch, or they would know about questions to ask.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: If they had, yes.
JUAN GONZALEZ: But I’d like to ask you also, you’ve been also tracking Halliburton consistently now for years. The reports about the Pentagon finally pulling money, because Halliburton had hired Blackwater, but hadn’t notified the government of it.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: Juan, there was a very interesting moment, where Tina Ballard, who’s Assistant Secretary to the Army, said in yesterday’s hearing that they had withheld $19.6 million from Halliburton on Monday. And Waxman said, “Well, it looks like our hearing saved the government and the taxpayer $20 million, just by holding this hearing.”
The reason they withheld that money was because Halliburton had been using private security contractors in violation of their agreement with the Army, which said they would only use military security. So—and, in fact, Halliburton’s own lawyers—Waxman had a piece of paper, which showed that Halliburton’s own staff had said, “You can’t say”—I mean, the quote was, “A pig is a pig, even if it’s wearing lipstick. If we use a company that uses private security, and that’s a violation of our agreement, we’re going to lose our contract with the government.”
So what the Army did yesterday was it took back $20 million, because Halliburton had acted outside its agreement.
Now, that was a small amount of money, and, in fact, much larger sums of money have been questioned by military auditors. As much as $1.5 billion have been questioned. It’s not absolutely certain this money was stolen or wasted. It’s just that this money has been questioned. And, unfortunately, the Pentagon has seen fit to give them the money, because they basically say, “It’s the fog of war. We don’t know what happened to the money. Halliburton deserves the benefit of the doubt.”
The good news now is that Halliburton’s contract has been taken away from them. It’s going to be competitively bid. My question is, who is going to get the next contract, and are they going to do a better job? It’s very possible that Halliburton will get one part of the contract to supervise the people that they were once in charge of in the first place. That’s something that we’ll discover in the future, but there promises to be many more hearings by the Government Reform Committee looking into these very specific matters of what happened to the over $20 billion that has been spent on Halliburton in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: Pratap Chatterjee, I want to thank you very much for being with us, managing editor of corpwatch.org and author of Iraq, Inc.: A Profitable Occupation. Also, thanks to Jeremy Scahill, whose forthcoming book is coming out very soon, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.
"America's Holy Warriors"
Erik Prince is "the secretive, mega-millionaire, right-wing Christian founder of Blackwater, the private security firm that has built a formidable mercenary force in Iraq," Chris Hedges wrote December 31, 2006, in Truthdig
Prince "champions his company as a patriotic extension of the U.S. military. His employees, in an act as cynical as it is deceitful, take an oath of loyalty to the Constitution. These mercenary units in Iraq, including Blackwater, contain some 20,000 fighters. They unleash indiscriminate and wanton violence against unarmed Iraqis, have no accountability and are beyond the reach of legitimate authority. The appearance of these paramilitary fighters, heavily armed and wearing their trademark black uniforms, patrolling the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, gave us a grim taste of the future. It was a stark reminder that the tyranny we impose on others we will one day impose on ourselves," Hedges wrote.
"The new 'counsel of record' for the North Carolina-based company is none other than former Whitewater investigator Kenneth Starr — the independent counsel in the 1999 impeachment of President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal," Jeremy Scahill and Garrett Ordower reported online October 26, 2006, in The Nation.
"Starr was brought in last week by Blackwater to filemotions in front of the US Supreme Court in a case stemming from the killing of four Blackwater contractors in the Iraqi city of Fallujah on March 31, 2004."
"There are undeniable benefits to having Starr, the US Solicitor General under President George H.W. Bush, represent Blackwater—a highly partisan GOP company—in front of a Supreme Court stacked with Bush appointees.
Starr also has a personal connection to Blackwater. Starr and Joseph Schmitz, the general counsel and chief operating officer of Blackwater's parent company, the Prince Group, have both worked closely with the arch-conservative Washington Legal Foundation. Since 1993 Starr has served on the legal policy advisory board of the organization for which Schmitz has frequently acted as a spokesperson and attorney," Scahill and Ordower wrote.
CIA-Pentagon-Blackwater "revolving door"
"A number of senior CIA and Pentagon officials have taken top jobs at Blackwater, including firm vice chairman Cofer Black, who was the Bush Administration's top counterterrorism official at the time of the 9/11 attacks (and who famously said in 2002, 'There was before 9/11 and after 9/11. After 9/11, the gloves came off')," Ken Silverstein wrote September 12, 2006, in Harper's Magazine.
In fall 2005, Robert Richer "resigned from the post of Associate Deputy Director of Operations; he immediately took a job as Blackwater's Vice President of Intelligence. Richer is a former head of the CIA's Near East Division and long served in Amman, where, for a period beginning in 1999, he held the post of station chief. For years he was the agency's point man with Jordan's King Abdullah, with whom he developed an extraordinarily close relationship," Silverstein wrote.
Also, Silverstein wrote in September 2006, "there's talk at the agency that Blackwater is also aggressively recruiting José Rodriguez, the CIA's current top spy as director of the National Clandestine Service. Rodriguez has a number of former agency friends at Blackwater, most notably Rick Prado, with whom he served in Latin America and who is now Blackwater's Vice President of Special Programs."
Recent Cofer Black start-up and merger, Total Intelligence Solutions, LLC, is a merger of three companies, The Black Group, The Terrorism Research Center, Inc. and Technical Defense.
TIS very well may fall outside the legal corporate domain of Blackwater, however two of the top executives at TIS, Cofer Black and Enrique Prado still hold positions at Blackwater, and Robert Richer recently left his position at Blackwater to take on responsibilities at TIS.
As well, it should be noted that one of the three companies merged to create TIS, The Terrorism Research Center, is owned by Blackwater founder Erik Prince.
# # #
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Originally posted September 22, 2007
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