Wednesday, December 19, 2007
It's old news from October, recycled in a December 19 Associated Press feed. It's as if an AP editor just wanted to keep nasty stuff about Blackwater in the headlines, as it is known to do.
Significantly, AP calls the Center for Constitutional Rights a "human rights group" and says nothing about its terrorist and cop-killing connections. See our November 17 post for details.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
The Associated Press reports, "two weeks into a federal grand jury investigation, people close to the case told AP that authorities have focused the number who could face charges to about three of the dozen or more guards on the security detail."
This is a sure sign that federal prosecutors do not believe that the company itself acted improperly, and that wrongdoing, if any, on September 16 was a very rare exception to the rule. Blackwater has provided more than 17,000 diplomatic security missions successfully in Iraq since 2004. US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker - one of the nation's most respected career ambassadors - has strongly stood by Blackwater and its practices that are credited with saving the lives of American diplomats and others.
Being the subject of a criminal investigation does not, under US law and custom, mean that the individuals are guilty.
But the small number of guards expected to be prosecuted also indicates that the federal grand jury does not believe the line from the Iraqi Ministry of Interior (MOI) that the security providers as a whole shot indiscriminately or without provocation that day. The MOI controls the country's national police. Evidence backs up Blackwater's original reports that the diplomatic convoy under the company's protection was indeed fired upon at Nisoor Square on that day.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
With victory in Iraq a distinct possibility, who is being the irresponsible cowboy now?"
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
"Blackwater fully supports the memorandum of agreement signed today by the Department of State and the Department of Defense regarding private security companies operating in IRaq on behalf of the US Government. Blackwater has always supported the identification of contractor standards and clear rules of accountability. Increased coordination and constant review of procedures will provide even better value to the Government. Blackwater looks forward to complying with new rules as we continue to serve the United States Government."
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
The congressman was to have stood trial for assault and battery on December 4.
Monday, December 3, 2007
If true, that's a scandal. Nobody has accused Blackwater of failing to deliver on its contracts. And KBR has also built a great reputation in Iraq of doing what it has been contracted to do. Waxman chairs the committee responsible for government reform and oversight. He's been using it as a weapon against those he deems domestic political adversaries, while looking askance at allegations of failure to deliver among his partisan friends.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Blogger VarangianWife, a self-described thirtysomething, brings us a lot of the stuff that guy-oriented blogs often overlook: the family lives of contractors serving their country abroad. VarangianWife certainly has a woman's touch, getting down to personal issues like inspiration, marriage, loneliness, love, and all those other things that pack the emotional punch to living and understanding the life of a private contractor.
She also brings us new information on some of the slimeballs who profit from attacking our people in private service of the public good, including the sleazy trial lawyers who make common cause with attorneys for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Bookmark VarangianWife's blog and check it daily. In case you forget, I'll post it in the "Friendly Links" column.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Now, the US might have to twist the facts and possibly the law itself if it chooses to prosecute Blackwater for the September 16 incident in Iraq.
National Public Radio interviews former assistant US attorney Bob Chadwell, who says this about Justice Department lawyers: "They are going to have to shoehorn the facts into a statute that wasn't designed to address that concern, and that is a problem."
"If the law isn't meant to address something, it is sometimes like trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. Sometimes it just can't be done," Chadwell adds.
The NPR Morning Edition commentary says, "Legal experts say the Justice Department is likely to shoehorn the case into one of two American laws. One applies to people employed by or accompanying US armed forces overseas. If they commit a crime that would result in more than a year in prison had it been committed in the US, they could fall under US jurisdiction."
Yes, but Blackwater's diplomatic security people are employed by the State Department and accompany diplomats - not the armed forces. No such law exists to prosecute for the September 16 incident. That's not Blackwater's fault. It's the fault of Congress.
Is it really justice if government lawyers have to "shoehorn the facts" in order get their prosecution?
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The suit claims to be on behalf of victims of the September 16 shooting incident at Nisoor Square.
But why the lawyers' terrorist connections? And why didn't AP and other news organizations report those connections, which are on the public record?
The Associated Press and other news organizations don't report it that way, of course, citing only the lead attorney who is not known to be tied to terrorists. But as this blog has reported several times, the cooperating attorneys are well known for their terrorist connections.
Lead attorney Susan L. Burke is the only member of the legal team quoted. Not quoted are Shereef Hadi Akeel, who represents a group that the US says is an al Qaeda organization, and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who has devoted his legal career to advocating on behalf of terrorists, cop-killers, and other enemies of society.
The terrorist lawyer connection adds a new twist to the September 16 issue. See the posting below about parallels between the Nisoor Square incident and the 2005 Haditha incident.
The November 2007 issue of the US Naval Institute's Proceedings magazine discusses the Haditha case, and prompts this blogger to place the September 16 incident in context with quotations from the article about Haditha:
Awful reality: "Casualties of War"
- "The 2005 incident occurred after a devastating roadside bomb attack. . ."
- ". . . shot several Iraqi men who approached their position after the explosion."
- ". . . assaulted suspected insurgent positions in a nearby built-up area. They killed more civilians in house-to-house clearing operations."
- ". . . commanders, well trained in the law of war, regarded these deaths as collateral to legitimate combat action."
- "There was no cover-up."
"War is Complicated"
- "Combat leaders today . . . face complex arrays of political, social, legal, and military problems that are unprecedented. . ."
- "In some cases it is simply impossible to resolve these complexities in the glare of combat, particularly when a clever, ruthless enemy takes advantage of local American and international sensitivities."
- "The legal consequences of difficult decisions in combat are simply too stark."
- "A young person . . . suddenly faces an instantaneous decision in close combat - and it may cost him his life. Unless he makes a decision that is exactly correct, he might be killed, or he could face murder charges for killing somebody else."
- "It is unrealistic to suppose that even well-trained young people will choose correctly every time in such complex circumstances. This is not what we have expected of even our best troops in the past."
"Fine Lines amid Violence"
- ". . .the charged . . . admit killing civilians but claim the deaths occurred while they acted in accordance with the rules of engagement."
- ". . . dropped all charges . . ."
- ". . . recommended that charges be dropped . . ."
- ". . . one . . . charged with murder. . . . dropped the charges in this case as well."
- ". . . a third hearing officer has recommended that charges be dropped . . ."
- ". . . charges were dropped in one other cases . . . in return for testimony, while at least some immunity deals were struck with other personnel before any charges were brought."
- ". . .disparate results were, and probably will be, inevitable . . . along with political and media pressures. but this is not the way to fairly dispense justice . . ."
"Fairness is Possible"
- "The overlapping . . . investigations and inconsistent outcomes are confusing, bad for morale, and make our judicial system appear capricious - or just plain off the rails. Civilian losses occur with more frequency as a result of air attack, but pilots and their commanders are rarely, if ever, accused of murder for mistakes in targeting."
- "As an alternative to all-out prosecutions, why not develop procedures whereby troops involved in potentially serious law of war violations would have their cases reviewed under the equivalent of a good-faith exception to courts-martial? This concept applies in cases of police misconduct that are technical, but not malicious."
- "But when it appears that troops may have overreacted, acted mistakenly, or acted under extreme duress without obvious criminal intent, commanders -with legal guidance - could address the matter non-judicially or administratively."
Friday, November 23, 2007
The test of a 170-foot non-rigid blimp, called Polar 400, excited the crew. "It's very responsive. It's the most maneuverable blimp I've ever flown," Blackwater test pilot Doug McFadden tells the Virginian-Pilot.
The Virginian-Pilot's website contains exclusive photos of the airship prototypes and tests.
Blackwater Airships, a unit of Blackwater Worldwide, designed the blimp to carry intelligence-gathering cameras, sensors and communications gear for counterterrorism, counternarcotics and border security operations. The blimp is to be unmanned and piloted by remote control from the ground.
Blackwater intends for its airships to be low-cost alternatives to other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The blimps can fly at 10,000 feet and require only a crew of three.
"With a few engineering innovations, Blackwater hopes to turn a time-tested platform - the Navy used blimps to watch for enemy submarines in World War II - into a modern tool for combatting terrorism and for other 21st-century needs," the Virginian-Pilot's Jon W. Glass reports.
"Hoping to wedge its way into a highly competitive market, the company is touting its airship as a lower-cost, longer-operating alternative to the fixed and rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicles now widely used by the Air Force and other military services."
For Blackwater's news release of its airship tests, click here.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
Here are a few points and counterpoints to de-bunk some of those myths. This will be a growing list and we might ultimately set up a separate site to deal with them. In the meantime, here some points and counterpoints concerning Blackwater and private security contractors in general:
Private security guards in Iraq “operate with little or no supervision, accountable only to firms employing them.” Such contractors are “not bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
- Blackwater security guards are accountable to the US Government under the Constitution as well as a number of federal statutes, regulations, and General Orders.
- The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) applies to contractors, like those employed by Blackwater, “accompanying an armed force in the field during US contingency operations.”
- The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) establishes the jurisdiction of our federal courts to enforce against wrongdoing by contractors.
- Private contractor wrongdoing is also covered under statutes such as the War Crimes Act, the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, the Anti-Torture Statute and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
- Blackwater's services and products abroad are tightly regulated under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the US government Munitions List that determines what can and cannot be exported or provided abroad.
- US Government contracts require strict adherence to quality control standards for contracts involving sensitive or classified work. They identify character traits and performance deliverables in great detail. Blackwater must perform in accordance with these contractual restrictions and requirements or lose its contracts.
Contractors are above the law and do not get prosecuted for wrong doing. No Blackwater contractor has been prosecuted for conduct in Iraq but over sixty active duty servicemen were prosecuted in Iraq during the same time frame.
- Only one Blackwater contractor in Iraq has been officially accused of potential criminal misconduct. While he has not yet been charged, he is subject to an ongoing Justice Department investigation in which Blackwater is cooperating. A comparative look at the total force sizes in Iraq illustrates the norm. Blackwater has no more than 890 personnel in Iraq at any given time. The percentage of US military prosecutions of uniformed personnel in Iraq to date represents an equivalent Blackwater proportion of slightly less than 1 contractor.
- The absence of prosecutions of contractors in Iraq can just as easily be ascribed to the different role contractors and military personnel play and the extensive military experience of many contractors.
There are over 150,000 private contractors operating in Iraq and Blackwater is the largest employer of these personnel. Blackwater has the largest "private army" in Iraq. Besides Blackwater there are only 2-3 other security firms operating in the country.
- Blackwater is one of more than 170 US, Coalition, and Iraqi security firms conducting business in Iraq, totaling an estimated 25,000 guards. Whenever an incident occurs anywhere in the country the assumption is Blackwater is involved. The probability in fact is that it is another company, because Blackwater represents about 3.6 percent of the 25,000-person private security contractor presence in-country.
- Tht total number of Blackwater personnel doing diplomatic security work in Iraq is fewer than 900 (see below); many of these are support personnel (medical, clerical, logistics, TOC watch standers, etc.).
- Blackwater is supporting the US efforts by providing rigidly screened and highly trained diplomatic protection personnel to the US Government. Quality, experience and training of Blackwater diplomatic security personnel are stipulated a contract that requires extremely high caliber contractors with a minimum Secret level security clearance.
Contractors are amateurs who make $1,000 per day while the professionals in uniform earn far less.
Blackwater contractors in Iraq are seasoned professionals who are paid between $450 and $650 per day. Blackwater compensation packages are base pay only and are comparable to that earned by members of the US Military when total service compensation (bonuses, lodging, uniforms, health benefits, retirement, base and special pays) are taken into account.
Most Blackwater contractors are former non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and officers in the elite light infantry or Special Operations community. They average 10 years military experience and 3 years post military career security experience. The average age in 37. Over 65% are former US Army, approximately 25% are former US Marine Corps personnel, and the remaining is a mix of men with SEAL and SWAT backgrounds. Approximately 55% had prior combat time under their belt – mostly pre 9/11 experiences, before joining Blackwater.
Blackwater contractors work temporarily and are paid only for the days they work, unlike members of the US military who are paid by salary. Most work 180 days a year. This works out to a considerable savings for the American taxpayer. Blackwater has challenged Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Cal.), Chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, to do a cost analysis to determine the best value for the taxpayer, but the lawmaker and leading Blackwater critic has not done so.
Blackwater contractors are unruly “cowboys” who shoot first and ask questions later. They do not have to follow use of force rules as enforced in the US military.
Blackwater security professionals are issued use of force rules by the US Government and must sign acknowledgement of these rules before weapons are issued. Since Blackwater's diplomatic security contract in Iraq is issued by the State Department, the company must abide by State Department guidelines that differ from those of the Department of Defense. The Department of State use of force policy with an escalation of force continuum that includes many non lethal steps or actions before warning shots are fired. This places the Blackwater security detail members at risk when the suspicious actions turn out to be a coordinated attack.
The State Department uses of force rules are more restrictive than the US military. An attack by itself does not justify an aggressive response. The diplomatic security detail’s primary task is to evacuate the principal – not to engage hostile enemy formations or individuals. They are not required to achieve firepower superiority but must use controlled, aimed shots to eliminate threatening obstacle to their evacuation movement.
Blackwater has conducted nearly 17,000 Baghdad “Red Zone” protective missions conducted over the last 3 years. In 195 of these missions Blackwater was required to discharge weapons. That's 1.1 percent of the time. The vast majority of these events were warning shots or vehicle disabling shots that did not involve casualties. Blackwater teams were engaged by enemy fire over 500 times in the same period. No protectee was harmed or lost however, Blackwater lost 27 diplomatic protection professionals.
The use of private military contractors (PMCs) and private security contractors (PSCs) is a new phenomenon which began in the current Bush administration.
The historic use of private sector expertise in support of the military in the US goes back to the Revolutionary War. In the 1990s President Bill Clinton downsized the US defense structure and by policy deferred those tasks that could be better in times of national need by the private sector. Kosovo and Bosnia were the first robust tests of his new approach. After the events of the USS Cole attack in Yemen and the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Blackwater was ready willing and able to assist the nation by providing critical support services.
Blackwater does not have to bid for its contracts and relies on cronyism and politically motivated sole source handouts to grow its business.
Blackwater has received no preferential political treatment and in fact has competed for all but a very few of its contracts over the last ten years. The few noncompetitive contracts were issue, as permitted under law, in time of emergency when the government needed services immediately, and were of limited duration. Blackwater, like all other American companies doing business with the US Government, must wait for public posting of potential contracts, write and bid to the specific US contract requirements, and then wait for the US Government to review all submissions based on stringent Federal rules that ensure fair and open competition.
Blackwater has assembled an army of mercenaries who work for the highest bidder. These men have allegiance to no nation, no laws, or to any moral code of conduct.
Blackwater is an American company that operates under American law. Its security professionals are persons who have served honorably in the US military or in US law enforcement. They have taken oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. They are required to pass a rigorous screening process which includes background checks and security clearance due diligence. They must demonstrate their skill area or proficiency by completing a US government mandated program of instruction and testing. The US government checks off on each person’s reliability and suitability for duty. Then the personnel are deployed overseas to work under the supervision of a US government agency. Blackwater does not provide services or products abroad without the explicit written approval of the US government.
Blackwater attempts to sway active duty personnel – encouraging them to leave the military for the higher pay they will receive in the private sector. This has caused the US military to experience a drop in recruiting/retention. It has also adversely impacted on the military's ability to fill the all volunteer force during time of war.
The US military has never claimed that it is failing to meet the volunteer service targets. Indeed, it specifically noted in a July 2005 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that the percentage of force lost to the private sector to no less or greater over the last few years. It also stated that personnel leaving the service were entering into all categories of private life than it was previously. It is misleading and false to state that the private security industry or any company in that industry is guilty of undermining the national security objectives of the United States.
Blackwater is the linchpin of the Department of Defense (DoD) in Iraq and is currently working on multiple DoD contracts there.
Blackwater does not support any active DoD contract in Iraq . The vast majority of its roughly 900 in-country personnel are bravely supporting a Department of State diplomatic protection mission that was funded and authorized annually by bipartisan majorities in the US Congress.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
According to the Association's website, "As a charter member, you will receive:
- A subscription to Serviam, a bi-monthly private contracting industry magazine
- A monthly Alumni newsletter available at the Blackwater Alumni Association website (www.blackwateralumni.com) bringing Blackwater news to its family
- A certificate for the face value ($35) of your membership that can be used toward the cost of tuition in a Blackwater training course
- A current training course calendar
- E-mail alerts with sign-up at http://www.blackwateralumni.com/
- Source to send anonymous suggestions regarding anything Blackwater at firstname.lastname@example.org
- A unique membership identification card that can be used for a 10% discount in Blackwater's Pro Shop (in person or online at http://proshop.blackwaterusa.com/) (some restrictions apply)
- A distinctive alumni lapel pin
Do they screen you to make sure you're legit? Of course!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The Wall Street Journal quotes Richard Douglas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics, counterproliferation and global threats, as saying that Blackwater's training of the Afghans made them more effective in fighting illegal drug production. "We've been very happy with the results of our association with them in Afghanistan," Douglas said.
Monday, November 12, 2007
DynCorp guards are very well regarded and, like Blackwater, are among the very few elite enough to serve as State Department diplomatic security providers in Iraq. The facts of the case aren't in, and there's no good reason to prejudge. All we can point out here is the irony: Lanese rips Blackwater on issues concerning rules of force, only to find his company involved in killing an Iraqi civilian just days later.
Three days after the DynCorp chief's words were reported in the Charlotte, North Carolina News & Observer, a DynCorp guard killed the Iraqi taxi driver.
"Unfortunately, it's very visible work that tends to attract a disproportionate amount of attention that I believe unfairly distorts the image of DynCorp. I don't need to tell you what kind of work we do or how long we've been at it, because I realize all of you understand and know that. But I do want you to know that in this narrow space in which we compete with Blackwater, we believe we are a very different company. . . .
"And we've developed our own rules for the use of force that are more detailed than those issued by the U.S. government. In fact, our rules for the use of force are based on the most conservative elements of the three sets of rules in effect in Iraq. . . .
"When you look for the rules for the use of force or rules of engagement in Iraq, there really are three sets of rules. And I think in recent Blackwater testimony, when asked, the person who was testifying said, 'Well, we follow the rules of force - rules for the use of force in Iraq.' Well, there's three of them. Which one do you follow? All three are not the same.
"There's the Coalition Provisional Authority Rules for the Use of Force, the Department of Defense Rules for the Use of Force, and the State Department Rules for the Use of Force. We've gone through and looked at the most conservative nature, or requirements, of each of those and developed rules for the use of force that apply to all three at all times, and that's what we do and operate under.
"Look, we're not taking any pleasure in Blackwater's troubles, because I think it's harmful for not only other companies that do this work, like ourselves, but it's harmful for our country as well and our relations with Iraqi people. But I think our investors deserve to know how very seriously we take the work we perform and how responsibly we carry it out."
Friday, November 9, 2007
Sponsor 1: Congressman Bob Filner (D-CA), who is awaiting trial for alleged assault and battery against a woman.
Sponsor 2: Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), whose husband just marked a year since his release from federal prison on bank fraud and tax cheating convictions.
Fringe Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Socialist, introduced similar legislation in the upper house.
"Mercenary armies can overthrow a democracy," Filner said as he anticipated his trial for allegedly manhandling a female airport employee. "We are going to fight Blackwater until there are no more mercenaries."
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Among Mr. Schakowsky-Creamer's observations: "Even though all of the inmates are men, there is no nakedness in your sleeping area or washrooms. The norm is to change your pants in the privacy of a shower stall."
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
That failure could be a victory for the trial lawyers and spell defeat for US military forces and diplomats who need private sector support for their wartime operations and safety.
"After the President has said that, as Commander-in-Chief, he is ultimately responsible for contractors on the battlefield it is disappointing that his administration has been unwilling to make that interest clear before the courts," Blackwater CEO Erik Prince tells Time magazine after the administration missed a November 7 deadline. "And this is happening even as our professionals risk their lives every day in support of vital US priorities, while Congress and several federal agencies publicly discuss the issues at stake in this particular lawsuit."
A trial lawyer win would spell doom for the industry and the US government's dependence on it. According to Time, "Blackwater and other contractors say that if the Florida damages case is allowed to proceed, it will expose them to potentially large liabilities that could cripple their ability to play the role for which they're hired by the U.S. government. Blackwater has argued that because [a Blackwater operation in Afghanistan] was under the command and control of the U.S. military, the company should be covered by the same 'sovereign immunity' that protects the U.S. military from lawsuits."
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
We got this exclusive photo of Blackwater's freshly made camp for fire refugees in San Diego County.
Monday, November 5, 2007
The issue "isn't an overly aggressive contractor," she writes. "It's the State Department's zero tolerance for casualties of its employees in Iraq. Such an approach makes tragedies such as the September episode more common – and it marginalizes the lives of innocent Iraqis who just might be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Placing so many diplomats and civil servants on nation-building assignments in the middle of a civil war has a high price – perhaps too high, as officials at State have finally started to acknowledge.
"The US government appears to tolerate a certain number of casualties from the all-volunteer military. But civilian employees are a different story. Images of dead diplomats being dragged through Iraqi streets or videotaped beheadings of civil servants, it's assumed, would undermine already tenuous public support of the war.
"The very branch of the US government charged with fostering relations with the Iraqi government and people is responsible for the behavior that has helped erode support from the Iraqi populace. The State Department Diplomatic Security Service set up aggressive rules for the use of force for its contractors in what's called the Mission Firearms Policy. These rules are more aggressive than those used by the military for its contracted forces. In fact, the Secretary of State's Panel on Personal Protective Services in Iraq recommended last month that these guidelines be amended to require basic assurances: 'due regard for safety of innocent bystanders,' 'every effort to avoid civilian casualties,' and only aimed shots – a nod to the fact that pointing and spraying rounds isn't explicitly banned," Hillhouse says.
"The American public and Congress should not be distracted by the fact that the State Department's grittier work was outsourced to a contractor. They should not allow the government to let a contractor take the fall while it sidesteps accountability for a cold calculus that its diplomats and aid workers have to be protected at all costs – costs that may include some innocent Iraqi lives."
Saturday, November 3, 2007
On this day one year ago, Schakowsky's husband, Robert Creamer, was released from the Federal Correction Institute at Terre Haute, Indiana (pictured), where he served a prison term for felony tax evasion and bank fraud.
Friday, November 2, 2007
I woke up Thursday morning, checked the Blackberry, and found an e-mail from a television-producer friend asking about comments attributed to me by the New York Times about Blackwater USA. Remembering my lengthy conversation with a reporter about the security firm, I expected a thank-you call from my former clients. Then I read the story.
I’m not naïve and I’m no rookie in dealing with the media. But when one spends 40 minutes on the phone with a highly respected reporter, singing the praises of a company that does heroic service to our country, one expects those comments to be reflected in the story.When the Times’s John Broder called me about Blackwater, he wanted to know what I made of the company’s recent public-relations push.
My response was that it was long overdue: For far too long, the State Department gagged Blackwater, barring them from defending themselves from unfair attacks in the media and by liberal congressman trying to score political points with the MoveOn.org crowd. I explained that the men of Blackwater were true patriots, heroes who volunteered to go into harm’s way to protect the lives of American diplomats and elected officials, some of whom were attacking the very company that kept them safe overseas. Yet because the antiwar Left (most vocally supported by liberal Democrats in the House and Senate) wanted to score political points, they constantly accused Blackwater of being unaccountable and above the law. Nothing, I said, was further from the truth, and these so-called legislators should be ashamed of themselves for being ignorant of the statutes governing the conduct of security contractors overseas.
I went on at length about the vision and commitment of Blackwater’s founder and owner Erik Prince. Instead of spending the rest of his life relaxing on the interest from a sizeable inheritance, Prince decided to become a Navy Seal. While serving on active duty he realized that the Navy lacked the facilities to conduct the kind of training that would make our soldiers, sailors, and Marines even more proficient and skilled war fighters. When he left active service, he created Blackwater USA and dedicated his life to making America even safer.
I told Broder stories of bravery from Blackwater employees in Iraq, who suffered injury and death to save the lives of the American civilians in their care. I told him about the standards to which Blackwater holds its employees — standards that exceed those of our armed forces. I told him of their dedication to the rule of law and the Constitution.I told him of a cable from a State Department employee who literally watched Blackwater heroes die while rescuing her from enemy attack in Baghdad — how she owed her life to them and would never be able to repay them. I then told him that when Blackwater was being dragged before Henry Waxman’s oversight committee back in February in a blatant effort to help a civil lawsuit, the State Department would not allow them to even quote from that diplomat’s message in order to describe what Blackwater is really about.
I told Broder that our uniformed military are not trained to do personnel security missions — that it would be too costly and a waste of their time and talents. I reminded him that for every soldier deployed forward, it takes eleven support personnel behind them. Blackwater can support 50 security professionals with one support employee back in the States. I told him that for all the talk about the high cost of security contractors, the cost of having our soldiers do the job would be three or four times higher to the taxpayer. I told Broder that I stopped representing Blackwater for a number of reasons, chief among them my inability to help them under the State Department’s gag order. I told him of sitting in a meeting with the State Department’s contracting officer, who told the company’s representatives that if they so much as popped their heads up in the media, he would ruin them.
I did say that — as would be true of just about any corporation — there were some inside Prince’s organization (but not Prince or his senior team) who were unsophisticated in the ways of Washington and didn’t understand or particularly like the congressional-oversight process. I did say that there were a couple of guys who had a “cowboy mentality.” But those comments were in the context of the company’s image — a necessary one for business purposes. Let’s face it, nobody is going to hire a bunch of wimps or trust their lives to guys who aren’t willing to act with speed and determination under fire. So the cowboy tag was a double-edged sword. At the end of my conversation with Mr. Broder, he said that “after this story, the company ought to send you a check.” I told him I didn’t want money from Blackwater. I was just glad that I could finally tell their story, defend them, take a few hard whacks at the elected officials and bureaucrats who were so ungrateful to these brave men who were protecting them from an enemy that draws no distinction between uniformed military and civilians. I’m pretty sure that Dennis Kucinich would not have appreciated the things I said about his ignorant ranting, his uninformed accusations, his general idiocy.
A million people will tell me that I shouldn’t be surprised that the New York Times mischaracterized my comments and omitted 99.9 percent of what I said because it didn’t fit the story the Times wanted to tell. They’ll tell me that I should have expected it and that I should never have trusted a reporter from the country’s leading left-wing newspaper. But I did expect more, and still do.
I’m not holding my breath for a retraction, but I am sorry I ever spoke to the New York Times about Blackwater. Blackwater is a great company that protects Americans in hostile environments. They haven’t lost a single one of the Americans in their care, despite suffering over 30 deaths and countless injuries. They are maligned daily for doing exactly what their government has asked them to do, and they do it better than anyone else in the business. And their main client — the U.S. State Department — refuses to tell the real stories of the real people who owe their lives to these heroes. I’m glad that Blackwater has decided to defend itself, even if it means losing contracts. I’m betting the State Department bureaucrat who threatened to ruin them can’t wait to “review” their contracts — another reason why one of the biggest outrages here is the inability to fire incompetent, abusive career civil servants. So today I’m again left wondering why Erik Prince doesn’t just fold up the tents and head to the beach. I know the answer — same reasons why guys who have seen combat over and over go back and face the fire. Those are reasons that the liberals and the media cannot comprehend.
— Mark Corallo, a consultant with Corallo Comstock, Inc., is a former DOJ spokesman who represented Blackwater in private practice in 2006.
Paul Colford, AP's Director of Media Relations, writes to Standish, "Please be advised that the Associated Press did not fall for the bogus press release, as your Nov. 1 post claims. Moreover, the Editor & Publisher article linked within your story makes no assertion about the AP.The AP checked out the group that issued the news release and determined it was fake. A correction is in order. Paul Colford, Director of Media Relations, The Associated Press."
The Editor & Publisher article says that The Politico first surfaced the phony release and that CBS News picked it up. We got the information that AP had also reported it from FrontPageMag.com. A click on the FrontPageMag link referencing AP leads us to a Fox News page containing a story by a Fox News combined with material from AP.
The convict, liberal political activist Robert Creamer, is the husband of Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), considered one of the most shrill anti-Blackwater critics on Capitol Hill.
Schakowsky reportedly signed the fraudulent tax returns that her husband illegally filed.
Bloggers comment on Schakowsky tax fraud issue:
"Schakowsky ire phony as kited checks"
"More Dem corruption"
"A hero of the common man"
"Checks and balances for Seals"
Thursday, November 1, 2007
CBS was one of several news organizations, including the Associated Press, that fell for a phony Blackwater press release. The militant group Code Pink reportedly had written the release as a spoof.
The sloppy reporting first surfaced in the website of a throw-away Washington, DC paper called the Politico.
According to Editor & Publisher magazine, "With all of the news about Blackwater USA's problems, it wasn't a surprise that a fake story about the company creating a 'Department of Corporate Integrity' would make it on to several valid news sites. CBS News and Politico.com were among the victims of the fraud, reportedly perpetuated by Code Pink, according to Politico, which posted a correction today. CBS reprinted a Politico story on its site.
Politico issued a correction: "Code Pink today pulled off a hoax that pulled in Politico and a number of other news outlets when it ginned up a fake release, saying that Blackwater USA was creating a new 'Department of Corporate Integrity' that would put the 'mercy back in mercenary.' That should have been a tip off."
KRAUTHAMMER: One of three things happened [at the September 16 Nisoor Square incident]. Either there was shooting, in which case the response of the guards was appropriate. There was not, but they imagined or thought or had the impression that they were under attack, in which case it is a tragic error, it requires discipline, but not locking them away. And the third option is that these are psychopaths who are itching to kill civilians wantonly while running protection for Americans in convoys.
The way that Democrats have attacked these guards and this operations implies—I think it seems as if they are assuming that third option, and acting accordingly.
Look, this is a proxy way of attacking the U.S military. The Democrats learned 30 years ago that if you attack American soldiers in war the way that John Kerry did 30 years ago, you suffer politically for 30 years and more. And nobody does that in this war.
But these contractors, who are called "mercenaries," are fair game. And it is a way to actually do that.
I would call them honorable Americans earning a living in a way that is helping a war effort, and at high risk to themselves.
HUME: They are protecting the hindquarters of members of Congress who visit over there all the time, not one of whom has had a hair on his or her head harmed.
KRAUTHAMMER: That is absolutely right.
HUME: They have, however, lost some 30 of their own.
KRAUTHAMMER: I think 30 of their own have died.
BARNES: There are strikingly different versions of what happened on September 16, and I don't think they have been sorted out yet. Obviously, people in the Iraqi government believe what they heard from some citizens, which was that there was no provocation for this killing of the civilians.
Blackwater does a fantastic job. I have actually been protected by Blackwater when I was over there and going around with American officials there. They are very good, they are very professional. Most of their work is done by competitive bidding. They are not overpaid. They often get killed. They have had casualties, and they do a job that it would take 15,000 troops to do.
Why is this an issue? Because the war is going well. Democrats do not want to talk about that, so they have made up a Blackwater scandal.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
In an October 30 news release from his presidential campaign, Edwards called for a congressional investigation of State Department immunity for Blackwater contractors, and for a redoubling of Justice Department probes.
Edwards failed to disclose that one of the trial lawyers suing Blackwater, David Kirby, is his former partner. Kirby is the North Carolina end of the lawsuit brought forth by California trial lawyer Daniel Callahan. Callahan requested that Rep. Nancy Pelosi, now speaker, and Rep. Henry Waxman "initiate" hearings on Blackwater. Waxman complied, calling Callahan's clients as witnesses and has recycled the trial lawyer's legal briefs as congressional "investigative" documents.
Could Edwards be jumping on the anti-Blackwater issue to help his trial lawyer friend make money?
She has said nothing publicly about Rep. Henry Waxman's latest attack position: that Blackwater evades paying federal taxes by treating its contractors as contractors instead of as employees.
Schakowsky has never been this slow to pick up a new allegation against the protector of our diplomats in Iraq. Some people think it might be related to the fact that her husband is a convicted felon who committed bank fraud and tax evasion.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
The company's hometown newspaper, the Virginian-Pilot, reported this weekend that Blackwater has started to help deliver food and supplies to victims of the wild fires in southern California.
So far, according to the report, "Blackwater has made three deliveries of food, water, personal hygiene products and generator fuel to 300 area residents, many of whom have been trapped for days without supplies."
Photo: California firemen pass San Diego blaze.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Latest to condemn Blackwater: Senators who accused US troops of atrocities and compared them to Nazis
Durbin joins fellow Illinois Democrat Barack Obama in a letter to Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, echoing Congressman Henry Waxman's allegation that Blackwater has evaded federal taxes by paying its contractors as contractors, and not as employees.
A muckraking blog is running what is purported to be the text of the Durban-Obama letter on October 26. For Kerry's latest, see the post below.
"We are writing to ask for a full investigation and audit of Blackwater USA’s practice of classifying many of its personnel as independent contractors instead of employees. As House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman recently found, Blackwater may have enjoyed an unfair competitive advantage over other contractors if its classification were incorrect, and as a result, may owe the American taxpayer millions of dollars in Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes," the letter says.
The most prominent critic of Blackwater in the Illinois congressional delegation, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, has been silent on the tax issue. Her husband is a convicted tax evader felon.
In a 2005 speech on the Senate floor (pictured), Durbin recanted his abuse of American military personnel, saying that "some may believe" he crossed the line (though not admitting so himself), wrapped himself in Abraham Lincoln and stressed how much he loves his country:
"Some may believe my remarks crossed the line. To them I extend my heartfelt apologies. There’s usually a quote by Abraham Lincoln that you can turn to in moments like this. Maybe this is the right one. Lincoln said “If the end brings me out right what is set against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong ten thousand angels swarming at his right won’t make any difference.” In the end I don’t want anything in my public career to detract from my love of this country, my respect for those who serve it, and this great Senate. I offer my apologies for those who were offended by my words, I promise you that I will continue to speak out on the issues I think are important to the people of Illinois and to the Nation. Mr.President I yield to the floor."
Friday, October 26, 2007
So who instigated Senator Barack Hussein Obama's call for Senate hearings to beat up the company that protects our diplomats in Iraq?
Might it be his campaign supporter, convicted felon Robert Creamer? Creamer is the husband of Rep. Jan Schakowsky, the anti-Blackwater activist. He worked for the Barack Obama presidential campaign to train young political activists after serving time in federal prison for bank fraud and tax evasion.
Is it a pure coincidence, then, that Obama is the first US senator to call for a Senate investigation of the Blackwater guys who protect our diplomats in Iraq? Could Obama's call for an inquiry be motivated by a convicted felon?
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Ambassador Ryan Crocker (pictured), considered one of the top professionals in the US Foreign Service, called the September 16 incident "horrific" but said he stands by the company.
Not only that, but he assumed personal responsibility for the Nisoor Square incident that left 17 Iraqis dead.
"Those guys guard my back. And I have to say they do it extremely well. I continue to have high regard for the individuals who work for Blackwater," Ambassador Crocker said in comments reported by the Associated Press.
Crocker said he personally bears final responsibility for the shooting.
"I'm the ambassador here, so I'm responsible," said Crocker. "Yes, I certainly do wish I'd had the foresight to see that there were things out there that could be corrected."
The ambassador grew "introspective" as journalists pressed him on the security company, AP says.
"I think about those things all the time. When I came here [in March], I started looking at different elements of this operation, and I changed a lot of things. I'm the guy who's responsible so I certainly wish I'd had the foresight or the insight to say 'We've got to get on this one [security contractors] right away.'
"Being as honest and frank with myself as I can," he told the reporters, he did not see the private security guard situation as "a disaster waiting to happen." He says that in hindsight he still sees no warning signs that could have anticipated the tragedy.
"And, indeed, I don't even make that connection that this was an accident waiting to happen," he says. "Something bad did happen and what we've got to do now, sobered by that, is then look at the whole thing and that's what we've done."
Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA, pictured) has led the hearings in response to a request from trial lawyer Daniel Callahan.
Bloomberg reports, "Blackwater officials, in their response yesterday to Waxman's accusations about the Fallujah incident, said there were 'striking similarities' between Waxman's report and a lawsuit filed against the company on behalf of the families of the four victims.
"The complaint and the Waxman report, for example, both accuse Blackwater of not using armored vehicles as a way to save costs. Waxman's report 'intentionally or not, tracks the litigation position,' Blackwater said.
"The report also noted a Dec. 13, 2006, letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in which an attorney for the families urged Congress to investigate allegations of cost cutting by 'extremely Republican companies' such as Blackwater."
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
That's what a Blackwater report to Congress explains, in the company's first significant public comment on the matter. A California trial lawyer is suing Blackwater, alleging that the firm was negligent in sending its men on the fatal mission. That lawyer, Daniel Callahan, has been the source of congressional allegations against the North Carolina company.
After years of silence, Blackwater gives a revealing account of a well-prepared ambush of private security guards Jerry Zovko, Wesley Batalona, Michael Teague and Scott Helvenston. The Associated Press gives the following highlights:
- Sectarian Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) personnel "intentionally betrayed" the Blackwater guards and led them into the ambush;
- "It was ICDC betrayal and enemy ambush — not contractor incompetence — that led to the deaths of four Blackwater personnel on March 31, 2004," the company says.
- "Stronger weapons, armored vehicles, ammunition or maps would not have shielded these brave military veterans from the certain death that awaited them on that morning," Blackwater says. "Even if Blackwater had placed six men on the mission, the result would likely have been the same."
- ICDC representatives showed the Blackwater guards the quickest route through Falljuah. At a downtown crossing, Iraqi police stopped the convoy.
- As the convoy moved out of the intersection, at least five gunmen opened fire at close range with Kalashnikov assault rifles. Two of the shooters held video cameras in one hand.
- "The fact that the assailants were set to record the murders is further proof that there was a pre-existing plan at work," according to Blackwater.
- Oncoming traffic cut off the escape route. The non-US drivers escaped. The four American guards never had time to fire a shot.
- "The ambush, apparently, was only intended to kill the Americans."
- Nearly four hours passed before the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps or Iraqi police began to investigate.
Murdered Blackwater Men Were the Victims of a Well-Coordinated Ambush and Attack - A tragedy for which no one but the terrorists are to blame
Moyock, NC - In response to a document issued by Chairman Waxman's Majority Staff in September, Blackwater has issued its own report that is the first publicly available account by Blackwater on the tragic events leading to the death of four of its personnel in Fallujah on March 31, 2004.
The full Blackwater report, available on Blackwater's website at http://www.blackwaterusa.com/press_releases/pr_07-10-23.asp, explains the following:
Blackwater personnel were deliberately led into a well-planned ambush by personnel of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corp and enemy insurgents.
Blackwater uses the facts to refute findings of the Majority Staff Report regarding the staffing, preparation, equipment and other resources used: the experienced team of military veterans who were killed, including an Arabic speaker, had all of the resources they needed.
The Majority Staff Report seeks to assess blame for the death of Americans in Fallujah. Within a year of these events Fallujah was the subject of significant U.S. military effort and casualties, when Marines and Army personnel were required to take this city back from the enemy insurgents block by block, and faced severe and well organized military resistance.
The lower profile manner by which the Fallujah mission was carried out is blamed by the Majority Staff for the death of the Blackwater personnel. The same staff has criticized Blackwater for excessive use of force on September 16, 2007. For years Blackwater critics have inappropriately and inconsistently labeled Blackwater as being too casual and unprepared (see Fallujah) and too aggressive (see September 16). The truth is Blackwater professionals are the same personnel trained by the U.S. military and law enforcement, and who do their best every day in a very dangerous war zone, where the enemy has a vote.
Blackwater demonstrates the significant overlap between the complaint of trial lawyers suing Blackwater and the findings of the Majority Staff Report.
The entire Blackwater family mourns the loss of these heroic lives. Our thoughts remain with their families.
Guided by integrity, innovation, accountability, and a desire for a safer world, Blackwater Worldwide leverages state-of-the-art training facilities, professional program management teams, and innovative manufacturing and production capabilities to deliver world-class, customer-driven solutions.
AP reports that the panel is keeping all options open, pending the conclusion of an FBI review. Once the FBI report is completed, the US Embassy in Baghdad, in the words of the panel, should assess "whether the continued services of the contractor involved is consistent with the accomplishment of the overall mission in Iraq."
Secretary of State Condolezza Rice has already ordered some interim changes in how the private diplomatic security service contractors are administered and overseen. Blackwater had requested at least one of those changes in 2005, but State Department lawyers denied the request.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to come up with additional changes to ensure that Blackwater's aggressive security services for the State Department do not conflict with the softer counterinsurgency efforts instituted earlier this year by Gen. David Petraeus.
It's not a very big offensive, though. The headline looks a bit overblown. The "offensive" consists of a single e-mail to friends and supporters, urging that they tell Congress "the Blackwater story."
Click here for a PDF of the email that Blackwater sent to Michael Carney at USA Today. Here's the full text:
The Blackwater family is comprised of dedicated and active service providers that work vigorously to support the American nation. In this tumultuous political climate, Blackwater Worldwide has taken center stage, our services and ethics aggressively challenged with misinformation and fabrications. Letters, e-mails and calls to your elected Congressional representatives can and will create a positive impact by influencing the manner in which they gather and present information.
While we can’t ask that each supporter do everything, Blackwater asks that everyone does something. Contact your lawmakers and tell them to stand by the truth. Correspondence should be polite and professional. We don’t support generating negative messages. Tell the Blackwater story and encourage your representatives to seek the truth instead of reading negative propaganda and drawing the wrong conclusions.
- Cost efficiency of Blackwater – saving the US taxpayer millions of dollars so that the US Government doesn’t have to take troops from their missions or send more into harms way
- Professional population of service veterans and mature law enforcement personnel
- Sacrifice in lives lost by Blackwater saving US diplomats without one single protectee harmed
If you see a lawmaker speaking good things about Blackwater, contact their offices and let them know that they have your support. Find and contact your federal, state, and local officials by visiting http://www.congress.org/.
Expanding our communications effort starts with you. Pass the word – pass the truth.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Blackwater says it had asked for the cameras on May 17, 2005, "in response to a false accusation against one of our teams in Baghdad." Blackwater employees searched for prices and models of various still and video cameras to be mounted on dashboards and in rear windows.
The Washington Times reports the story in its October 24 edition.
A State Department Diplomatic Security agent in Baghdad, David Brackins, agreed, but the next day, on May 18, State Department official Paul Nassen called Blackwater and told the company to "stand down" because lawyers had "legal issues" and would not allow the company to incorporate the cameras.
Blackwater is strictly bound under a 1,000-page contract to comply with all State Department specifications and wishes.
(Photo: Dash Hound 1 video camera, one of the models that Blackwater considered and that State Department lawyers denied in 2005.)