Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Terrorist lawyer group sues Blackwater

A legal group that has represented cop-killers and terrorists is suing Blackwater. The group is called the Center for Constitutional Rights.

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

Feds narrow Blackwater probe to 3 guards

In a big victory for Blackwater, federal prosecutors have narrowed their wrongdoing probe to only 3 guards involved in the September 16 shootout at Baghdad's Nisoor Square.

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

Iraq war vet: Congress is undermining the 'selfless soldier and contractor'

By playing politics with urgently needed war funding, Congress is undermining the "selfless soldier and contractor" serving the nation in Iraq, a prominent war veteran says.

LTC Steve Russell USA (Ret.) is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, and commanded a unit that was central to the capture of Saddam Hussein. He says in a Fox News column that congressional critics of Blackwater, led by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, are the real out-of-control "cowboys."

Russell (pictured) is founder and chairman of Veterans for Victory. Here's an excerpt from his column, titled on the site as "Cowboys from Blackwater? Try Cowboys from Congress":

"Since September's now-famous Baghdad shootout that led to the deaths of 17 Iraqis, numerous critics have assailed contractors with Blackwater USA, as well as security contractors in general, by labeling them as reckless cowboys.

"But leading the chorus denouncing contractors has been a different posse of 'cowboys,' this one composed of reckless members of Congress. Their careless rhetoric and soldier funding ambushes amount to the very same thing they accuse Blackwater of doing - shooting first, and asking questions later.

"Recently, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and 13 other members of Congress have introduced legislation to turn the Blackwater incident into an excuse to bar all security contractors from performing their essential role in securing Iraq. Now, Congress sits before the end-of-year recess determined to ambush not just contractors, but also our soldiers serving abroad by attacking their needed funds.

"If these politicians succeed, they will only make the U.S. military's job harder. And American soldiers - as well as ordinary Iraqis - will face a less stable, more dangerous situation.
With victory in Iraq a distinct possibility, who is being the irresponsible cowboy now?"

Russell wrote an important piece about the Blackwater controversy in Stars & Stripes last October titled, "What's Behind Attacks on Blackwater."

Among Russell's many points: "The truth, which few members of Congress are willing to admit, is that Blackwater employees are doing some of the most difficult work in Iraq. And, they are doing a great job keeping Americans safe."

ACLU intervenes as anti-Blackwater protesters are convicted

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has spoken out on behalf of radical activists who were convicted and sentenced for trespassing and vandalizing Blackwater property.

In order to avoid having the activists turn his courtroom into a media circus, the judge closed the proceedings to the public after convicting and sentencing the first militant. The others were convicted behind closed doors, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

"It’s a clear violation of constitutional rights, not only of the defendants but the press and public,” an ACLU official complained. “They have a right to a public trial, so any trial that goes on behind closed doors is a farce.”

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Blackwater backs Pentagon memo on PSCs in Iraq

Consistent with its support for drawing the lines more sharply about private security operations, Blackwater issued a statement December 5 supporting a memorandum between the Pentagon and the State Department governing its diplomatic security services in Iraq. The text of the statement follows:

"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

Blackwater critic cops plea in assault of woman

A leading congressional critic of Blackwater has pleaded guilty in a case involving his alleged assault of a woman at Dulles International Airport near Washington, DC.

Congressman Bob Filner (D-Cal.) admitted he was guilty of trespassing, and copped an "Alford Plea" in which he did not admit guilt for assault and battery but did acknowledge that there was sufficient evidence to convict him. Rather than face trial for assault and battery, the crime with which he had been charged, Filner cut a deal and pled guilty to trespassing.

The congressman was to have stood trial for assault and battery on December 4.

In the August 19 incident at Dulles, Filner got agitated that his bags were being handled too slowly and violated security by illegally entering an employees-only area of the airport. It was there he entered the altercation with the woman who worked for an airline. He allegedly assaulted her.

"I want to make clear that I did not strike, push, or shove anyone,'' Filner said while copping his plea. ''It's very important to me that the record be clear on this point. Nor did I seek any sort of special treatment because I was a congressman."

Monday, December 3, 2007

Why isn't Waxman going after non-performing contractor in his backyard?

Private contractors are wondering why Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Cal.) is so spun up about Blackwater, while he ignores the problems of a private contractor in his own political backyard.

So far he has singled out Blackwater and KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton that builds oil drilling facilities, pipelines, refineries and the like. The trial lawyer who asked Waxman to "investigate" Blackwater was open about the partisan nature of his attack, and KBR until earlier this year was associated with Vice President Dick Cheney, who used to be Halliburton CEO.

But what about Parsons Corporation of Pasadena, California? Parsons is located in the state's 29th congressional district - adjacent to the 30th, which Waxman has represented since before many of our soldiers were born.

Parsons is famous for being the recipient of Clinton Administration contracts to work disarmament projects in Russia.

Sources close to the Iraq contracting industry say that Parsons was "front loaded" a substantial amount of taxpayer cash to construct more than 120 medical clinics in Iraq. The sources say that Parsons completed only 20 of the clinics.

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.
Parsons is one of the top political contributors in the construction sector. In the 2006 election cycle, Parsons Corp. gave slightly more money to Democrats than Republicans: 51 percent to 49 percent, according to a total of more than $472,000.
That's a lot more in one year than the Blackwater owner has ever given away to politicians.

Maybe someone should investigate Waxman. The House Ethics Committee would be a good place to start.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Wife of contractor has new blog

Just got word of a great new blog out there - this one by the wife of an American contractor in Iraq. Spooky Action at a Distance - The Quantum Entanglement of a Contractor's Wife is just up and running, and I recommend it highly.

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.