Sunday, August 31, 2008

Senator Webb Won't Back Waxman; Says Blackwater Should Still Compete for Contracts

Senator Jim Webb won't back Congressman Henry Waxman's call for the US government to cancel Blackwater's contracts.

Moonbat writer Jeremy Scahill buttonholed politicians at the Democrat National Convention this week for a left-wing website. While getting Waxman to make his unprecedented call to cut off Blackwater - and receiving some praise for his own work against the company - Scahill didn't get Senator Webb to say the same.

To the contrary: Despite all his criticism of the company, Webb says he thinks Blackwater should still compete for contracts. Here's the dialogue:

JEREMY SCAHILL: "Do you think that, though, that Senator Obama should cancel Blackwater’s contract with the State Department, because it will be there if he wins? What should he do on Blackwater specifically?"

SEN. JIM WEBB: "I’m not—I mean, I’m not in a position right now to say that Blackwater’s contract specifically should be cancelled. I think all of them should be aggressively reviewed and, you know, have standards put on them, and I think Blackwater, like other companies, ought to compete."

Waxman Joins Moonbat Writer and Calls for Obama to Cancel Blackwater Contracts

Congressman Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who has abused his committee chairmanship to help a trial lawyer make millions in a suit against Blackwater, is now calling on Barack Obama to have the US cancel its contracts with the company.

Waxman made the statement in league with moonbat writer Jeremy Scahill for a leftwing website.

In his commentary, Scahill appears upset that Senator Obama is not for an immediate pullout from Iraq. "Obama’s Iraq policy in reality is one of downsizing and rebranding the occupation, not entirely ending it," he says. That would be good news for Blackwater, which is needed to provide security as US troops pull out.

Waxman tells Scahill that he thinks Blackwater is doing a "very poor" job in Iraq, and promises to "investigate" the company even more. He also praises Scahill, saying, "And so, they’re going to be investigated much further by the Congress and people in the administration and good people like you on the outside."

Waxman says Blackwater has not "lived up" to its Worldwide Personal Protective Services (WPPS) contract in Iraq - an odd comment because the company has been universally praised for its stunning 100 percent success record in keeping Americans safe.

Even Senator Obama has said that he thinks Blackwater's "getting a bad rap." And Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.), another Blackwater critic, would not back Waxman when Scahill asked him to.

So Waxman is putting himself out on the extreme fringe with his comments - and his praise of one of Blackwater's goofier critics.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Readying for Hurricane Gustav

Blackwater has sent out a notice seeking qualified personnel to work on potential rescue, recovery and stability efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav.

AP reports that the notice went out on Friday. The company volunteered to help out during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, donating use of a helicopter to the Coast Guard and assisting with rescue and recovery efforts on the ground. Blackwater is credited with saving 128 people in the New Orleans area.

Finding a demand for its services, the company expanded its business in the rescue, recovery and stability sectors.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

PSC Presence to Increase as US Troops Leave Iraq, State Department Says

The presence of private security contractors (PSCs) in Iraq is increasing for two reasons: (1) the shift from combat to rebuilding means that more diplomats are leaving secure areas to work in the field and require security; and (2) US troops who had guarded reconstruction and infrastructure projects are leaving.

Contractors "will increasingly take over these former roles and missions, increasing [the] numbers of private security, State Department press officer John Fleming tells USA Today.

New oversight policies will "hold contractors accountable," Fleming says.

Helping Canada Improve Counterinsurgency

Washington Post blogger Robert O'Harrow, in his Government, Inc. blog, points out that Canada has hired the Terrorism Research Center, "a part of the universe of companies owned by Blackwater founder Erik Prince." The company will provide Canadian troops with higher-level expertise on the Taliban and related terrorist groups.

"Government Inc. was sifting through new contracts and saw that Canada had given the Arlington company a sole source contract worth about $848,000. Terrorism Research will be working to help counter insurgency forces perform better in Afghanistan," O'Harrow reports.

"This according to Canada's Globe And Mail: 'The move was announced yesterday, after weeks of mounting attacks by the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, including Kandahar province, where Canadian soldiers are fighting, and the security situation has markedly worsened.

"'Traditionally, cultural awareness training was a brief introduction to the language, culture, customs and food. This training, while providing basic instruction in these areas, did not provide the operational relevance required to conduct [counterinsurgency warfare],' a Canadian government contract notice posted yesterday says."

Visit the Terrorism Research Center's website at

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Passionate Defense from a Blackwater Dad

The father of two young men who served in Iraq - one a former Marine who worked as a Blackwater diplomatic security provider for two years and the other a soldier in the 101st Airborne Division - figuratively rips the head off an ignorant critic in a local paper.

C. Daniel Manrique's defense of Blackwater in the Ocala, Florida Star-Banner is an exciting read. It's a real red-meat response to the now-typical pabulum from the Hate Blackwater corner.

For those of you out there who don't think writing a piece in the local paper is worth the effort, think of this: the Ocala newspaper article turned up today on Google News and reached readers around the world. And if you're a Blackwater veteran or a spouse or parent of one, so much the better. That gives you instant credibility. So go ahead and fight back for the Good Guys.

Friday, August 22, 2008

US Is Creating a 'Destabilizing' Situation by Letting Iraqis Try American Contractors

By negotiating with Iraq to revoke the immunity of American private security contractors from Iraq's undeveloped and corrupt legal system, the US is creating a "destabilizing" situation.

That's what two scholars from the center-left New America Foundation write in an important piece in today's Wall Street Journal.

The "positive" effects of an expected prosecution of Blackwater contractors for their alleged role in the September 2007 Nisoor Square incident risk:

being overshadowed by a more destabilizing development: the apparent agreement, as part of U.S.-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement negotiations, to revoke the immunity from Iraqi law that private security contractors have enjoyed since 2003. This decision could place diplomats, Iraqi civilians and PSCs at greater risk, and undermine the US mission in Iraq. More must be done to hold security contractors accountable for their actions -- but this is not the way to do it.

The problem of accountability, scholars Michael A. Cohen and Maria Figueroa Kupcu argue, is not going to be solved by handing Americans over to Iraqi justice, whatever that might be. To the contrary; it would only make things worse:

placing contractors at the mercy of an underdeveloped Iraqi legal system is not a solution. Greater liability for PSCs will also bring a higher price tag. Furthermore, PSC ranks will become deprofessionalized, as many of the most experienced contractors may decide that the risks of being thrown in an Iraqi prison are not worth a paycheck.
That would mean increasing reliance on third-country or local nationals, who lack the professionalism of the US, British, Australian and other PSCs. There's little accountability there - and much less security for the protectees.

"There are better ways to ensure accountability," Cohen and Kupcu maintain. "In 2006, Congress extended the Uniform Code of Military Justice to cover Pentagon contractors. Legislation in Congress now would place State Department contractors under the jurisdiction of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. The bill, which would also create an office of enforcement in the FBI to investigate alleged contractor offences, is opposed by the Bush administration. But its eventual enactment would go a long way toward clearing up much of the legal confusion surrounding contractors.

"Unfortunately, at the exact moment that contractor-related accountability issues are being taken more seriously, the Bush administration is negotiating an agreement with the Iraqi government that would weaken protections for PSCs, and risk undermining the professionalization of the private contractors protecting US diplomats."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Congressmen Accuse Waxman of Blocking Probe of Corrupt Colleagues

Congressman Henry Waxman (pictured), who has raised eyebrows by doing favors for a trial lawyer with a business interest in trashing Blackwater, now stands accused by two other lawmakers of blocking a probe into congressional corruption.

Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Mark Souder (R-IN) have filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee over a published report that a mortgage company "gave illegal mortgages prohibited by House rules to members of Congress, congressional staff and other officials," Fox Business reports.

The lawmakers say that Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, "is ignoring their demands for an investigation into cheap, VIP mortgages allegedly given by Countrywide Financial to House staff members and elected officials."
Issa and Sounder went to the House Ethics Committee after Waxman twice declined to pursue the issue, saying that it isn't the duty of his panel to investigate cases involving alleged corruption of his colleagues and their aides.

New Video Explains Low-Altitude Air Drop Service

A new Blackwater video describes the company's Low Cost-Low Altitude (LCLA) air drop service, which the US military is using to supply the troops in Afghanistan. We've posted some great amateur videos of the Blackwater C-212s delivering pallets of ammunition to US Army forward operating bases, but this one is an official product of the company. Some excellent video footage, and a great description of exactly what the taxpayers getting for their money: Pinpoint, rapid parachute delivery of food, water, ammunition and supplies to troops in remote areas too risky for helicopters and inaccessible for the Air Force's large cargo planes.

Watch closely and you can see the Blackwater pilots' evasive maneuvering to avoid Taliban groundfire. This is an extremely dangerous service performed by American military veterans who crew the planes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In Darfur, Mia Farrow Says Blackwater Can Help Where Governments Have Failed

From a refugee camp in Darfur, actress Mia Farrow calls on Blackwater to help resolve the terrible humanitarian crisis in Sudan. Farrow (pictured in a file photo) says she's already been in touch with the company's chairman to talk about solutions.

ABC News reports, "Two unlikely allies met for breakfast last month in New York to discuss a possible collaboration: Mia Farrow, actress and passionate activist for Darfur refugees, and Erik Prince, founder and CEO of the government contractor, Blackwater Worldwide.

"Farrow told ABC News that Blackwater, despite its controversial history and allegations of murdering civilians in Iraq, might be able to help the 'hopelessly under-equipped' African Union forces deployed in Darfur with logistics and training.

"'Blackwater has a much better idea of what an effective peace-keeping mission would look like than western governments,' Farrow told ABC News from a refugee camp in near the Darfur border. Farrow said those governments have been unsuccessful in standing up to the Sudanese government and bringing peace to the region."

The rest of the article consists of commentary pooh-poohing the idea and trashing Blackwater. But Farrow is an important advocate given her cultural status and her leadership in the pro-Darfur movement.

Prince told the Wall Street Journal last month that he would provide the expertise, training and logistics to support a duly constituted African force in Darfur, and that he would do it at-cost, that is, as a charitable action.

Monday, August 18, 2008

6 Blackwater Guards Receive 'Target' Letters; Company Defends Its Team

Six Blackwater diplomatic security guards involved in the September 2007 shootout at Baghdad's Nisoor Square reportedly have received "target letters" from the Justice Department - an indication that they might be prosecuted.

The company itself does not appear to be a target of prosecution, and has been cooperating with the Justice Department and a federal grand jury.

"Since the September 16, 2007 incident, we have said that, based on statements of company personnel who were directly involved, we believe those involved acted appropriately," Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell says. "If it is determined that an individual acted improperly, Blackwater would support holding that person accountable. But at this stage, without being able to review evidence collected in an ongoing investigation, we will not prejudge the actions of any individual."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Is Diplomatic Security Too Risky for Big Publicly Traded Companies?

In his August 14 interview on CNBC, Blackwater CEO Erik Prince says he's surprised that huge, publicly traded defense contracting giants are getting into the private security area because of the incredible risks involved. Prince says,

"We’re uniquely positioned because we have a large facility. No one’s made the investment in the assets that we have. Even our big competitors, the Lockheed Martins, the Northrop Grummans of the world, they are running hard to get into this space but I’m surprised their risk management boards let them do that. They’re one incident away of being filleted in the media like we were."

The trial lawyers are going to love this one!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

CNBC Interviews Blackwater CEO

Blackwater CEO Erik Prince was the guest on CNBC's major morning financial talk show Squawk Box. Among the points Prince raised in the interview, prompted by the three co-hosts:

On commitment: "Our guys take tremendous risks. Many have paid the ultimate price. Many have given parts of themselves in the process."

On business expansion: "We’re certainly not focusing as much on security going forward because we take a lot less grief. … It hammers our ability to raise capital. Our training site is growing like crazy, our aviation is growing a lot."

On whether an Obama administration would affect Blackwater's security contracting in Iraq: "All of it is competitively bid. Whoever takes over in January, the US government unfortunately is not going to be born again hard fast innovative and efficient. Someone’s going to do the work. The private sector’s going of be a part of it."

On profitability: "The margins aren’t nearly as good as you think. Law firms, PR firms and accounting firms have much better margins than we do." (Hmm - that raises the question: Is the taxpayer getting a good value in services performed by law firms and accounting firms under federal contract? A Congressional Budget Office study might be revealing.)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Blackwater Wants Strict Accountability Standards in California

Blackwater supports proposed legislation to standardize accountability for firearms training in California, where it has opened up a new facility for the Navy.

The company announced support for a proposed bill that, in its words, "would serve to hold all responsible firearms training facilities to a common standard, allow training of responsible citizens, and, hopefully, reduce firearms capabilities of dangerous criminals."

"Blackwater endorses AB2498 and urges it be passed.
"Blackwater, which recently opened a facility in San Diego County, has long supported a strict credential policy, requiring every student it trains to provide documented proof of their suitability for training and eligibility to possess firearms. The company is committed to safe training on the use and handling of firearms, but is equally committed to ensuring that those firearms are in the hands of capable and confident citizens, not prohibited felons."
(Photo: Interior of new Blackwater training range in San Diego County.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Darfur Offer Provides More Accountability than UN Peacekeepers

Blackwater CEO Erik Prince's offer to train an African force to save Darfur has a built-in accountability measure that far exceeds United Nations peacekeeping standards.

As he said in the July 29 Wall Street Journal, he envisions a team of US military personnel to monitor a Blackwater training and logistical support operation to help a duly constituted African military force to stop the Darfur atrocities.

This reminds us of an article that Mountainrunner blogger Matt Armstrong wrote recently in Serviam magazine about UN peacekeepers. In that thought-provoking piece, Armstrong reveals that United Nations peacekeeping troops are exempt from international humanitarian law.

"The U.N. cannot impose a common military code of justice or judicial process on its forces without provoking a drop in troop contributions from member states," he says.

"If accountability is the core problem critics have with private military and security contractors, then the demonstrated lack of Blue Helmet accountability, whose troops are sent to some of the most challenging environments on the planet, should raise equally powerful concerns. "

(Addendum: London's Daily Mail runs a new story of how Dutch UN peacekeepers stood aside while Serbian troops rounded up thousands of men, women and children under UN "protection" and slaughtered them.)

Friday, August 1, 2008

SBA Memo Does Not Accuse Blackwater

You wouldn't know it by Congressman Henry Waxman's spin when he released a memo to the press, but the Small Business Administration Inspector General did not accuse Blackwater of improper behavior.

A reporter for the Virginian-Pilot (a paper that has long been critical of the company) actually read the memorandum and reports, "The memo, written by Glenn Harris, counsel to SBA inspector general Eric Thorsen, refers to 'potential misrepresentations by Blackwater' but does not accuse the Moyock, N.C.-based firm of breaking federal laws or improperly obtaining contracts."

Waxman postured in a written statement that Blackwater “misled contracting officials who in turn ignored blatant warning signs. It is deplorable that no one ever looked out for the interests of the federal taxpayer.” He said it as fact, when that's not what the Inspector General said at all.