Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

State Department Says No to Mercs at Sea

The U.S. State Department may have given rise to modern-day private armies with its personnel security contracts to protect diplomats in Iraq. But that doesn’t mean department officials want to see guns-for-hire on the high seas.

by Sharon Weinberger at Wired’s Danger Room

The prospect of having armed security guards ward off pirates presents a number of legal problems, according to Donna Hopkins, the Coordinator for Counter Piracy and Maritime Security in the State Department. “I think the legal and political implications of private, armed escorts at sea are hugely problematic and not likely to be answered in the next year or two,” she said earlier this week at the Navy League Sea Air Space Exposition.

The number of Somali-based pirate attacks has exploded over the past few years, as have the ransoms the pirates demand for safe return of ships and crewmembers. Pirates holding hijacked ships now often command between $3 and $5 million in ransom.

Despite that growing security threat, the State Department is wary of companies providing security services to combat piracy. “As a matter of policy and philosophy for many years, governments have reserved for themselves the right maintain a monopoly on the use armed force,” Hopkins said. “The idea of armed escorts on the high seas calls into question some serious philosophy in that regard.”

In fact, most ship-owners have been hesitant to turn to private security contractors, fearing the liability associated with playing host to armed guards outweighs any benefits they might provide. That may now be changing, with more companies looking to private companies to protect them from pirates.

“I do think you see a growth in the market,” said Doug Brooks, president of the International peace Operations Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group that represents private security and stability operations contractors.

The lack of support from State Department for such contractors could be viewed as ironic, given that the department’s Diplomatic Security bureau was responsible for one of the most notorious armed security contracts of all times: the Worldwide Personal Protective Services contract to Blackwater Worldwide, now known as Xe Services.  The Blackwater contract in Iraq eventually ran afoul of the local government, particularly after the Nissour Square massacre.

At sea, ships face different government laws at each port they visit, making such services even more complex. Even some companies interested in the market have balked at the potential barriers.

April 15, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Civilian Contractors, Pirates, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, State Department | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Father running to raise money in memory of Iraq tragedy son

A worker at Shropshire-based wine merchants Tanners whose son was kidnapped and executed in Iraq is preparing to run the London Marathon this weekend in his memory.


Shropshire Star April 15, 2011

Alec Maclachlan was killed in the war-torn country following a lengthy abduction. The 30-year-old was working as a security guard when he was abducted along with four other Britons by Shi’ite militants in a raid on Iraq’s finance ministry in 2007.

His body was handed over to British authorities in 2009.

Now, Alec’s father Colin Maclachlan, who is business development manager for Tanners Wines in the Mid Wales area, is preparing for the gruelling 26.2 mile event this weekend to ensure his son’s memory lives on.

He is raising cash for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, a national organisation which supports soldiers, former soldiers and their families in times of need.

Colin, who is in his 60s, was due to be joined by his other son Ross, 34, but the soldier has been called out at short notice to serve in Afghanistan.

“I have done a few half marathons before but never a full marathon,” said Colin.

“I am doing this because Alec had his best times in the Army. He had served in Iraq and wanted to go back and rebuild the country. The very people he was trying to help are the ones who killed him which I find so sad.”

April 15, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Iraq | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Schofield soldier admits guilt in slaying of contractor in Iraq

William Cole at The Star Advertiser

Garciapagan said Velez started acting strangely several days before the shooting, thinking there were wanted posters with his face and name around the base.

A Schofield Barracks soldier pleaded guilty this week in military court to murdering a civilian contractor in Iraq and was sentenced to 26 years in prison, officials said yesterday.

Spc. Beyshee O. Velez, 32, a medic and three-time Iraq war veteran, was days away from leaving the country when he shot contractor Lucas “Trent” Vinson on Sept. 13, 2009, at Contingency Operating Base Speicher in northern Iraq.

Vinson, 27, worked for the Houston-based company KBR at COB Speicher with his father, Myron “Bugsy” Vinson, and an uncle. KBR provided troops with services such as housing, meals, mail delivery and laundry.

As part of a plea deal, Velez, of Cleveland, was found guilty of the murder of Vinson “by recklessly pointing his loaded M-4 carbine at Mr. Vinson, who died when the weapon discharged,” the 25th Infantry Division said.

The agreement required a sentence not in excess of 28 years in prison, officials said.

Velez, who was with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, also was found guilty of assaulting three other contractors by pointing a loaded weapon at them, and of fleeing apprehension by authorities, the Army said.

Officials said the shooting occurred in a sport utility vehicle on base. Witnesses at a previous hearing testified that Velez then forced a driver out of a 15-passenger van that belonged to KBR and drove erratically at high speed around the sprawling base before getting stuck in a ditch.

The presiding military judge, Lt. Col. Kwasi L. Hawks, also sentenced Velez to a reduction to the lowest enlisted grade, total forfeitures of pay and a dishonorable discharge, the Army said in a news release.

The Army said Velez is confined at the Naval Brig at Ford Island but will be turned over to the Army Corrections Command. A trial was held Tuesday and Wednesday at Wheeler Army Airfield, with sentencing Wednesday, the Army said.

Velez’s civilian attorney, Philip D. Cave, said in February 2010 that an Army mental fitness board found the soldier likely experienced a “short psychotic episode.”

However, an Army mental health board found Velez fit to stand trial, officials previously said.

The shooting occurred at about 8:30 a.m., and a standoff with Velez lasted until about 8 p.m. as he blared the radio, chain-smoked cigarettes and put his M-4 rifle to his head in the van, witnesses and Army officials said.

Col. Thomas Wheatley, a chaplain who was at the scene, had said his gut feeling was that Velez was going to kill himself.

“He said, ‘I’m a medic, I know how to do it,'” Wheatley had testified.

A friend of Velez, Spc. Leo­nel Gar­cia­pa­gan, talked to Velez and was finally able to remove the soldier’s rifle. Gar­cia­pa­gan testified in February that Velez was confused and was not aware of the shooting.

“He wasn’t aware of nothing,” Gar­cia­pa­gan said. “When he talked to me, I figured out his mind wasn’t right.”

Garciapagan said Velez started acting strangely several days before the shooting, thinking there were wanted posters with his face and name around the base.

April 15, 2011 Posted by | Contractor Casualties, Iraq | , , , , , , | Leave a comment