Jan Schakowsky says that former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince has “attempted intimidation” of her in response to Schakowsky’s campaign to reduce U.S. reliance on private military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Schakowsky spoke on the House floor Wednesday about a letter from Prince’s attorneys, dated October 7, 2011, that was delivered by hand to Schakowsky’s office. The letter accuses Schakowsky of making “false and defamatory” statements against Prince.
The letter cites a September 8 article published by the Independent in London about Prince’s Blackwater video game. The article quotes Schakowsky as saying: “If Mr. Prince had not emigrated to the United Arab Emirates, which does not have an extradition agreement with the US, he too would now be facing prosecution.”
“Your statement to [the Independent], which imputes commission of a crime, is per se libelous,” the letter from Prince says, adding: “Your malice cannot be questioned. You have a multi-year history of making derogatory comments about Mr. Prince and his former company, Blackwater. You have abused your Congressional power to request that Mr. Prince be investigated.”
Blackwater has received more than $1 billion in federal contracts in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and became infamous after four employees were charged with the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians after allegedly opening fire in Nisour Square in Baghdad in 2007. In December 2009, a judge dismissed the charges citing missteps by the Department of Justice, but earlier this year an appeals court panel ordered the judge to reconsider the case.
Prince resigned in 2009, and the company was rechristened “Xe Services” when it was sold last year.
Schakowsky has introduced the Stop Outsourcing Security Act since 2007, as a way to phase out private contractors like Blackwater. “While the problem applies to other private contractors,” she said Wednesday, “there is one company that has become synonymous with misconduct: Blackwater.”
McCullough, Robert Charles, 55, DynCorp International quality-control supervisor, died Saturday in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Services pending. Freeman Harris.
Robert McCullough, the co-founder of the Tulsa Hope Academy, died Saturday in Afghanistan from a heart attack, officials with the organization say.
McCullough was in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor. A memorial service was held at Kandahar Airbase Wednesday and a dignified transfer will be held at Dover Air Force Base.
A memorial service will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. in the chapel of Victory Christian Center.
Tulsa Hope Academy was founded in 2005 as the Hope4Kids pilot program to address the escalating dropout rates in the Tulsa community
Robert McCullough, 54, was working for DynCorp upgrading systems to military vehicles in Iraq. He had just started with the company four months ago.
McCullough had no previous military experience and was not involved in combat operations.
McCullough was the co-founder of Tulsa Hope Academy, a faith based non-profit that helps urban children reach their educational goals.
Robert McCullough leaves behind a wife, children and grandchildren.
Memorial Services were held at Kandahar Airbase in Afghanistan on Wednesday. A memorial service will be held in Tulsa at Victory Christian Center in the Chapel at 11 a.m. on Saturday, December 3rd
***ONLY CONTRACTORS THAT HOLD A CURRENT AFGHANISTAN MINISTRY OF INTERIOR PERSONAL SECURITY LICENSE AND ARE LICENSED / REGISTERED WITH THE AFGHANISTAN MINISTRY OF TRADE WILL BE CONSIDERED FOR AWARD, OFFERORS WHO DO NOT POSSESS THESE QUALIFICATIONS ARE RESPECTFULLY ASKED TO NOT RESPOND TO THIS REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL***
The CJSOTF-A Contracting Office, Camp Vance, Afghanistan is hereby issuing a combined synopsis/solicitation for Private Security Guard services for FLE Sar-e- Pul, Afghanistan in accordance with the attached SF 1449 and Statement of Work.
This is a combined synopsis/solicitation for commercial services prepared in accordance with the format in FAR Subpart 12.6, as supplemented with additional information included in this notice. This announcement constitutes the only solicitation; proposals are being requested and a written solicitation will not be issued.
The solicitation number for this requirement is H92237-12-R-0041, and this solicitation is being issued as a Request for Proposal (RFP).
The solicitation document and incorporate provisions and clauses included are those in effect through Federal Acquisition Circular 2005-53.
This requirement is unrestricted under NAICS code 561612 and is the Small Business Competitive Demonstration Program is not applicable.
A list of contract line item number(s) and items, quantities and units of measure (including options); a description of requirements for the items to be acquired; dates and places of delivery and acceptance and FOB point; applicable clauses; and the offer due date, time, and location are located in the attached SF1449 and Statement of Work.
The anticipated award date in response to this solicitation is anticipated 11 Dec 2011 and the point of contact for this requirement is LT Dominic Raigoza, email: firstname.lastname@example.org (no commercial phone available).
T Christian Miller and Joaquin Sapien at ProPublica and Daniel Zwerdling at NPR
Lawmakers passed a measure requiring the military to test soldiers’ brain function before they deployed and again when they returned. The test was supposed to ensure that soldiers received proper treatment.
Instead, an investigation by ProPublica and NPR has found, the testing program has failed to deliver on its promise, offering soldiers the appearance of help, but not the reality.
Racing to satisfy Congress’ mandate, the military chose a test that wasn’t actually proven to detect TBI: the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metric, or ANAM.
Four years later, more than a million troops have taken the test at a cost of more than $42 million to taxpayers, yet the military still has no reliable way to catch brain injuries. When such injuries are left undetected, it can delay healing and put soldiers at risk for further mental damage.
Based on corporate and government records, confidential documents, scores of interviews and emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, our investigation found:
- The people who invented ANAM and stood to make money from it were involved in the military’s decision to use it, prompting questions about the impartiality of the selection process. No other tests received serious consideration. A report  by the Army’s top neuropsychologist circulated last year to key members of Congress labeled the selection process “nepotistic.”
- The Pentagon’s civilian leadership has ignored years of warnings, public and private, that there was insufficient scientific evidence the ANAM can screen for or diagnose traumatic brain injury. The military’s highest-ranking medical official said the test was “fraught with problems.” Another high-ranking officer said it could yield misleading results.
- Compounding flaws in the ANAM’s design, the military has not administered the test as recommended and has rarely used its results. The Army has so little confidence in the test that its top medical officer issued an explicit order  that soldiers whose scores indicated cognitive problems should not be sent for further medical evaluation.
- Top Pentagon officials have misrepresented the cost of the test, indicating that because the Army invented the ANAM, the military could use it for free. In fact, because the military licensed its invention to outside contractors, it has paid millions of dollars to use its own technology.
- The military has not conducted a long-promised head-to-head study to make sure the ANAM is the best available test, delaying it for years. Instead, a series of committees have given lukewarm approval to continue using the ANAM, largely to avoid losing the data gathered so far.
Several current and former military medical officials criticized the Defense Department’s embrace of a scientifically unproven tool to use on hundreds of thousands of soldiers with TBIs.
“The test was not developed for the purposes of identifying the kinds of problems that we see in concussions,” said Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a retired brigadier general and former adviser on mental health issues to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. The test was picked “without asking ourselves the questions: what are we trying to achieve here and what are we going to use the screenings for?
Editors Note: In 2010 nearly 200 Defense Base Act claims were filed by Supreme Group Employees for Afghanistan, some of these dating back as far as 2006. This scandal involved at least one subcontractor and an Insurance Company TPA. The results of the investigation into this have been kept from the public.
Supreme Group, a king of U.S. military logistics, earned billions supplying food to troops in Afghanistan. Now, in a case reminiscent of Halliburton’s Iraq scandal, the contractor is under investigation for overbilling taxpayers. Aram Roston reports
Aram Ronston The Daily Beast November 28, 2011
At first blush, Michael Jacques Gans doesn’t appear to be your typical defense contractor. An attorney by training, Gans spends his spare time racing a mint-condition, sky-blue Bugatti race car—vintage 1927—on tracks across Europe. He doesn’t reside inside Washington’s Beltway, preferring instead his home in Germany or a multimillion-dollar duplex on New York’s Fifth Avenue, overlooking Central Park.
And Supreme Group, the firm he co-owns with his German-born wife, Nina Von Steuben, and American businessman Stephen Orenstein, is hardly a household name in the U.S. with its main operations in the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Dubai. But inside Afghanistan, Supreme is a king of U.S. military logistics, performing a dizzying amount of wartime business that has earned the firm billions of dollars, easily enough to support a luxury lifestyle for its owners.
For the last six years, Supreme has imported all of the U.S military’s food into Afghanistan, and its contract was extended by the Pentagon in 2010 for two years and $4 billion without the normal competitive bidding. But that’s just part of its business. Supreme also runs military mess halls on Forward Operating Bases, trucks gasoline and diesel into Afghanistan from both Uzbekistan and Pakistan, and operates two warehouses that it boasts are now the largest structures in Afghanistan, dwarfing even the country’s ancient palaces. Since 2005, the company’s various Pentagon contracts in Afghanistan have been worth $8 billion.
Supreme makes no bones about its lucrative opportunities. “There is a modern-day Silk Road, a transportation hub, that is coming together in Afghanistan,” Robert Dail, a retired Army general who now serves as Supreme’s U.S.-based president, boasted to a conference for contractors in Washington this month.
AP Via CBS News November 27, 2011
PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Hundreds of trucks carrying supplies to U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan backed up at Pakistani border crossings Sunday, leaving them vulnerable to militant attack a day after Islamabad closed the frontier in retaliation for coalition airstrikes that allegedly killed 24 Pakistani troops.
As Pakistan army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani attended the funerals of the victims, including a major, the U.S. sought to minimize the fallout from the crisis, which plunged Washington’s already-troubled relationship with Islamabad to an all-time low.
Pakistan also ordered the U.S. to vacate an air base that is used by American drones to target al Qaeda and Taliban militants in the country’s tribal region along the Afghan border. The U.S. has relied heavily on drone strikes in the past few years, partly out of frustration with Pakistan’s refusal to target militants using its territory to stage attacks against American and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
There are forces working against a total rupture in the relationship. Pakistan still relies on billions of dollars in American military and civilian aid, and the U.S. needs Islamabad’s help to push Afghan insurgents to engage in peace talks.
But tensions could rise further if militants unleash attacks against the stranded trucks ferrying NATO supplies to Afghanistan
Today, the U.S. Department of State established a new Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) to focus on conflict prevention, crisis response, and stabilization activities. The bureau will subsume the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS).
For more information, please visit www.state.gov/g/cso.
Khaama Press November 23, 2011
The officials further added, the incident took place after militants targeted the deminers in Kohaband district of north-eastern Kapisa province late Tuesday night.
Afghan security officials in Kapisa province confirming the incident said, at least one de-miner of a mine clearance organization was killed and two others were injured after they were targeted by militants in the area around 11:oo pm local time on Tuesday night.
The source further added, militants used missiles to target the de-miners office from the south-eastern region of Kohband district.
In the meantime, Kohband police chief Mohammad Anwar confirming the report said, at least one de-miner working Halo Trust demining company was killed and no one else was injured
State Department personnel in Iraq may be in danger as transition plans leave gaps in security and medical care
Peter Van Buren at HuffPost November 22, 2011
Please see Peter Van Buren’s blog We Meant Well
The State Department can often times be so inward looking that it fixes the facts based on the policy need, making reality fit the vision whether that naughty reality wants to or not. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it can be tragic.
When I arrived at my second Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Iraq, we were told to call the area we worked in the “Sunni Triangle of Death.” The meme was “Look at us bad boys, reconstructing the nasty Sunni Triangle of Death. It proves State is not a sissy.” About six months later we were told to stop calling the place the “Sunni Triangle of Death,” because since we had been working for half a year, we needed to show some progress. “Triangle of Death” did not signify progress so the Embassy banned the term to fit the policy meme, even though nothing had really changed. No real harm done, I guess.
Around election time, the initial plan was for PRT staffers to observe the March 2010 voting up close, mostly so the Embassy could claim the election was legitimate based on the happy-talk reports we understood we were to file. That was part of the warp, but the real kicker was that to show our faith in Iraqi security, we were told we were not to wear body armor at the polling stations. The Embassy felt that photos of us all geared up, as we believed we needed to be based on local security conditions, would not play well with their PR campaign that all was well. There was a lot of back channel grumbling, and a few threats to refuse to observe, and the Embassy quietly just changed plans and canceled most of the rural observations. Again, narrowly, no real harm done.
Now, as the State Department rushes to replace all of the military support it needs to exist in still-dangerous Iraq without the Army, there are fears that the warping of reality may indeed endanger lives in Baghdad
Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Danger Room November 22, 2011
An obscure Pentagon office designed to curb the flow of illegal drugs has quietly evolved into a one-stop shop for private security contractors around the world, soliciting deals worth over $3 billion.
The sprawling contract, ostensibly designed to stop drug-funded terrorism, seeks security firms for missions like “train[ing] Azerbaijan Naval Commandos.” Other tasks include providing Black Hawk and Kiowa helicopter training “for crew members of the Mexican Secretariat of Public Security.” Still others involve building “anti-terrorism/force protection enhancements” for the Pakistani border force in the tribal areas abutting Afghanistan.
The Defense Department’s Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office has packed all these tasks and more inside a mega-contract for security firms. The office, known as CNTPO, is all but unknown, even to professional Pentagon watchers. It interprets its counternarcotics mandate very, very broadly, leaning heavily on its implied counterterrorism portfolio. And it’s responsible for one of the largest chunks of money provided to mercenaries in the entire federal government.
CNTPO quietly solicited an umbrella contract for all the security services listed above — and many, many more — on Nov. 9. It will begin handing out the contract’s cash by August. And there is a lot of cash to disburse.
The ceiling for the “operations, logistics and minor construction” tasks within CNTPO’s contract is $950 million. Training foreign forces tops out at $975 million. “Information” tasks yield $875 million. The vague “program and program support” brings another $240 million.
That puts CNTPO in a rare category. By disbursing at least $3 billion — likely more, since the contract awards come with up to three yearlong re-ups — the office is among the most lucrative sources of cash for private security contractors. The largest, from the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, doles out a $10 billion, five-year deal known as the Worldwide Protective Services contract
Lake County News Chronicle November 18, 2011
From his vantage point, Tech. Sgt. Bill Williams, a 1995 graduate of Two Harbors High School, sized up the lethal explosive and quickly knew what he had to do. But getting to the mortar meant running through a shooting gallery.
Williams is a bomb disposal technician – think “The Hurt Locker” – and it’s his job to defuse all manner of explosives. On this day, July 26, 2010, Williams and another airman were called to the village of Shah Mazar in Afghanistan’s Logar Province, where soldiers looking for a kidnapped U.S. sailor had been rocked by an improvised explosive device. The IED kicked out an unexploded mortar into the middle of the road.
It had to be defused.
“We didn’t know they were in an active firefight. When we stepped off the bird, they said ‘keep your head down,’” said Williams, 34, now of Sun Prairie.
Usually the area is secured before Explosive Ordnance Disposal members arrive. Not on this hot July day.
Security has become a key election issue and private contractors are multiplying in Latin America’s abduction capital
The Guardian November 18, 2011
When the Venezuelan baseball star Wilson Ramos was freed from his two-day kidnapping ordeal last week he flung his arms around his rescuers and wept in disbelief. It was a desperate embrace that Miguel Dao recognised only too well.
“Rescuing somebody who has been kidnapped is one of those strange situations where the victim is forced to have total trust in a stranger,” said Dao, a 62-year-old Caracas-based kidnap negotiator. “A very special kind of bond arises.”
Once the head of the Technical Investigative Police, Venezuela‘s answer to the FBI, Dao is now part of a growing team of negotiators and private security contractors battling to stem a tide of kidnappings in what has become Latin America’s abduction capital.
“My first advice is always to inform the police, preferably from a phone different to their own, and to delay paying a ransom as long as possible,” said the former lawyer, whose firm is based in the upmarket Chuao neighbourhood.
years ago kidnappings were a distant concern for most Venezuelans, registering only via the occasional news report of ranchers being seized along the border with Colombia.
This year more than 1,000 traditional ransom kidnappings have been reported in Venezuela. Add to that a spike in the number of so-called secuestros express, or express kidnappings – in which victims are abducted and frog-marched to cash machines – and an unknown number of unreported crimes and the true toll is likely to be far higher. Venezuela’s National Statistics Institute claims that more than 16,000 people were kidnapped in 2009
Initial tests suggested he died falling into a ravine
- Credit card, cash and mobile were all found with him
- Authorities now believe he was stabbed repeatedly
Mail Online Leon Watson November 18, 2011
Initial post-mortem results suggested Carl Davies, 33, died after he accidentally tripped and fell 30ft down a ravine on Reunion Island, in the Indian Ocean.
But a second investigation revealed the former teacher, from Kent, was stabbed ‘numerous’ times and beaten about the head with a bat.
Carl’s credit card, money and mobile phone were found on his body when he was discovered.
He had served in Iraq and Northern Ireland but was working as a private contractor in the Indian Ocean protecting merchant ships from Somali pirates when he died.
Police have confirmed Carl was unarmed when he was found, and they believe he did not carry weapons on the island.
The ship Carl was protecting, the Atlantic Trader, which had been docked in the port close to the island’s capital Saint Denis, left before his body was discovered.
A relative, who asked not to be named, said: ‘A new post mortem was held on Thursday and he died from multiple stab wounds and head injuries as a result of a bat.
The Edmond Sun November 17, 2011
EDMOND — The Department of Defense is allowing human trafficking to occur on military establishments by the tens of thousands, Congressman James Lankford said. Lankford said that he and others in Congress are trying to stop the abuse.
“We are holding people in debt bondage by the way we are doing our contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Lankford, R-Edmond.
Lankford is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform.
A human trafficking hearing led by Lankford in the House this month, questioned the Commission Overseas and Contingencies report. The report reveals human trafficking.
“I said this is a big issue,” Lankford said. “While they didn’t talk about it much, they basically said, ‘Yes we are — the Department of Defense — allowing human trafficking to occur on our military establishments.’”
Brisbane, Australia: A US military “base” in Darwin, Australia (spun as a “rotational deployment” for China, I suspect), will necessitate foreign weapons systems and armaments being stockpiled, retained and transited on and in Australian territory.
Although they are long-standing and committed allies, Australia and the United States hold different positions on many matters relating to both arms control and humanitarian law. One recent normative development where the US and Australia’s views have diverged is the ban on cluster bombs, a weapon that has inside multiple – often hundreds – of small explosive sub-munitions or “bomblets” that are dispersed over an area the size of several football fields from either the air or ground. As a result, the final location of each bomblet is impossible to control for those deploying them, and so whom they maim or kill is both unknown and indiscriminate. Roughly 30 per cent of those deployed “fail” to explode on impact, and so the unexploded bomblets become de facto landmines.
When the Convention on Cluster Munitions came into effect in August last year, the Gillard government was part of a chorus of NGOs and governments that saw “an end for all time” of the use of cluster munitions by prohibiting their production, use, stockpiling and transfer. At present, a bill sits with the senate that will criminalise Australian deployment of the weapon under domestic law, thereby ratifying the international convention.
With the formation of a US military base in Darwin, Gillard will effectively make use of certain “loopholes” in the bill that arise from US’ non-signatory status to the Convention, and obfuscation of negotiations that are currently taking place for an additional arms control measure this week. Best estimates are that the US forces presently have a quarter of the world’s four billion cluster munitions in stockpiles across both its territory and existing overseas bases. The US last deployed cluster munitions during the Iraq War in 2003, despite the emerging norm.
In my view, there’s a fair degree of probability cluster munitions will be stockpiled in Darwin, since there are known plans for the US to base a number of B-52 bombers historically used to deploy cluster bombs. It is already known that nuclear weapons will not be permitted onto Australian territory, but a number of the US’ naval fleet are nuclear-powered vessels, which will be allowed