Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Kabul may oust security firms

By Joshua Partlow Washington Post Kabul

THE Afghan government has accused several prominent private security companies, including some that work with the US government, of committing ”major offences” – a move that US officials fear could hasten their departure.

A list compiled by Afghan officials cites 16 companies, including several US and British firms, for unspecified serious violations and seven others for having links to high-ranking Afghan officials.

A decision to ban the major violators would affect companies that provide about 800 guards for the US Agency for International Development and about 3000 who work on military construction projects.

”We’re wringing our hands over this,” said a senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity. ”We’re waiting to hear which companies will get disbandment notices and when they will have to disband.”

Among those listed as major offenders are Triple Canopy, based in Virginia, Washington-based Blue Hackle, and British company G4S, the parent company of ArmorGroup North America, which provides security for the US embassy in Kabul.

Also listed are British companies Global Strategies Group, which guards Kabul airport, as well as Control Risks and Aegis.

The list included nine companies deemed ”medium” offenders, 11 with ”minor” offences and nine, including Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater, with no offences detected.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has yet to approve the list or indicate whether these companies face expulsion. A senior Afghan official said no decision had been made, and suggested many companies were on the list for tax evasion.

A NATO official said G4S owed the Afghan government $US8 million in taxes. The company declined to comment.

For the past six months, Mr Karzai has sought to push out the companies and replace them with government guards. US officials believed they had reached a compromise in December that would protect key operations and give the companies more time before they would have to depart.

”We thought it was pretty much on ice. All of a sudden, it isn’t any more,” the senior US official said. USAID has put several new programs on hold while it waits for a resolution to the issue.

Please read more and see the original here

January 23, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, G4S, NATO, Pentagon, Private Security Contractor, State Department, Triple Canopy | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The rise of the UK’s private security companies

Major General Graham Binns is not your typical chief executive.

As a lifelong soldier, he is more used to commanding an armoured division than a company boardroom.

In 2003 he commanded British troops invading southern Iraq, and in 2007 returned as the commander of British forces overseeing the handover of Basra to the Iraqis.

But now, four months into his new job as chief executive of Aegis Defence Services – a British private security company (PSC) – he has left army life behind.

“It’s liberating,” he says, sitting in Aegis’s comfortable headquarters in a plush office building in central London.

“Thirty-five years in government service was a wonderful experience. But in the world of business, ex-military people have got a lot to offer – I certainly hope so anyway.”

For Aegis, netting a leading figure from the Iraq war can only be good for business – particularly when your business is in the often-controversial world of armed private security.

Now one of the UK’s biggest PSCs, Aegis has made millions from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan since it was founded just eight years ago.

Iraq bubble

“It’s liberating,” he says, sitting in Aegis’s comfortable headquarters in a plush office building in central London.

“Thirty-five years in government service was a wonderful experience. But in the world of business, ex-military people have got a lot to offer – I certainly hope so anyway.”

For Aegis, netting a leading figure from the Iraq war can only be good for business – particularly when your business is in the often-controversial world of armed private security.

Now one of the UK’s biggest PSCs, Aegis has made millions from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan since it was founded just eight years ago.

Please read the full story here

November 2, 2010 Posted by | Aegis, Civilian Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , , | Leave a comment

Wikileaks: British security contractors embroiled in chaos of war

The chaos of war enveloped British and American security contractors, as well as coalition and local troops, according to documents released by Wikileaks.

By Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent Telegraph.co.uk
A British firm, Aegis, is revealed as having suffered the highest losses of any private company. More than 30 of its employees died, according to an analysis by the New York Times, which was given full access to the files.

Most of the dead were Iraqi drivers, guards and other employees.

But it is a handful of American contractors whose actions will come under further scrutiny.

In one incident, employees of a firm called Custer Battles fired at Iraqi security forces at a checkpoint, into a crowded minibus and at the tyres of a car that came too close to their own, all in one spree. No action was taken against them after they paid some compensation money to those affected.

Blackwater, the company which earned notoriety after shooting dead 17 civilians in a square in Baghdad in 2007, is reported to have been seen “firing indiscriminately” in an incident the year before. In another case the same year, Blackwater security guards killed two civilians in a taxi “travelling at high speed”, causing demonstrations.

In some cases, security contractors were themselves shot as a result of mistaken identity. Sometimes they just thought they were being shot at: one report, also from 2006, describes a particularly chaotic incident involving three large SUVs from the Triple Canopy security company.

They were driving “at high speed” down a highway and tried to force a local vehicle out of their way by “bumping” it. It veered off but skidded back into the third SUV, sending it off the road.

The security guards then thought they were under attack, and tried to destroy the damaged vehicle by throwing a grenade at it, setting it on fire and firing 40 rounds into it. A second local vehicle that was approaching in the other direction was then also fired on.

Despite the force employed, the only injury recorded is a minor graze to the driver of the second car.

 

October 25, 2010 Posted by | Aegis, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Growing Use of Contractors Added to War’s Chaos in Iraq

By JAMES GLANZ and ANDREW W. LEHREN Published: October 23, 2010

The New York Times   The War Logs

The first shots sailed past Iraqi police officers at a checkpoint. They took off in three squad cars, their lights flashing.

It was early in the Iraq war, Dec. 22, 2004, and it turned out that the shots came not from insurgents or criminals. They were fired by an American private security company named Custer Battles, according to an incident report in an archive of more than 300,000 classified military documents made public by WikiLeaks.

The company’s convoy sped south in Umm Qasr, a grubby port city near the Persian Gulf. It shot out the tire of a civilian car that came close. It fired five shots into a crowded minibus. The shooting stopped only after the Iraqi police, port security and a British military unit finally caught up with the convoy.

Somehow no one had been hurt, and the contractors found a quick way to prevent messy disciplinary action. They handed out cash to Iraqi civilians, and left.

The documents sketch, in vivid detail, a critical change in the way America wages war: the early days of the Iraq war, with all its Wild West chaos, ushered in the era of the private contractor, wearing no uniform but fighting and dying in battle, gathering and disseminating intelligence and killing presumed insurgents.

There have been many abuses, including civilian deaths, to the point that the Afghan government is working to ban many outside contractors entirely.

The use of security contractors is expected to grow as American forces shrink. A July report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, a panel established by Congress, estimated that the State Department alone would need more than double the number of contractors it had protecting the American Embassy and consulates in Iraq.

 

Contractors were necessary at the start of the Iraq war because there simply were not enough soldiers to do the job. In 2004, their presence became the symbol for Iraq’s descent into chaos, when four contractors were killed in Falluja, their bodies left mangled and charred.

Even now — with many contractors discredited for unjustified shootings and a lack of accountability amply described in the documents — the military cannot do without them. There are more contractors over all than actual members of the military serving in the worsening war in Afghanistan.

The archive, which describes many episodes never made public in such detail, shows the multitude of shortcomings with this new system: how a failure to coordinate among contractors, coalition forces and Iraqi troops, as well as a failure to enforce rules of engagement that bind the military, endangered civilians as well as the contractors themselves. The military was often outright hostile to contractors, for being amateurish, overpaid and, often, trigger-happy.

Contractors often shot with little discrimination — and few if any consequences — at unarmed Iraqi civilians, Iraqi security forces, American troops and even other contractors, stirring public outrage and undermining much of what the coalition forces were sent to accomplish.

The mayhem cropped up around Iraq, notably in one episode reported in March 2005 in which a small battle erupted involving three separate security companies.

At a notoriously dangerous checkpoint on the main road to the Baghdad airport, a cement truck entered a lane reserved for Department of Defense vehicles. A guard from Global, a British company, fired a warning shot, and when a man initially identified as an Iraqi opened the door and tried to flee, guards from a tower started firing, too. The man dropped to the ground. Then members of an Iraqi private security team parked nearby also opened fire, shooting through the chest not the driver but a worker from DynCorp International, an American security company.

When the truck driver was finally questioned, he turned out to be a Filipino named José who worked with yet a third company, KBR, the American logistics and security giant.

The conclusion drawn from this chaos was, “IT IS BELIEVED THE DRIVER ENTERED THE DOD LANE BY ACCIDENT.”

For all the contractors’ bravado — Iraq was packed with beefy men with beards and flak jackets — and for all the debates about their necessity, it is clear from the documents that the contractors appeared notably ineffective at keeping themselves and the people they were paid to protect from being killed.

In fact, the documents seem to confirm a common observation on the ground during those years in Iraq: far from providing insurance against sudden death, the easily identifiable, surprisingly vulnerable pickup trucks and S.U.V.’s driven by the security companies were magnets for insurgents, militias, disgruntled Iraqis and anyone else in search of a target.

Most of the documents are incident reports and match what is known of the few cases that have been made public, although even this cache is unlikely to be a complete record of incidents involving contractors. During the six years covered by the reports, at least 175 private security contractors were killed. The peak appeared to come in 2006, when 53 died. Insurgents and other malefactors kidnapped at least 70 security contractors, many of whom were later killed.

 

Aegis, a British security company, had the most workers reported killed, more than 30. Most of those were Iraqi drivers, guards and other employees. Not only the military, but journalists and aid workers as well relied on contractors to help protect them.

The security contractors seemed overmatched, often incinerated or torn apart by explosions their vehicles had no chance of warding off. In August 2004, the corpses of two men who had worked with Custer Battles were found charred and abandoned in a truck that was still burning on the road between Tikrit and Mosul, after it was struck by an improvised explosive device and fired upon from a Volkswagen, one report said.

In July 2007, another report said, two were killed when a gun truck operated by ArmorGroup, a British company, flew like a wobbling discus 54 yards through the air, flipping approximately six times, after a huge I.E.D. exploded beneath it in northern Iraq.

And in May 2009, three Americans, including a senior Navy officer, were killed outside Falluja when an I.E.D. overturned a vehicle escorted by Aegis contractors during a visit to a water treatment plant financed by the United States, according to another report and American government statements at the time.

Death came suddenly, from all sides, in all forms.

In late 2004 in Tikrit, seven men emerged from two Daewoo vehicles and mowed down Iraqi workers for Buckmaster, a company hired to destroy old munitions, as the workers got out of a bus, a report said. The gunmen did not flee until they ran out of ammunition, killing 17 and wounding 20 as two Iraqis saved themselves by hiding under seats in the bus.

 

There were suicide bombings, desert ambushes, aviation disasters and self-inflicted wounds, as when a Ugandan guard working for EOD Technology, an American company, shot and killed his South African supervisor and then himself in 2008 after being terminated, a report said.

A spokesman for EOD confirmed the incident and said that the investigation had been unable to determine “why this particular guard decided to take the actions that he did.”

“I think the only elaboration on this incident is to note that it was a very sad and unfortunate event,” said the spokesman, Erik S. Quist.

In another case, in Baghdad in the summer of 2009, a British contractor with ArmorGroup was reported to have shot and killed two co-workers, a Briton and an Australian, then run wild through the heavily fortified Green Zone in an attempt to escape. Finally, a coalition soldier tackled him, a report said, and another soldier “shot a directed-aimed warning shot into sand bags which immediately stopped resistance from suspect so that he could be brought under control.” Read the Document »

The alleged killer, Daniel Fitzsimons, is still being held in Baghdad while awaiting trial under Iraqi law.

The contractors also suffered horrific traffic accidents with multiple fatalities all over Iraq, seemingly as a side effect of driving at high speeds on bad roads where a threat can appear at any moment.

The threats were not limited to insurgents, the documents show: private security contractors repeatedly came under fire from Iraqi and coalition security forces, who often seemed unnerved by unmarked vehicles approaching at high speeds and fired warning shots, or worse. Even as the war dragged on, there seemed no universal method for the military to identify these quasi soldiers on the battlefield.

To cope, the contractors were reduced to waving reproductions of coalition flags from inside their vehicles, the documents show — but even that did not always work. After being shot at by an American military guard tower near Baiji in July 2005, contractors with Aegis first waved a British flag. When the shooting continued, the contractors, who said they were transporting a member of the American military at the time, held up an American flag instead. “THE TOWER KEPT SHOOTING,” a report said, although no one was injured in the episode.

 

But whatever the constellation of reasons — from war-zone jumpiness to outright disregard for civilian lives — the security companies are cited time after time for shootings that the documents plainly label as unjustified. This has blackened their reputation, even if it has not lessened the military’s dependence on them. “AFTER THE IED STRIKE A WITNESS REPORTS THE BLACKWATER EMPLOYEES FIRED INDISCRIMINATELY AT THE SCENE,” read one report from Aug. 22, 2006, referring to the company, now known as Xe Services, that the following year would become notorious for an apparently unprovoked killing of 17 Iraqis at Nisour Square in Baghdad.

In a written statement last week, Xe said, “While it would be inappropriate to comment on specific cases, we work closely with our government customers and cooperate fully in all investigations.”

In December 2004, just a few days after the confrontation with Iraqi security forces, another Custer Battles convoy fired into the windshield of a Humvee driven by American military police soldiers in a patrol that was approaching the convoy from behind on another road near Baghdad. The report noted laconically that the security contractors did not stop their convoy until they reached an American checkpoint, “WHERE THEY ADMITTED TO FIRING ON THE MP PTL,” the military police patrol.

Many of the companies apparently felt no sense of accountability. Contractors with a Romanian company called Danubia Global killed three Iraqis in Falluja in 2006, another report said, then refused to answer questions on the episode, citing a company policy not to provide information to investigators.

In 2007, a convoy operated by Unity Resources Group, based in Dubai, shot at an approaching vehicle near the Green Zone in Baghdad, wounded a bodyguard for President Jalal Talabani of Iraq and did not report the shooting until Mr. Talabani’s staff contacted the American authorities, one report said.

When asked about the incident last week, a Unity official, Jim LeBlanc, said that “in a time of numerous suicide vehicle attacks, a vehicle had presented itself in a profile that was consistent with the behavior of a suicide attacker.” Unity guards fired “carefully aimed warning shots” when the vehicle refused to stop, Mr. LeBlanc said, and the company did not initially believe that anyone had been hurt.

Only when contacted by American investigators did Unity realize that “an Iraqi security force member” had been struck by a ricochet, and from that point on, the company fully cooperated, Mr. LeBlanc said. After the investigation, he said, “all Unity members were cleared to immediately return to work.”

And still more recently, in July 2009, local contractors with the 77th Security Company drove into a neighborhood in the northern city of Erbil and began shooting at random, setting off a firefight with an off-duty police officer and wounding three women, another report said.

“It is assessed that this drunken group of individuals were out having a good time and firing their weapons,” the incident report concluded.

In many other cases, contractors cited what they considered a justifiable “escalation of force” as an Iraqi vehicle moved toward them and did not respond to “hand signals” and other signs that the driver should stop. At that point, the contractors would fire into the vehicle’s engine block or through the windshield.

The Iraqis who were shot at, and who the documents show were nearly always civilians, not surprisingly saw things differently. To judge by the disgust that seeps through even the dry, police-blotter language of some of the incident reports, American military units often had a similar perspective. That appears to be especially true of reports on “escalations of force” by Blackwater in the years leading up to the Nisour Square shooting, the documents show.

On May 14, 2005, an American unit “OBSERVED A BLACKWATER PSD SHOOT UP A CIV VEHICLE,” killing a father and wounding his wife and daughter, a report said, referring to a Blackwater protective security detail.

On May 2, 2006, witnesses said that an Iraqi ambulance driver approaching an area struck by a roadside bomb was killed by “uncontrolled small arms firing” by Blackwater guards, another report noted.Read the Document »

On Aug. 16, 2006, after being struck by an I.E.D. in the southbound lane of a highway, Blackwater contractors shot and killed an Iraqi in the back seat of a vehicle traveling in the northbound lane, a report said. At least twice — in Kirkuk and Hilla — civilian killings by Blackwater set off civilian demonstrations, the documents say.Read the Document »

And so it went, up to the Sept. 16, 2007, Nisour Square shooting by Blackwater guards that is again noted as an “escalation of force” in the documents. Little new light is shed on the episode by the documents, although in a twist, the report indicated that the street from which the Blackwater convoy charged into the square went by the military code name Skid Row.

The last reference to Custer Battles, which eventually lost a $10 million whistle-blower case in which it was claimed that the company defrauded the United States on billing invoices for the company’s work in Iraq, appears in a report dated March 15, 2005, describing an I.E.D. strike on an exit ramp in western Baghdad. An Iraqi driver for the company received shrapnel wounds in the face from the bomb and was wounded in the chest by gunfire that broke out after the explosion. The driver was taken to a local hospital, ultimate fate unknown. Please read the original story here

October 23, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, KBR, Legal Jurisdictions, Pentagon, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) Sept 29 Contract Awards

The Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) program provides comprehensive protective security services to support U.S. Department of State operations around the world.

Solicitation Number: SAQMMA10R0005-A
Agency: U.S. Department of State
Office: Office of Logistics Management
Location: Acquisition Management
:
SAQMMA10R0005-A

:
Award Notice

:
September 29, 2010

:
SAQMMA10D0094SAQMMA10D0095SAQMMA10D0096SAQMMA10D0097SAQMMA10D0098SAQMMA10D0099SAQMMA10D0100SAQMMA10D0104

:
10,000,000,000.00 Maximum Program Value

:
SEE DESCRIPTION

:
SEE DESCRIPTION
SEE DESCRIPTION, SEE DESCRI
United States

:
Added: Sep 30, 2010 9:40 pm

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) made the following eight base contract awards for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security – Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) Program resulting from solicitation: SAQMMA10R0005 (-a) on September 29, 2010.  The maximum program value is $10,000,000,000.00 USD.  The maximum value is cumulative and includes all work performed by all contractors during the WPS program period of performance, including all option periods.

The base contracts include a one year base period of performance with four one year option periods.  DOS included the minimum guarantee of $5,000.00 for each WPS contractor with each base contract award.

Please see section M of solicitation: SAQMMA10R0005 (-a) for more information on the evaluation criteria that DOS used to select the firms listed below for base contract awards.

SAQMMA10D0094 :  Aegis Defense Services, LLC
SAQMMA10D0095 : DynCorp International, LLC
SAQMMA10D0096 : EOD Technology, Inc.
SAQMMA10D0097 : Global Strategies Group (Integrated Security), Inc.
SAQMMA10D0098 : International Development Solutions, LLC
SAQMMA10D0099 : SOC, LLC
SAQMMA10D0100 : Torres International Services, LLC
SAQMMA10D0104 : Triple Canopy, Inc.

:
P.O. Box 9115
Rosslyn Station
Arlington, Virginia 22219

:

Worldwide

United States

:
Thomas C. Lemole,
Administrative Contracting Officer
Phone: 1-571-345-7908

:
Sharon D James,
Contracting Officer
Phone: 7038756077
Fax: 7038755272

October 3, 2010 Posted by | Aegis, Afghanistan, Africa, Civilian Contractors, Contract Awards, DynCorp, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, State Department, Triple Canopy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Security firm Aegis creates Swiss holding

GENEVA  Bloomberg

Aegis, one of the world’s biggest private security contractors, has set up a Swiss holding company that effectively moves the British firm’s headquarters to the Alpine nation, a Swiss newspaper reported Monday.

London-based Aegis Defence Services Ltd., which operates in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, is now wholly owned by a shell company in the northwestern city of Basel, local daily Basler Zeitung reported.

A public relations company acting on behalf of Aegis declined to immediately comment on the report.

Citing confidential documents, Basler Zeitung reported that Aegis’ seven owners — including founders Tim Spicer, Mark Bullough, Jeffrey Day and Dominic Armstrong — have swapped their shares for stakes in the Basel-based holding company.

The three remaining shareholders in Aegis are James Ellery, one-time head of the U.N. mission in southern Sudan, retired British diplomat John Birch and former U.K. army chief Peter Inge, according to the newspaper.

Founded in 2002, Aegis was awarded one of the biggest U.S. security contracts in Iraq — valued at more than $430 million.

In 2005, some Aegis employees posted videos on the Internet showing company guards firing automatic weapons at civilians from the back of a moving security vehicle.

Aegis claimed the shootings were legal and within rules established by the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority. U.S. Army auditors, in their own investigation, agreed with Aegis

August 9, 2010 Posted by | Aegis, Civilian Contractors, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , | 1 Comment

UK Aegis Contractor Killed, Two Americans Seriously Injured, Mosul, Iraq

Iraq suicide bomb kills UK contractor

Attacker rammed bomb-laden car into convoy

A British security contractor was killed in Iraq today when a suicide bomber rammed a bomb-laden car into a convoy of four armoured SUVs in western Mosul.

Two other western contractors – believed to be Americans – and an Iraqi were seriously injured in the attack, while five passers-by suffered moderate wounds. All the contractors worked for the British company Aegis.

It is the first British fatality in Iraq in more than 12 months. Since the British Army withdrew from its garrison near the southern city of Basra in April last year, contractors – once regular targets of insurgent bombs – have been attacked far less frequently. Around 100 British officers remain in Iraq, helping to train the Iraqi Navy in the southern port of Umm Qasr.

However, Mosul has remained dangerous for contractors and the US military alike, with daily attacks on security forces and civilians reported for much of the past year.

As the US military prepares to withdraw its combat troops by the end of next month, heavily armoured and easily recognisable contractor convoys are set to present an increasingly attractive target to militants who see private security companies as an adjunct to the military.

An estimated 400 British contractors work in Iraq today, this is well down on the 2,000 plus who worked across the country during the height of the postwar chaos three years ago.

However the lure of reconstruction work stemming from the lucrative oil sector is expected to attract many more over the coming years.

Today’s blast took place near a bridge in western Mosul around 9am. The SUV was reportedly blown 40 metres into a nearby ravine. A second Aegis car was also reportedly damaged.

The officer in charge of operations in Mosul, Colonel Edan Ali, said he dispatched an Iraqi Army patrol to the scene, but it was kept at bay by contractors who would not let anyone near them.

“They were a company there for reconstruction,” he said. “The British flags on their cars were obvious.”

US forces evacuated the dead and injured by helicopter and closed the road. The British Embassy in Baghdad said it was providing consular assistance.

August 6, 2010 Posted by | Aegis, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Iraq | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Briton killed in north Iraq attack

Security Guard Killed in Iraq named

British private security guard killed by a suicide bomber in northern Iraq has been named.

Nicholas Crouch, 29, was escorting US Army engineers to a hospital under construction in the city of Mosul when his convoy came under attack at about 9am on Monday.

The bomber blew up a car packed with explosives, killing Mr Crouch and wounding three of his colleagues and five Iraqi civilians.

The Briton had worked for London-based private security firm Aegis in Iraq since January 2009.

Aegis said in a statement: “Aegis provides security services to a number of clients in Iraq, all of whom are engaged in regenerating the economy and rebuilding the infrastructure.

“At the time of the incident, the Aegis team was escorting project engineers from the US Army Corps of Engineers to a local hospital to review the progress of its construction.”

Sources say that two other western contractors – believed to be Americans – and at least one Iraqi contractor were seriously injured in the attack, while five passers-by suffered moderate wounds. All the contractors worked for the British company Aegis.

BAGHDAD — A Briton was killed in an attack on a private security firm’s convoy in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Monday, British government officials said.

“One British national was killed today during an attack against a convoy in east Mosul,” British embassy spokeswoman Sophie Farrell told AFP, without identifying the victim. Farrell said no other Briton was hurt.

The Foreign Office confirmed the death, saying the attack was on a private security convoy.

“A British national was killed in an attack on a British private security company convoy in Mosul this morning. We have offered consular assistance,” a Foreign Office spokesman said.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Iraqi side.

July 19, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Iraq, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Judge rules for security contractor

Blog of the Legal Times

Like the rest of the federal government, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has been closed this week due to the double-dose of winter storms. That, however, hasn’t stopped one case from seeing a flurry of activity.

Yesterday, Judge Richard Roberts granted summary judgment for a security contractor, Aegis Defense Services, in a lawsuit brought by a U.S. soldier, Khadim Alkanani, who claimed the company’s employees had shot him during a 2005 intelligence mission in Iraq . The judge also dismissed claims against the contractor’s British parent company.

Roberts’ reasoning was fairly simple. Aegis, represented by Jenner & Block partners David DeBruin and David Handzo, provided evidence that it simply didn’t exist at the time of the alleged shooting (the company was incorporated in the U.S. in 2006). Its parent company, meanwhile, argued that the court didn’t have personal jurisdiction.

And, as Roberts pointed out, Alkanani’s lawyers hadn’t opposed either of Aegis’ motions.

So case dismissed? Not quite. After Roberts’ orders hit the docket, Alkanani’s legal team, including Andrea Moseley of Alexandria, Va.-based Zwerling, Leibig & Moseley, fired off an emergency request for the judge to withdraw them. The contended that the parties had agreed to a Feb. 15 deadline for the opposition motions, and that Roberts had ruled too quickly.

At least they didn’t blame it on the weather.

February 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Deadly contractor incident sours Afghans

Four men with the U.S. firm once known as Blackwater are said to be under investigation in the deaths of two Afghans. A U.S. report found serious fault with private security firms in Afghanistan.

Original Story here

By David Zucchino
5:58 PM PDT, August 12, 2009

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan — Mirza Mohammed Dost stood at the foot of his son’s grave, near a headstone that read, “Raheb Dost, martyred by Americans.”

His son was no insurgent, Dost said. He was walking home from prayers on the night of May 5 when he was shot and killed on a busy Kabul street by U.S. security contractors.

“The Americans must answer for my son’s death,” Dost said as a large crowd of young men murmured in approval.

The shooting deaths of Raheb Dost, 24, and another Afghan civilian by four gunmen with the company once known as Blackwater have turned an entire neighborhood against the U.S. presence here.

Already enraged by the deaths of civilians in U.S. military airstrikes, many Afghans are also demanding more accountability from security contractors who routinely block traffic and bark orders to motorists and pedestrians.

As the war escalates in Afghanistan and the U.S. seeks to win over a wary public, incidents such as the one that left Raheb Dost dead raise uneasy ghosts of the Iraq war. With more than 70,000 security contractors or guards in Afghanistan and billions of dollars at stake in lucrative government contracts, the consequences of misconduct are significant.

A June report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan cites serious deficiencies among private security companies in Afghanistan in training, performance, accountability and effective use-of-force rules.

The report says U.S. authorities in Afghanistan have not applied “lessons learned” in Iraq after a 2007 incident in which Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. Iraq revoked the firm’s license, and five contractors face U.S. federal manslaughter and weapons charges.

The Afghan Interior Ministry has stepped up licensing of security contractors and is demanding stricter monitoring. The ministry says it wants limits on the number of contractors here, even as the Pentagon considers hiring a private security firm to provide more guards for its military bases.

Members of parliament, responding to complaints from constituents, have proposed legislation cracking down on contractors.

“They have caused some serious difficulties for the people,” said Fazlullah Mujadedi, a member of a parliamentary commission looking into security companies.

The extent of those difficulties is hard to gauge: The United Nations office in Kabul, the capital, didn’t break out contractor involvement in its recent report on deaths or injuries of civilians, and other agencies here don’t track such incidents.

In June, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused Afghan guards working for U.S. forces of killing a police chief and four police officers in the southern city of Kandahar. The U.S. military called it an “Afghan on Afghan incident” and said no U.S. forces were involved.

Such incidents have fed a sense among some Afghans that private gunmen are above the law — both Afghan and American. Security contractors are subject to Afghan laws, but the four contractors in the May shooting left for the U.S. before Afghan authorities could mount a case against them.

Since February, oversight of security contractors in Afghanistan has been entrusted not to Congress or the Pentagon, but to a British-owned private contractor, Aegis. The company was hired by the American government after the U.S. military said it lacked the manpower and expertise to monitor security contractors. Aegis is supposed to help U.S. authorities make sure contractors are properly trained, armed and supervised.

The wartime contracting commission, set up by the U.S. last year, expressed concern over “limited U.S. government supervision” of private security contractors in Afghanistan. Many are unlicensed and unregulated, said Zemaray Bashary, an Interior Ministry official.

Anger toward hired gunmen runs especially high in Yaka Toot, a densely packed neighborhood in east Kabul, where residents are still simmering over the May shooting.

Residents say the U.S. contractors opened fire without provocation after one of their vehicles tipped over in a traffic accident. Killed along with Dost was Romal, 22, a passenger in a Toyota sedan on his way home from work. Like many Afghans, Romal used just one name.

Mohammad Shafi, a neighborhood elder who said he ran to the shooting scene that night, said the Toyota driver told him that the Americans ordered him to stop, then told him to move on. When the driver began pulling away, Shafi said, the Americans started shooting.

Dost, who was walking about 200 yards away, was shot in the head. No weapons were found in the Toyota, or on Dost, according to an Afghan police investigator.

“Some Americans think all Afghans are terrorists or insurgents,” Shafi said. “But if they keep killing civilians, I’m sure some Afghans will decide to become insurgents.”

Daniel J. Callahan, a Santa Ana lawyer representing the four contractors, said the men fired in self-defense after one car rammed one of the contractors’ two SUVs, forcing it into a ditch, and a second car tried to run down two contractors.

Callahan accused Blackwater, now called Xe, of “trying to make them scapegoats to take the heat off Blackwater.” He said the company falsely accused the men of drinking alcohol that night.

In fact, Callahan said, Xe supervisors issued the four men automatic rifles and told them to escort Afghan interpreters home that night. He said military investigators found no evidence the men had consumed alcohol.

A U.S. military spokesman in Kabul said in May that the four contractors, who trained Afghan security forces, were authorized to handle weapons only when conducting training. At the time of the 9 p.m. incident, he said, they were not permitted to have weapons.

Xe has said that the four men were fired for not following terms of their contract. An Xe spokeswoman, Stacy Capace, did not return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

A U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman declined to say whether the contractors are under criminal investigation in the United States. Callahan said the Justice Department has told him it is conducting an investigation.

Callahan, who called the contractors “four good Americans,” identified them as Chris Drotleff, Steve McClain, Justin Cannon and Armando Hamid.

The Interior Ministry has licensed 39 security companies employing 23,000 people who are assigned 17,000 weapons. More than 19,000 of the employees are Afghans.

The U.S. military employs 4,373 private security contractors, according to the wartime contracting commission. More than 4,000 are Afghans, many of them former militia fighters who help guard U.S. and coalition bases.

The State Department employs 689 security contractors, most for U.S. Embassy security. American employees traveling in certain areas are protected by Xe contractors supervised by State Department security agents.

The U.S. spent between $6 billion and $10 billion on security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 through 2007 alone, according to Congress.

In all, there are more than 71,000 security contractors or guards, armed and unarmed, in Afghanistan, said P.W. Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively on the subject.

Private security convoys are a common sight on Kabul’s traffic-clogged streets. Some race past in SUVs with tinted windows, sealing off traffic lanes and forcing motorists to the curb.

Many businesses hire uniformed guards armed with assault rifles. Kabul restaurants that cater to Westerners employ armed, uniformed guards who operate security gates and metal detectors.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, citing poor performance, fired its private security contractor, MVM, in 2007 and hired another American-owned company, ArmorGroup North America.

If U.S. or Afghan authorities don’t properly monitor companies such as Xe, those firms should answer in person to the families of civilians killed or wounded by contractors, said Raheb Dost’s aunt, who goes by one name, Friba.

“We want to confront them and ask them: Why do you think you’re allowed to do such a terrible thing?” Friba said, standing over her nephew’s grave.

Mirza Dost, the dead man’s father, said he was summoned to a police station in May to meet U.S. Embassy officials and Americans who told him they represented Xe. He said the Americans apologized and agreed to pay hospital bills for his son, who was in a coma but later died after 31 days in the hospital.

After his son’s death, Dost said, he was paid “a good sum of money”; he declined to elaborate. Shafi, the neighborhood elder, said the family of the other man who was killed was also paid.

Dost, who lost a leg to a land mine fighting the Soviet army in 1989, said his son was the family’s sole wage earner. He said he considered Xe’s payment fair compensation but was offended that neither the embassy nor Xe paid a condolence call after his son died.

“That’s our culture, but the Americans don’t know our culture,” he said.

Dost said he does not blame all Americans, but he is wary of any American contractors or U.S. forces he encounters on the street.

“They need to be more careful and show more respect for Afghan people,” he said.

Security contractors sign contracts making them liable for prosecution for violating Afghan laws. But Dost does not insist that the Xe contractors be tried in Afghanistan. Nor does his neighbor Shafi, the community elder.

“It wouldn’t make me happy to see them face Afghan justice,” Shafi said as young men from the neighborhood leaned across Dost’s grave to hear his pronouncement.

“What would make me happy,” Shafi said, “is to never have another innocent person killed.”

david.zucchino@latimes.com

August 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment