UNITED NATIONS — A non-profit organization that monitors the United Nations published a report Tuesday criticizing the U.N.’s growing use of private military and security companies.
The Global Policy Forum said the U.N.’s increasing use of these companies is “dangerous,” may increase rather than reduce threats and attacks on U.N. buildings and personnel, and suggests a system that is “unaccountable and out of control.”
According to the report, incomplete U.N. data shows a steady rise in the number of security contracts from 2006-2007, with the value increasing from $44 million in 2009 to $76 million in 2010, the latest data available.
The majority of contracts in 2010 — $30 million worth — were for activities by the U.N. Development Program followed by $18.5 million for U.N. peacekeeping operations and $12.2 million for U.N. refugee activities, it said.
Please see the original and read more here
AFP May 2, 2012
KABUL: The Taliban militia announced they would launch their annual “spring offensive” across Afghanistan on Thursday, threatening to target US-led NATO troops and their allies with renewed vigour.
Code-named Al-Farouq, the primary targets of the offensive would be “foreign invaders, their advisors, their contractors, all those who help them militarily and in intelligence,” the militants said on their website.
“Al-Farouq spring offensive will be launched on May 3 all over Afghanistan,” the militant group said.
The militia said the code name came from Islam’s second caliph, Omar Al-Farouq known for his military advances in Asia and the Arab world during the 7th century.
The announcement came hours after Taliban insurgents armed with guns, suicide vests and a bomb-laden car attacked a heavily fortified compound used by Westerners in Kabul, killing seven people and wounding more than a dozen others.
Please see the original and read the entire article here
by David S Cloud McClatchy Washington DC December 29, 2011
After a U.S. airstrike mistakenly killed at least 15 Afghans in 2010, the Army officer investigating the accident was surprised to discover that an American civilian had played a central role: analyzing video feeds from a Predator drone keeping watch from above.
The contractor had overseen other analysts at Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field in Florida as the drone tracked suspected insurgents near a small unit of U.S. soldiers in rugged hills in central Afghanistan. Based partly on her analysis, an Army captain ordered an airstrike on a convoy that turned out to be carrying innocent men, women and children.
“What company do you work for?” Maj. Gen. Timothy McHale demanded of the contractor after he learned that she was not in the military, according to a transcript obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
“SAIC,” she answered
Her employer, SAIC Inc., is a publicly traded Virginia-based corporation with a multiyear $49 million contract to help the Air Force analyze drone video and other intelligence from Afghanistan.
Please read more here
by Suzanne Kelly at CNN’s Security Clearance December 27, 2011
“There are a lot of assumptions about contractors, and a lot of the assumptions are wrong.” Those are the words of a private security contractor who asked to be referred to only as “Lloyd” for this story, because like most of his colleagues he is not authorized to speak to the media.
By Lloyd’s count, he has spent some 1,000 days working in Afghanistan in the past four years. He, like many other well-trained military men, decided to leave his position as a Navy SEAL and take his chances finding employment in one of the hot spots around the world where highly skilled contractors were well-paid, and in demand.
Very few people outside the contracting industry really understood just what a private security contractor did before March 31, 2004. That was the day four American security contractors accompanying a shipment of kitchen equipment through Iraq were ambushed, killed, set on fire, dragged through the streets, and hung from a bridge before a cheering crowd in the city of Fallujah.
As shock subsided, questions arose. Who were these American men? If they weren’t members of the military, what were they doing in one of the most volatile regions of Iraq?
All four men were private security contractors working for a company called Blackwater. At the time the company, like many others, was just getting on its feet as U.S. demand for security services skyrocketed. The government needed armed, well-trained security personnel in hostile territories. The new push started when the United States went to war in a CIA-led operation in Afghanistan in 2001. e CIA’s early advance teams were not fully prepared for the pace of their own success. They quickly needed makeshift facilities to hold hostile enemy combatants and establish secure operating bases. The military wasn’t yet in a position to help, so the CIA hired Blackwater.
It was a similar story when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. A heavy presence of diplomats and reconstruction experts working in a hostile area meant they needed to be protected. Blackwater won a part of the contract to provide security services in the country. But being a private security contractor was a shady business, if not in the “legal” sense, in the “keeping off the radar” sense. Many of the contracts that were granted to companies such as Blackwater included clauses that severely limited the companies’ ability to talk to members of the media. Contracting was, by the design of the U.S. government, secretive.
Please read the entire story here
Lexology November 3, 2011
On November 2, 2011, the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council (FAR Councils) issued a final rule on “Personal Conflicts of Interest,” or “PCIs,” that will place significant new obligations on contractors and contractor employees.
76 Fed. Reg. 68,017 (Nov. 2, 2011). The rule requires contractors that have employees performing “acquisition functions closely associated with inherently governmental functions” to identify and prevent PCIs for such employees. It also requires such contractors to prohibit “covered employees” with access to non-public Government information from using it for personal gain. The final rule implements section 841(a) of the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009, Pub. L. No. 110-417, and follows a proposed rule issued nearly two years ago, 74 Fed. Reg. 58,584 (Nov. 13, 2009).
The final rule, which includes only minor revisions from the proposed rule, creates a new subpart under FAR part 3 (FAR subpart 3.11), as well as a new clause for Contracting Officers (COs) to use in contracts (FAR 52.203-16). The rule’s effective date is December 2, 2011. The new clause will be included in all covered contracts and task or delivery orders issued on or after the effective date. COs are instructed to modify, on a bilateral basis, existing task- or delivery- order contracts to include the new clause for future orders. In the event that a contractor refuses to accept such a modification, the contractor will not be eligible to receive further orders under the contract.
Please read the entire post for important information regarding implementation, obligations for contractors, and definitions of the terms here
Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Danger Room September 1, 2011
It’s not that the Iraqi government has suddenly grown to love private security contractors. It’s just, from the perspective of Iraq’s politics, at least the hired guns aren’t U.S. troops.
For most of the year, the U.S. military has been pressing the Iraqis to relax a 2008 deal governing the final withdrawal of all troops by the end of December. The U.S. claims that Iraqi military officials privately concede a need for a small residual force to teach them how to use all the hardware they’re buying from the U.S., including (possibly) long-coveted F-16s. Only Iraqi politicians, who don’t want to face a backlash from citizens exhausted with a U.S. presence in its eight year, aren’t actually asking the U.S. to stay.
But Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister whom the U.S. thinks wants troops to stay, thinks he’s found an elegant, Solomonic solution. U.S. troops still have to pack up their forward operating bases and leave. But Iraq may hire American trainers from private security firms — who’ll probably be U.S. military veterans — to show Iraqi soldiers, cops and pilots the ropes of their new equipment.
In a televised interview this week, Maliki signaled that even if he wants the U.S. to stick around, he hasn’t found a way to break a parliamentary impasse with his reluctant political allies. “The agreement on the withdrawal of American forces will be implemented on schedule by the end of the year,” Maliki told al-Ittijah TV, ”and there will not be any bases for U.S. forces here.”
Except that Maliki already has an asterisk affixed to that statement. His aides told Reuters last month that they want a corps of up to 3,000 trainers, who’d be “contractors with military or security backgrounds.” Those contractors would staff seven “training centers” around Iraq. Just don’t call ‘em “bases.”
Please read the entire article here
The Washington Post with Bloomberg July 3, 2011
The U.S. Agency for International Development, as it cracks down on vendor impropriety, has more than doubled the number of companies and nonprofit groups it has suspended or debarred from receiving new contracts.
The development agency has halted new contracting and grants with 39 entities this year, more than twice the 18 suspended or debarred last year, records show.
USAID on Dec. 8 suspended its 10th-largest partner, the Washington-based nonprofit Academy for Educational Development (AED). The organization held about $640 million in USAID contracts and grants when it was restricted from receiving new government awards.
“We will hold all of our implementing partners to strict account, regardless of their size,” USAID administrator Rajiv Shah said of the suspension in a speech at the Center for Global Development in Washington this year. “ ‘Too big to fail’ simply does not exist in development,’’ he said.
Please read the entire article at The Washington Post
World War 4 Report June 6, 2011
On June 3, US District Judge Kenneth A. Marra in Southern Florida issued a 95-page opinion in the case in re Chiquita Brands, International, allowing lawsuits brought by some 4,000 Colombians seeking compensation for violence by armed groups the company backed to move ahead.
Chiquita had asked for the suits to be dismissed, arguing it was a victim of extortion and bore no responsibility for any crimes carried out by armed groups. Attorney for the plaintiffs Paul Wolf said the ruling “provides a roadmap for holding American corporations responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed overseas.”
The case arose from Chiquita’s admitted payments of millions of dollars to the warring factions in Colombia’s decades-old civil war: the right-wnig United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), and the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In March 2007, Chiquita pled guilty to engaging in financial transactions with these State Department-designated “foreign terrorist organizations.” Represented by now-Attorney General Eric Holder, the $4 billion dollar company admitted its guilt, and agreed to pay a $25 million fine over a period of five years. Under the deal, no individuals were to be prosecuted.
However, writes attorney Wolf in a press release (links and bracketed annotation added):
By admitting its guilt in a criminal proceeding, the company set itself up for lawsuits, brought by the families of thousands of individuals slain by these groups during the years they were in Chiquita’s pay. Judge Marra upheld a variety of claims brought under the Alien Tort Statute, or ATS, including summary execution, torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity. These claims are violations of international law, which was called the Law of Nations back in 1789 when the ATS was enacted.
The crux of the case was not whether the AUC and FARC committed war crimes, torture and the like. That is really beyond dispute. The difficult issue in the Chiquita case was whether a corporation paying these groups could be held responsible for what they do, and if so, what more must be proven, other than the payments themselves?
Following the reasoning used in the Khulumani and Talisman cases [involving South African apartheid and genocide in Sudan, respectively], brought in federal courts in New York, Judge Marra held that in order to be liable for the Colombian groups’ crimes, Chiquita must also have intended that those groups commit the crimes, at least in some general way. Just knowing that the groups might massacre and torture innocent civilians would not be enough. In order to be held responsible, the victims’ families must also show that Chiquita wanted those groups to do what they did.
As in the New York cases, Judge Marra relied on international law standards for what constitutes “aiding and abetting” crimes committed by someone else. Since no consensus exists, at the international level, whether a mens rea (mental state) of “knowledge” or “intent” is required, the court chose the more restrictive standard of intent, in keeping with the US Supreme Court’s decision in Sosa v Alvarez Machain [concerning an accused Mexican cartel hitman who was abducted to the US to stand trial]. In the Sosa case, the Supreme Court warned the lower courts not to be too quick to recognize “new” concepts in international law: any disputed concept is not actionable under the ATS. Using the same reasoning, Judge Marra struck the Chiquita plaintiffs’ claims for terrorism, holding that terrorism is not a sufficiently defined legal concept in international law.
The Chiquita victims need not prove this intent on a case by case basis, though. They don’t have to prove that Chiquita specifically intended that the AUC, or FARC, torture or kill the specific individuals in this case, or even knew their identities. They must show that Chiquita intended the AUC and FARC to torture and kill civilians in Colombia’s banana growing regions. According to Judge Marra, this reduces to the allegation that Chiquita “took a side” in the conflict, in the course of that side’s efforts to defeat its adversary.
Judge Marra distinguished the Chiquita case from several others brought by Colombian victims against Coca Cola and Drummond. In those cases, although the alleged murders of union leaders may have occurred during a war, they were not really part of the war, and thus not actionable as war crimes. They were crimes committed under cover of war. The lesson for human rights lawyers is that one of the key things to prove in this type of case is the nexus between the crime committed, and the war itself. Crimes that occur during a war are not necessarily war crimes. We have seen similar arguments made in the context of lawsuits against private security contractors in Iraq: that the contractors are not actually part of the war, they are part of the reconstruction of Iraq. As shallow as this may sound, the outcome of the case may depend on this determination.
Please read the entire article here
Tess Vigeland: President Obama met with Congressional Republicans at the White House today. The agenda: coming to an agreement on the government’s ability to borrow. The debt ceiling. The big sticking point is whether spending cuts will be attached to that legislation.
But commentator Robert Reich wants another policy topic front and center. And he says, it too, has a lot to do with your taxpayer dollars.
Robert Reich: President Obama is mulling an executive order requiring that big government contractors disclose their political spending. He should stop their political spending altogether.
Take Lockheed Martin, the nation’s largest contractor. The company has received nearly $20 billion in federal contracts so far this year. It’s already spent more than $4 million lobbying Congress.
Lockheed has also been spending more than $3 million a year on political contributions to members of Congress that vote its way. And an undisclosed amount to the Aerospace Industries Association to lobby for a bigger Defense budget.
But wait a minute. You and I and other taxpayers are Lockheed’s biggest customer. As such, we are financing this political activity. It’s one of the most insidious conflicts of interest in American politics.
And Lockheed is hardly unique. The 10 biggest government contractors are all defense contractors. Every one of them gets most of its revenues from the federal government. And everyone uses a portion of that money to lobby for even more Defense contracts.
Please read the entire interview here
ABC News’ Devin Dwyer (@devindwyer) reports:
The federal government awarded $24 billion in Recovery Act funds to contractors and vendors who owe millions in unpaid taxes, a new Government Accountability Office report has found.
The nonpartisan watchdog agency reported Tuesday that at least 3,700 recipients owed more than $750 million combined in unpaid federal taxes as of Sept. 30, 2009. They represent 5 percent of all recipients of the so-called stimulus funds.
“For many years now, we’ve known that a small percentage of federal contractors and grantees who get paid with taxpayer dollars shirk their responsibility to pay their taxes,” said Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan. “Now the executive branch should get on with it and actually debar the worst of the tax cheats from the contractor workforce.”
Levin, who chairs the Senate Permanent Investigations Committee, plans to hold a hearing on the report this afternoon.
“That such a huge amount of the stimulus money went to known tax cheats should be a wakeup call for Congress,” said Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the committee’s ranking member.
The GAO said their report likely underestimates the total amount of unpaid taxes owed by stimulus recipients. Federal law does not require government agencies to check the tax compliance of prospective grantees.
The report singled out 15 cases of “abusive or potentially criminal activity” for further investigation by the IRS.
One nonprofit health care organization reportedly owes $4 million in payroll taxes and has repeatedly submitted “dishonored checks” to the IRS to pay the bill. An unnamed security company, which received over $100,000 in Recovery Act funds and still owes more than $9 million in taxes, reportedly paid debts to other creditors but not the IRS and has repeatedly violated federal labor laws.
Please see the original here
Stephan Clark at Fox News
How many private contractors does the Pentagon need to cut to meet Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ target of a 10 percent reduction annually over three years?
The Pentagon might not even know — it doesn’t have a comprehensive count for the contractors it employs.
“You don’t know whether they’re using that 10 percent because they’re clueless and they want to sound like they’re doing something meaningful — or whether that 10 percent is really 2 percent,” Winslow Wheeler, a director at the Center for Defense Information and a defense budget expert, told FoxNews.com. “This is something that desperately needs a comprehensive and thorough explanation. We don’t even know what we don’t know.”
Former Sen. Alan Simpson, co-chairman of President Obama’s deficit reduction commission, said over the weekend that the Pentagon should be able to cut 250,000 contractors based on estimates that the Pentagon employs between 250,000 and 1 million contractors.
Whereas contractors used to be the “in” thing as a means to get employees off the government dole, Gates says the department has become far too reliant on them to perform functions that could be done by full-time employees.
Please read the entire story here
Nato supply convoys travelling through Pakistan to Afghanistan have regularly come under attack in the past, but following Pakistan’s decision to block their route through the Khyber Pass, they now face an even bigger security threat.
By Riaz Sohail BBC News, Karachi
Hundreds of tankers and trucks have been left stranded on highways and depots across Pakistan, with little or no security.
Taliban militants have regularly been targeting the convoys, even when they are heavily protected.
But many believe it is not just the militants who pose a security threat to the convoys.
The owners of oil tankers being used to supply fuel to Nato in Afghanistan say some of the attacks on their convoys are suspicious.
They say there is evidence to suggest that bombs have been planted in many of vehicles by the “Nato contractors” – individuals or companies who have been contracted by Nato to supply fuel and goods to forces in Afghanistan.
The contractors subsequently hire the transporters who then carry the goods.
Dost Mohammad, an oil tanker owner from Nowshera district, said a Nato contractor had recently been caught trying to plant a bomb in an oil tanker.
“This happened in the area of Paiyee, when he was putting the bomb under the vehicle.”
“At that time, a few men also opened fire on the tankers. The deputy later told the police that he had been told to plant the bomb by the contractor.”
Dost Mohammad said the contractor had apparently sold off the fuel first.
“Only 2,000 litres from the original 50,000 litres had been left in the tanker to cover up the crime,” he said.
Dost Mohammad said it is a win-win situation for the contractors.
“If an old vehicle is burnt, Nato gives them money for a new vehicle. In addition, they receive compensation for all the fuel lost as well.” Read the entire story here
National Defense Magazine
The presence of contractors in warzones is growing by the day. More than 150,000 are in Afghanistan and Iraq. Also on the rise is the level of scrutiny they receive from the U.S. government and international organizations, in addition to more cutthroat competition from peer firms. As a result, contractors are creating an increasingly lucrative industry for law firms.
Attorneys who represent battlefield contractors are busier than ever. They are dealing with investigations, battlefield torts, employment litigation, international lawsuits, defense contractor disputes and the complex laws of armed conflict. The large presence of U.S. troops and contractors in warzones has opened the floodgates of litigation as foreign governments and firms discover the high-stakes payoffs of the American legal system.
“One of the most successful American exports to the world is our litigation system,” says Tara Lee, a partner in the law firm DLA Piper’s litigation practice, in Reston, Va.
Lee represents a number of contractors who work for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.
“It is very easy for companies to be sued in the United States, versus in other places,” she says. “Both U.S. and foreign contractors who do work for the U.S. government have been sued in the United States, usually by people who’ve never set foot in the U.S. but see that our American litigation system is a very attractive one,” Lee says.
The oversight and plaintiff litigation climate related to incidents in Afghanistan and Iraq has heated up dramatically over the last several years, says Lee in an interview. “New subpoenas, investigations, congressional committees continue to pop up focused on oversight,” she says. There has been a rise in employee-based lawsuits in conflict regions as workers claim they were not given enough warning about the dangers of their jobs. American contractors operating in Afghanistan and Iraq are subject to local civil and criminal laws, as well as many U.S. laws that regulate the conduct of contractors abroad, she says. “Additionally, local tribal and religious rules may come into play, and may conflict with aspects of the national laws.”
While war rages thousands of miles away from the United States, court fights over every conceivable issue are erupting nationwide.
“You see lawsuits for slip and fall cases in the middle of a warzone, every possible kind of contracting issue, injuries, property claims. They’re bringing cases for injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan based on different laws from different states,” says Lee.
While contractors in combat zones are hiring more lawyers to represent them in court, companies that are bidding for future contracts also are retaining legal help as a preemptive measure, Lee says. “That is the area that has grown the most: advising companies upfront if it’s safe to go to a certain country, how to operate safely and legally,” she says. “We’ve been doing a lot more of this in the last year.” More companies are seeking expertise on local taxation and how to create business entities in the Middle East, she says.
Most of the legal work associated with warzone contractors is defending clients before special inspectors general and the Defense Department IG, Army criminal investigations, U.S. federal court criminal and civil cases and congressional committee investigations.
Lee has spent the past 18 months in Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan representing companies that are supporting State and USAID in malaria inoculation, governance, linguistic translation services, accounting and crowd control work.
As if there weren’t enough lawsuits to go around, the release by Wikileaks last month of thousands of sensitive U.S. military documents is likely to generate more work for legitimate lawyers and for ambulance chasers.
Analysts so far have concluded that there isn’t much “new” news in the material leaked. But Lee says the material leaked will serve as a useful database for plaintiffs’ lawyers. “In the last few years, plaintiffs’ lawyers in the United States have brought more and more tort cases in the U.S. court system against American and foreign contractors operating in Afghanistan,” she says. “Those lawsuits are based on either injuries sustained by service members or injuries sustained by third parties in any situation where a contractor was involved — as a driver, a security provider or as a provider of equipment that allegedly failed. Given the extent of functions performed by contractors in Afghanistan, the tort possibilities are almost endless. The injured third parties needn’t even be U.S. citizens or residents to bring suit.”
But U.S. litigation is expensive even for defendants who have done no wrong, she says, so what the plaintiffs’ lawyers are often hoping for are quick “nuisance value” settlements.
The Wikileaks database could become a resource for U.S. plaintiff lawyers who are already “trolling for potential clients,” Lee says. Anyone who is named as having been injured is a potential client in a tort suit against a contractor, she says. “For the ambulance chasers of the battlefield, the Wikileaks database is a goldmine.”
Law firms expect business to continue to boom for years to come. Although Defense Secretary Robert Gates has cut the budget for contracting services by 10 percent a year, the retrenchment only will affect white-collar work. In warzones, contractors will be needed in large numbers as long as troops are deployed. “There are a lot of things contractors do that soldiers used to do — peel potatoes, do the dishes. I think contractors ought to do that stuff,” Gates said at an Aug. 9 news conference. “If I’ve got a highly trained combat infantrymen, I don’t want him spending his time doing that stuff. And so I think there are a lot of functions that soldiers once performed that should — can and should be done by contractors. … Frankly, in some respects it’s cheaper.”
|Thursday, July 15, 2010 10:47 GMT
The office of General Inspector in Iraq Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation said that 146 company and contractor were added to the black list for submitting falsified documents. Meanwhile, 4 employees were secluded for submitting fallacious studies documents. An official source in the General Inspector office said that it reassessed the official papers in order to categorize the contractors according to financial ability and the achieved works.