Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Private Army Formed to Fight Somali Pirates Leaves Troubled Legacy

The New York Times  October 4, 2012

Eric Prince

WASHINGTON — It seemed like a simple idea: In the chaos that is Somalia, create a sophisticated, highly trained fighting force that could finally defeat the pirates terrorizing the shipping lanes off the Somali coast.

But the creation of the Puntland Maritime Police Force was anything but simple. It involved dozens of South African mercenaries and the shadowy security firm that employed them, millions of dollars in secret payments by the United Arab Emirates, a former clandestine officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, and Erik Prince, the billionaire former head of Blackwater Worldwide who was residing at the time in the emirates.

And its fate makes the story of the pirate hunters for hire a case study in the inherent dangers in the outsourced wars in Somalia, where the United States and other countries have relied on proxy forces and armed private contractors to battle pirates and, increasingly, Islamic militants.

That strategy has had some success, including a recent offensive by Kenyan and African Union troops to push the militant group Al Shabab from its stronghold in the port city of Kismayu.

But with the antipiracy army now abandoned by its sponsors, the hundreds of half-trained and well-armed members of the Puntland Maritime Police Force have been left to fend for themselves at a desert camp carved out of the sand, perhaps to join up with the pirates or Qaeda-linked militants or to sell themselves to the highest bidder in Somalia’s clan wars — yet another dangerous element in the Somali mix.

Please read the entire story at the The New York Times

October 5, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Maritime Security, Pirates, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rep. Schakowsky: Erik Prince Of Blackwater Tried To Intimidate Me

TPM Muckraker  November 30, 2011

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.”

Please read the entire post here

November 30, 2011 Posted by | Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Xe | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

UAE is interested in Azerbaijan’s military goods

ABC AZ   May 25, 2011

Baku, Fineko/abc.az. Within his visit to Azerbaijan Head of UAE’s General Staff General Hamid Mohammad Sani Ar-Rumeysi visited a number of the country’s defense industry facilities.

Defense Industry Ministry of Azerbaijan reports that Head of the Emirates’ General Staff got acquainted with “Iglim”, “Radio construction”,” Telemechanics” enterprises  and electronic computers plant. Within the visit he is expected to meet representative of Azerbaijan Defense Ministry’s management.

Recently the Emirates signed the contract for $529 million with Reflex Responses company assuming formation of private army from 800 soldiers to protect oil pipelines, skyscrapers from terror attacks and suppress disorders. Head of UAE General Staff’s personnel administration general Juma Ali Khalaf Al- Hamiri confirmed that foreign contractors will render operative support, assistance in planning army development to Military forces of UAE and trample upon and train local military men. Reflex Responses was founded by Eric Prince, founder of famous private military company Blackwater ( presently- Xe Services LLC).

Please see the original and more at ABC AZ

May 25, 2011 Posted by | Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder

By and at The New York Times

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Late one night last November, a plane carrying dozens of Colombian men touched down in this glittering seaside capital. Whisked through customs by an Emirati intelligence officer, the group boarded an unmarked bus and drove roughly 20 miles to a windswept military complex in the desert sand

The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom.

Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times.

The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest in their crowded labor camps or were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.

Please read the entire story here

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , , | 1 Comment

Blackwater founder questions FBI work

In the deposition, released by the lawyer who is suing Prince and the company, the Blackwater founder placed much of the responsibility of warzone activity on the government. He said contractors the company provided were screened and approved to the State Department’s standards. He said State Department officials set and enforced the rules of engagement.

AP NewsBreak

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The founder of the security firm once known as Blackwater questioned in a sworn deposition how federal authorities handled their investigation of an infamous Baghdad shooting that left 17 Iraqis dead, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

Erik Prince said during the seven-hour testimony that he didn’t believe the FBI fully investigated the sources of all the used bullets in Nisoor Square, arguing that it would have been helpful for the defense to have a complete ballistics report.

“It seems the ballistics analysis was done to prove the guilt of the Americans, not to just try to identify what happened there,” Prince said. His comments about the case and throughout the deposition underscore how tensions between the government and one of its go-to contractors have lingered for years.

Please read the entire article here

April 1, 2011 Posted by | Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Security Contractor, State Department, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Somalia’s Puntland suspends security contractors

Associated Press March 17, 2011

MOGADISHU, Somalia –  Somalia’s northern region of Puntland has suspended a controversial deal with a private security firm contracted to train an anti-piracy force, two government officials said Thursday.

Saracen International was hired to train 1,050 men in Puntland to battle the pirates that menace shipping off Somalia’s coast.

An Associated Press investigation previously found that the project was linked to Erik Prince, who founded the private security firm Blackwater, and also had a secret mission to go after an Islamist rebel linked to insurgents in southern Somalia.

Two officials in the Puntland government said the deal had been suspended following international pressure. Both asked for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.

One official said most of Saracen’s primarily South African staff have left the country but he expected them to return. The second official said that training has been suspended and that 200 recruits who had graduated from the training program were not paid in February.  Please read the entire story here

March 17, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Pirates, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Blackwater Bullshit

Mothers:  No Justice for our Son’s Slaughtered in Iraq

The company has no comment on this
pending legal matter except to say that the dismissed claims were
precluded by law under the Defense Base Act’s workers’
compensation system, and

that the company continues to provide
survivors’ benefits to the families under that system.”

Blackwater has not spent on dime on DBA insurance.  Eric Prince even testified before Congress that DBA insurance was cost reimburable to Blackwater.

If the survivors are being paid DBA benefits it is the insurance company paying them, not Blackwater.  The Insurance Company will be reimbursed any benefits they pay out plus an administrative fee by the US Taxpayer.

While we’re on taxpayers, these four slaughtered sons were misclassified by Blackwater as independent contractors for tax purposes and misrepresented as employees for the purpose of obtaining DBA insurance.

Blackwater has not missed a profit aside from their legal fees which would have been better spent supporting these families.

By 2oo4 Contractors would have known what they were getting into but no one expected to be sacrificed so you could cut corners

January 26, 2011 Posted by | Blackwater, Contractor Casualties, Defense Base Act, Follow the Money, Iraq, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues | , , , | 1 Comment

Blackwater Founder Said to Back Mercenaries

Mark Mazetti and Eric Schmidt at The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Erik Prince, the founder of the international security giant Blackwater Worldwide, is backing an effort by a controversial South African mercenary firm to insert itself into Somalia’s bloody civil war by protecting government leaders, training Somali troops, and battling pirates and Islamic militants there, according to American and Western officials

The disclosure comes as Mr. Prince sells off his interest in the company he built into a behemoth with billions of dollars in American government contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, work that mired him in lawsuits and investigations amid reports of reckless behavior by his operatives, including causing the deaths of civilians in Iraq. His efforts to wade into the chaos of Somalia appear to be Mr. Prince’s latest endeavor to remain at the center of a campaign against Islamic radicalism in some of the world’s most war-ravaged corners. Mr. Prince moved to the United Arab Emirates late last year.

With its barely functional government and a fierce hostility to foreign armies since the hasty American withdrawal from Mogadishu in the early 1990s, Somalia is a country where Western militaries have long feared to tread. The Somali government has been cornered in a small patch of Mogadishu by the Shabab, a Somali militant group with ties to Al Qaeda.

This, along with the growing menace of piracy off Somalia’s shores, has created an opportunity for private security companies like the South African firm Saracen International to fill the security vacuum created by years of civil war. It is another illustration of how private security firms are playing a bigger role in wars around the world, with some governments seeing them as a way to supplement overtaxed armies, while others complain that they are unaccountable.

Mr. Prince’s precise role remains unclear. Some Western officials said that it was possible Mr. Prince was using his international contacts to help broker a deal between Saracen executives and officials from the United Arab Emirates, which have been financing Saracen in Somalia because Emirates business operations have been threatened by Somali pirates. Please read the entire article here

January 21, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Pirates, Private Military Contractors | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Attorney Calls for More Prosecutions of Corruption in Defense Contracts

by Adam Klasfeld at Courthouse News

MANHATTAN (CN) – After a federal jury convicted an Army captain of corruption with military contractors in Iraq, an attorney who has spent years on such cases said that such prosecutions are rare – and much needed. “For several years, we were very worried because we just saw a complete lack of any sort of fraud prosecution against defense contractors,” Susan Burke said.
“Given the dollars being spent on both these wars, it’s imperative for the United States to continue to root out fraud,” Burke added.
Burke, who has specialized in cases involving misconduct by contractors and military personnel, has represented victims of torture, abuse and murder at Abu Ghraib prison and Nisour Square in Iraq.
Last year, her Iraqi clients settled seven civil lawsuits alleging “senseless slaughter” by guards of the company formerly known as Blackwater, now operating under the name Xe.
Burke says she still has three active lawsuits against defense contractors CACI and L-3, on behalf of Iraqis who say they were tortured at detention centers in Iraq.
She also has an active suit against Blackwater founder Erik Prince and his entities, on behalf of a married couple who used to work for him. The husband and wife Burke represents sued under the False Claims Act, which allows whistleblowers to sue contractors on behalf of the federal government for fraud.
Burke spoke to Courthouse News after Army Capt. Bryant Williams was convicted of corruption in December. Williams was on active duty at the time.
Burke said she has been trying for years to get the federal government to pursue cases against defense corruption cases more aggressively – to little avail.
“We’ve been following, essentially, the lack of actions by the Department of Justice with regard to the torture issues,” Burke said, “and we keep an eye on the federal prosecutions against defense contractors on the fraud issue.”
The Uniform Code of Military Justice prevents the military from prosecuting corporate employees, leaving the Department of Justice the exclusive authority to prosecute crimes by military contractors, Burke said.

Please read Susan Burkes statements in their entirety here

January 4, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, Legal Jurisdictions, Pentagon, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blackwater Founder in Deal to Sell Company

By Andrew Ross Sorkin and Ben Protess at The New York Times Dealbook

Erik D. Prince, the founder of the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, has reached a deal to sell his embattled firm to a small group of investors based in Los Angeles who have close ties to Mr. Prince, according to people briefed on the deal.

Blackwater, now called Xe Services, was once the United States’ go-to contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has been under intense pressure since 2007, when Blackwater guards were accused of killing 17 civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad. The company, its executives and personnel have faced civil lawsuits, criminal charges and Congressional investigations surrounding accusations of murder and bribery. In April, federal prosecutors announced weapons charges against five former senior Blackwater executives, including its former president.

The sale, which is expected to be announced on Friday, came after the State Department threatened to stop awarding contracts to the company as long as Mr. Prince owned the firm, people involved in the discussions said. These people requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the confidential talks. The sale is intended to help shake the stigma associated with its ownership under Mr. Prince.

Yet questions remain about Mr. Prince’s continuing relationship with the company. While he is expected to step down from any management or operational role, he will have a financial interest in the company’s future, according to people briefed on the negotiations. As part of the deal, he will be paid an “earn out,” or a payment that depends on the company’s financial performance over the next several years, these people said.

One of the lead investors in the deal is Jason DeYonker of Forté Capital Advisors, who has a long relationship with Mr. Prince and Blackwater. He helped advise Mr. Prince in his development of Blackwater’s business plan when the company was founded and helped negotiate the company’s first training contracts with United States government agencies and the company’s expansion of its training center in Moyock, N.C. In addition, he managed the Prince family’s money from 1998 to 2002. The other lead investor is Manhattan Growth Partners, a private equity firm in New York.

Exact terms of the deal could not be learned, but people involved in the talks said the transaction was worth about $200 million. Bank of America led the financing of the transaction, these people said.

Mr. Prince, a former Navy Seal who created Blackwater in 1997, put his company up for sale in June and moved his family to Abu Dhabi, court records show. Mr. Prince, who built Blackwater using an inheritance from his family’s Michigan auto parts fortune, stepped aside as Xe’s chief executive in 2009 but has remained chairman until now. Mr. Prince sold the company’s aviation division, Presidential Airways, to the AAR Corporation in March.

The auction for Xe Services has dragged on for months as speculation has swirled about the company’s future and the auction process. Some bidders speculated that Mr. Prince had always favored selling the company to the investor group led by Mr. DeYonker.

The new buyers are hoping to recast the company as a military training organization instead of a private security service. The company’s training center in Moyock has trained more than 50,000 United States government personnel and allied forces. The buyers hope to receive new contracts to train forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen, among other locations, especially as the United States withdraws troops and needs to train local forces.

After the sale, the company will continue to be subject to an agreement it reached with the State Department in August. Under the settlement, the company paid $42 million in fines over hundreds of violations of United States export control regulations, permitting it to continue to compete for government contracts.

Wendy Wysong, a partner at the law firm Clifford Chance, was appointed as a special compliance officer for Xe Services as a result of the settlement.

James Risen contributed reporting.  Please see the original here

December 17, 2010 Posted by | Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , , | Leave a comment

Secret Erik Prince/Blackwater Tape Exposed

The reclusive Blackwater founder tries to ban journalists and recorders from his speeches in front of friendly audiences. This time he failed.

By Jeremy Scahill  at RebelReports

[Note: This post, written for TheNation.com, will be posted on The Nation magazine’s homepage soon as part of the launch of a new blog. I am posting it here until the site is fully functional because of the timely nature of the story. Please check The Nation site for exciting developments.]

Erik Prince, the reclusive owner of the Blackwater empire, rarely gives public speeches and when he does he attempts to ban journalists from attending and forbids recording or videotaping of his remarks. On May 5, that is exactly what Prince is trying to do when he speaks at DeVos Fieldhouse as the keynote speaker for the “Tulip Time Festival” in his hometown of Holland, Michigan. He told the event’s organizers no news reporting could be done on his speech and they consented to the ban. Journalists and media associations in Michigan are protesting this attempt to bar reporting on his remarks.

Despite Prince’s attempts to shield his speeches from public scrutiny, The Nation magazine has obtained an audio recording of a recent, private speech delivered by Prince to a friendly audience. The speech, which Prince attempted to keep from public consumption, provides a stunning glimpse into his views and future plans and reveals  details of previously undisclosed activities of Blackwater. The people of the United States have a right to media coverage of events featuring the owner of a company that generates 90% of its revenue from the United States government.

In the speech, Prince proposed that the US government deploy armed private contractors to fight “terrorists” in Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia, specifically to target Iranian influence. He expressed disdain for the Geneva Convention and described Blackwater’s secretive operations at four Forward Operating Bases he controls in Afghanistan. He called those fighting the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan “barbarians” who “crawled out of the sewer.” Prince also revealed details of a July 2009 operation he claims Blackwater forces coordinated in Afghanistan to take down a narcotrafficking facility, saying that Blackwater “call[ed] in multiple air strikes,” blowing up the facility. Prince boasted that his forces had carried out the “largest hashish bust in counter-narcotics history.” He characterized the work of some NATO countries’ forces in Afghanistan as ineffectual, suggesting that some coalition nations “should just pack it in and go home.” Prince spoke of Blackwater working in Pakistan, which appears to contradict the official, public Blackwater and US government line that Blackwater is not in Pakistan.

Prince also claimed that a Blackwater operative took down the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W Bush in Baghdad and criticized the Secret Service for being “flat-footed.” He bragged that Blackwater forces “beat the Louisiana National Guard to the scene” during Katrina and claimed that lawsuits, “tens of millions of dollars in lawyer bills” and political attacks prevented him from deploying a humanitarian ship that could have responded to the earthquake in Haiti or the tsunami that hit Indonesia.

Several times during the speech, Prince appeared to demean Afghans his company is training in Afghanistan, saying Blackwater had to teach them “Intro to Toilet Use” and to do jumping jacks. At the same time, he bragged that US generals told him the Afghans Blackwater trains “are the most effective fighting force in Afghanistan.” Prince also revealed that he is writing a book, scheduled to be released this fall.

The speech was delivered January 14 at the University of Michigan in front of an audience of entrepreneurs, ROTC commanders and cadets, businesspeople and military veterans. The speech was titled “Overcoming Adversity: Leadership at the Tip of the Spear” and was sponsored by the Young Presidents’ Association (YPO), a business networking association primarily made up of corporate executives. “Ripped from the headlines and described by Vanity Fair magazine, as a Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier and Spy, Erik Prince brings all that and more to our exclusive YPO speaking engagement,” read the event’s program, also obtained by The Nation. It proclaimed that Prince’s speech was an “amazing don’t miss opportunity from a man who has ‘been there and done that’ with a group of Cadets and Midshipmen who are months away from serving on the ‘tip of the spear.’” Here are some of the highlights from Erik Prince’s speech:

Send the Mercs into Somalia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria

Prince painted a global picture in which Iran is “at the absolute dead center… of badness.” The Iranians, he said, “want that nuke so that it is again a Persian Gulf and they very much have an attitude of when Darius ran most of the Middle East back in 1000 BC. That’s very much what the Iranians are after.” [NOTE: Darius of Persia actually ruled from 522 BC–486 BC]. Iran, Prince charged, has a “master plan to stir up and organize a Shia revolt through the whole region.” Prince proposed that armed private soldiers from companies like Blackwater be deployed in countries throughout the region to target Iranian influence, specifically in Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. “The Iranians have a very sinister hand in these places,” Prince said. “You’re not going to solve it by putting a lot of uniformed soldiers in all these countries. It’s way too politically sensitive. The private sector can operate there with a very, very small, very light footprint.” In addition to concerns of political expediency, Prince suggested that using private contractors to conduct such operations would be cost-effective. “The overall defense budget is going to have to be cut and they’re going to look for ways, they’re going to have to have ways to become more efficient,” he said. “And there’s a lot of ways that the private sector can operate with a much smaller, much lighter footprint.”

Prince also proposed using private armed contractors in the oil-rich African nation of Nigeria. Prince said that guerilla groups in the country are dramatically slowing oil production and extraction and stealing oil. “There’s more than a half million barrels a day stolen there, which is stolen and organized by very large criminal syndicates. There’s even some evidence it’s going to fund terrorist organizations,” Prince alleged. “These guerilla groups attack the pipeline, attack the pump house to knock it offline, which makes the pressure of the pipeline go soft. they cut that pipeline and they weld in their own patch with their own valves and they back a barge up into it. Ten thousand barrels at a time, take that oil, drive that 10,000 barrels out to sea and at $80 a barrel, that’s $800,000. That’s not a bad take for organized crime.” Prince made no mention of the nonviolent indigenous opposition to oil extraction and pollution, nor did he mention the notorious human rights abuses connected to multinational oil corporations in Nigeria that have sparked much of the resistance.

Blackwater and the Geneva Convention

Prince scornfully dismissed the debate on whether armed individuals working for Blackwater could be classified as “unlawful combatants” who are ineligible for protection under the Geneva Convention. “You know, people ask me that all the time, ‘Aren’t you concerned that you folks aren’t covered under the Geneva Convention in [operating] in the likes of Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan? And I say, ‘Absolutely not,’ because these people, they crawled out of the sewer and they have a 1200 AD mentality. They’re barbarians. They don’t know where Geneva is, let alone that there was a convention there.”

It is significant that Prince mentioned his company operating in Pakistan given that Blackwater, the US government and the Pakistan government have all denied Blackwater works in Pakistan.

Taking Down the Iraqi Shoe Thrower for the ‘Flat-Footed’ Secret Service

Prince noted several high-profile attacks on world leaders in the past year, specifically a woman pushing the Pope at Christmas mass and the attack on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, saying there has been a pattern of “some pretty questionable security lately.” He then proceeded to describe the feats of his Blackwater forces in protecting dignitaries and diplomats, claiming that one of his men took down the Iraqi journalist, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who threw his shoes at President Bush in Baghdad in December 2008. Prince referred to al-Zaidi as the “shoe bomber:”

“A little known fact, you know when the shoe bomber in Iraq was throwing his shoes at President Bush, in December 08, we provided diplomatic security, but we had no responsibility for the president’s security—that’s always the Secret Service that does that. We happened to have a guy in the back of the room and he saw that first shoe go and he drew his weapon, got a sight picture, saw that it was only a shoe, he re-holstered, went  forward and took that guy down while the Secret Service was still standing there flat-footed. I have a picture of that—I’m publishing a book, so watch for that later this fall—in which you’ll see all the reporters looking, there’s my guy taking the shoe thrower down. He didn’t shoot him, he just tackled him, even though the guy was committing assault and battery on the president of the United States. I asked a friend of mine who used to run the Secret Service if they had a written report of that and he said the debrief was so bad they did not put it in writing.”

While the Secret Service was widely criticized at the time for its apparent inaction during the incident, video of the event clearly showed another Iraqi journalist, not security guards, initially pulling al-Zaidi to the floor. Almost instantly thereafter, al-Zaidi was swarmed by a gang of various, unidentified security agents.

Blackwater’s ‘Forward Operating Bases

Prince went into detail about his company’s operations in Afghanistan. Blackwater has been in the country since at least April 2002, when the company was hired by the CIA on a covert contract to provide the Agency with security. Since then, Blackwater has won hundreds of millions of dollars in security, counter-narcotics and training contracts for the State Department, Defense Department and the CIA. The company protects US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and other senior US officials, guards CIA personnel and trains the Afghan border police. “We built four bases and we staffed them and we run them,” Prince said, referring to them as Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). He described them as being in the north, south, east and west of Afghanistan. “Spin Boldak in the south, which is the major drug trans-shipment area, in the east at a place called FOB Lonestar, which is right at the foothills of Tora Bora mountain. In fact if you ski off Tora Bora mountain, you can ski down to our firebase,” Prince said, adding that Blackwater also has a base near Herat and another location. FOB Lonestar is approximately 15 miles from the Pakistan border. “Who else has built a [Forward Operating Base] along the main infiltration route for the Taliban and the last known location for Osama bin Laden?” Prince said earlier this year.

Blackwater’s War on Drugs

Prince described a Narcotics Interdiction Unit Blackwater started in Afghanistan five years ago that remains active. “It is about a 200 person strike force to go after the big narcotics traffickers, the big cache sites,” Prince said. “That unit’s had great success. They’ve taken more than $3.5 billion worth of heroin out of circulation. We’re not going after the farmers, but we’re going after the traffickers.” He described an operation in July 2009 where Blackwater forces actually called in NATO air strikes on a target during a mission:

“A year ago, July, they did the largest hashish bust in counter-narcotics history, down in the south-east. They went down, they hit five targets that our intel guys put together and they wound up with about 12,000 pounds of heroin. While they were down there, they said, ‘You know, these other three sites look good, we should go check them out.’ Sure enough they did and they found a cache—262,000 kilograms of hash, which equates to more than a billion dollars street value. And it was an industrialized hash operation, it was much of the hash crop in Helmand province. It was palletized, they’d dug ditches out in the desert, covered it with tarps and the bags of powder were big bags with a brand name on it  for the hash brand, palletized, ready to go into containers down to Karachi [Pakistan] and then out to Europe or elsewhere in the world. That raid alone took about $60 million out of the Taliban’s coffers. So, those were good days. When the guys found it, they didn’t have enough ammo, enough explosives, to blow it, they couldn’t burn it all, so they had to call in multiple air strikes.  Of course, you know, each of the NATO countries that came and did the air strikes took credit for finding and destroying the cache.”

December 30, 2009 CIA Bombing in Khost

Prince also addressed the deadly suicide bombing on December 30 at the CIA station at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan. Eight CIA personnel, including two Blackwater operatives, were killed in the bombing, which was carried out by a Jordanian double-agent. Prince was asked by an audience member about the “failure” to prevent that attack. The questioner did not mention that Blackwater was responsible for the security of the CIA officials that day, nor did Prince discuss Blackwater’s role that day. Here is what Prince said:

“You know what? It is a tragedy that those guys were killed but if you put it in perspective, the CIA has lost extremely few people since 9/11. We’ve lost two or three in Afghanistan, before that two or three in Iraq and, I believe, one guy in Somalia—a landmine. So when you compare what Bill Donovan and the OSS did to the Germans and the Japanese, the Italians during World War II—and they lost hundreds and hundreds of people doing very difficult, very dangerous work—it is a tragedy when you lose people, but it is a cost of doing that work. It is essential, you’ve got to take risks. In that case, they had what appeared to be a very hot asset who had very relevant, very actionable intelligence and he turned out to be a bad guy… That’s what the intelligence business is, you can’t be assured success all the time. You’ve got to be willing to take risks. Those are calculated risks but sometimes it goes badly. I hope the Agency doesn’t draw back and say, ‘Oh, we have to retrench and not do that anymore,’ all the rest. No. We need you to double down, go after them harder. That is a cost of doing business. They are there to kill us.”

Prince to Some NATO Countries in Afghanistan: ‘Go Home’

Prince spoke disparagingly of some unnamed NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan, saying they do not have the will for the fight. “Some of them do and a lot of them don’t,” he said. “It is such a patchwork of different international commitments as to what some can do and what some can’t. A lot of them should just pack it in and go home.” Canada, however, received praise from Prince. “The Canadians have lost per capita more than America has in Afghanistan. They are fighting and they are doing it and so if you see a Canadian thank them for that. The politicians at home take heavies for doing that,” Prince said. He did not mention the fact that his company was hired by the Canadian government to train its forces.

Prince also described how his private air force (which he recently sold) bailed out a US military unit in trouble in Afghanistan. According to Prince, the unit was fighting the Taliban and was running out of ammo and needed an emergency re-supply. “Because of, probably some procedure written by a lawyer back in Washington, the Air Force was not permitted to drop in an uncertified drop zone… even to the unit that was running out of ammo,” Prince said. “So they called and asked if our guys would do it and, of course, they said, ‘Yes.’ And the cool part of the story is the Army guys put their DZ mark in the drop zone, a big orange panel, on the hood of their hummer and our guys put the first bundle on the hood of that hummer. We don’t always get that close, but that time a little too close.”

Blackwater: Teaching Afghans to Use Toilets

Prince said his forces train 1300 Afghans every six weeks and described his pride in attending “graduations” of Blackwater-trained Afghans, saying that in six weeks they radically transform the trainees. “You take these officers, these Afghans and it’s the first time in their life they’ve ever been part of something that’s first class, that works. The instructors know what they’re talking about, they’re fed, the water works, there’s ammunition for their guns. Everything works,” Prince said. “The first few days of training, we have to do ‘Intro to Toilet Use’ because a lot of these guys have never even seen a flushed toilet before.” Prince boasted: “We manage to take folks with a tribal mentality and, just like the Marine Corps does more effectively than anyone else, they take kids from disparate lifestyles across the United States and you throw them into Paris Island and you make them Marines. We try that same mentality there by pushing these guys very hard and, it’s funny, I wish I had video to show you of the hilarious jumping jacks. If you take someone that’s 25 years old and they’ve never done a jumping jack in their life—some of the convoluted motions they do it’s comical. But the transformation from day one to the end of that program, they’re very proud and they’re very capable.” Prince said that when he was in Afghanistan late last year,  “I met with a bunch of generals and they said the Afghans that we train are the most effective fighting force in Afghanistan.”

Prince also discussed the Afghan women he says work with Blackwater. “Some of the women we’ve had, it’s amazing,” Prince said. “They come in in the morning and they have the burqa on and they transition to their cammies (camouflage uniforms) and I think they enjoy the baton work,” he said, adding, “They’ve been hand-cuffing a little too much on the men.”

Hurricane Katrina and Humanitarian Mercenaries

Erik Prince spoke at length about Blackwater’s deployment in 2005 in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, bragging that his forces “rescued 128 people, sent thousands of meals in there and it worked.” Prince boasted of his company’s rapid response, saying, “We surged 145 guys in 36 hours from our facility five states away and we beat the Louisiana National Guard to the scene.” What Prince failed to mention was that at the time of the disaster, at least 35% of the Louisiana National Guard was deployed in Iraq. One National Guard soldier in New Orleans at the time spoke to Reuters, saying, “They (the Bush administration) care more about Iraq and Afghanistan than here… We are doing the best we can with the resources we have, but almost all of our guys are in Iraq.” Much of the National Guard’s equipment was in Iraq at the time, including high water vehicles, Humvees, refuelers and generators.

Prince also said that he had a plan to create a massive humanitarian vessel that, with the generous support of major corporations, could have responded to natural disasters, such as earthquakes and tsunamis across the globe. “I thought, man, the military has perfected how to move men and equipment into combat, why can’t we do that for the humanitarian side?” Prince said. The ship Prince wanted to use for these missions was an 800 foot container vessel capable of shipping “1700 containers, which would have lined up six and a half miles of humanitarian assistance with another 250 vehicles” onboard. “We could have gotten almost all those boxes donated. It would have been boxes that would have had generator sets from Caterpillar, grain from ADM [Archer Daniels Midland], anti-biotics from pharmaceutical companies, all the stuff you need to do massive humanitarian assistance,” Prince said, adding that it “would have had turnkey fuel support, food, surgical, portable surgical hospitals, beds cots, blankets, all the above.” Prince says he was going to do the work for free, “on spec,” but “instead we got attacked politically and ended up paying tens of millions of dollars in lawyer bills the last few years. It’s an unfortunate misuse of resources because a boat like that sure would have been handy for the Haitian people right now.”

Outing Erik Prince

Prince also addressed what he described as his outing as a CIA asset working on sensitive US government programs. He has previously blamed Congressional Democrats and the news media for naming him as working on the US assassination program. The US intelligence apparatus “depends heavily on Americans that are not employed by the government to facilitate greater success and access for the intelligence community,” Prince said. “It’s unprecedented to have people outed by name, especially ones that were running highly classified programs. And as much as the left got animated about Valerie Plame, outing people by name for other very very sensitive programs was unprecedented and definitely threw me under the bus.”

May 4, 2010 Posted by | Blackwater, CIA, Civilian Contractors, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blackwater Founder Accused in Court of Intent to Kill

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 29, 2009

The founder of Blackwater USA deliberately caused the deaths of innocent civilians in a series of shootings in Iraq, attorneys for Iraqis suing the security contractor told a federal judge Friday.

The attorneys singled out Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL who is the company’s owner, for blame in the deaths of more than 20 Iraqis between 2005 and 2007. Six former Blackwater guards were criminally charged in 14 of the shootings, and family members and victims’ estates sued Prince, Blackwater (now called Xe Services LLC) and a group of related companies.

“The person responsible for these deaths is Mr. Prince,” Susan L. Burke, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. “He had the intent, he provided the weapons, he provided the instructions, and they were done by his agents and they were war crimes.”

Judge T.S. Ellis III expressed deep skepticism about the claims. “Are you accusing Mr. Prince of saying ‘I want our boys to go out and shoot innocent civilians?’ ” he asked the attorneys.”These are certainly allegations of not engaging in very nice conduct, but where are the elements that meet the elements of murder? I don’t have any doubt that you can infer malice. What you can’t infer, as far as I can tell, is intent to kill these people.”

Attorneysfor the former Blackwater company denied the allegations at the hearing, which was called to consider their motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Ellis said he would issue a ruling “promptly.”

The hearing — combative in its words but respectful in tone — was the latest fallout from Blackwater’s controversial actions in Iraq. The North Carolina company, which has provided security under a lucrative State Department contract, has come under scrutiny for a string of incidents in which its heavily armed guards were accused of using excessive force.

The deadliest was a September 2007 shooting in central Baghdad in which Blackwater guards opened fire on Iraqis in a crowded street, killing 17 civilians. The company has said the guards’ convoy came under fire. Five former Blackwater guards have been indicted on federal charges in 14 of those shootings. A sixth guard pleaded guilty.

The lawsuit cites that incident and other shootings to accuse the company of “lawless behavior.” A consolidation of five earlier lawsuits, it says the company covered up killings and hired known mercenaries. In sworn affidavits recently filed by the plaintiffs’ attorneys, two anonymous former Blackwater employees also say — without citing evidence — that the company may have conspired to murder witnesses in the criminal probe.

Attorneys for Blackwater say the lawsuit should be dismissed on a variety of legal grounds and that although the deaths were tragic, the guards were closely supervised by U.S. government officials. The allegations “go far beyond describing the harm allegedly suffered by Plaintiffs,” the Blackwater attorneys wrote in their motion to dismiss. “They include an encyclopedia of vituperative assertions.”

The Blackwater attorneys are also calling on the judge to strike the affidavits from the former employees from the court record, calling them “scandalous and baseless” and designed to get publicity. Ellis has yet to rule on that motion.

Original Story here

August 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment