Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Confessions of a Private Security Contractor

 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

December 27, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Blackwater, CIA, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, State Department | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

U.S. pursuing legal protections for contractors still in Iraq

Stars and Stripes  December 14, 2011

BAGHDAD — The United States is still pursuing an agreement with the government of Iraq that could provide defense contractors working for the U.S. State Department with some legal protections in 2012, U.S. embassy and military officials said last week.

While diplomats and service members working for the State Department are shielded by diplomatic immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law, the thousands of private contractors who will be working for the agency in have no such protections.

Contractors have lacked immunity from Iraqi law since 2009, when a new status of forces agreement excluded them.

However, with the pullout of the remaining 50,000 troops from Iraq this year, contractors say they now feel more vulnerable to danger, both from potentially corrupt Iraqi police and from anti-American groups.

“You have to cross a major Iraqi road and, should the [Iraqi police or Iraqi army] decide, they might begin detaining American personnel,” said one contractor, who asked for anonymity because his company has not authorized him to speak publicly.

It remains unclear whether a new agreement could include immunity, an idea which is highly unpopular in Iraq. Talks over allowing thousands of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq in 2012 collapsed in October after it became clear that Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki wouldn’t be able push immunity for troops through an Iraqi parliament vote.

Opposition to contractor immunity largely stemmed from a September 2007 incident, where 17 Iraqis died after a confrontation with Blackwater security contractors.

However, some legal protections for contractors could still be gained through a diplomatic chapeau agreement, State officials said

Please read more here

December 14, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Out of Iraq: What Will the War Service Industry Do Now?

by Dina Rasor at Truthout  October 26, 2011

Jared Rodriguez/Truthout

I also talked about the new faction of military contracting, which I call the war service industry, and how it is going to handle the shrinking of this war, because they won’t have a hot war or occupation in Iraq to keep the billions of dollars flowing to their “life support” of the troops. I think that the Department of Defense (DoD) doesn’t really believe that we will pull out all the troops by December 31, 2011, and that the Iraqis will give our troops immunity so that some of them can stay.

That all changed when President Obama announced last Friday that the US will honor the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that was negotiated by the Bush administration and the Iraqi government to remove all US troops by year’s end. This has caused a lot of scrambling by the DoD and the State Department on how to make this work while still maintaining the largest and most expensive embassy in the world in Iraq, and continue to train the Iraqi troops.

Once again, the war service industry, which is already deeply entrenched in our nine-year occupation of Iraq, will step in and make sure that their money flow will be maintained, albeit at a smaller level. The tricky part is the immunity problem, which the State Department has found a way to solve – they will take over the war contractor contracts, which will put most of the contractors under diplomatic immunity and that can prevent contractors from being arrested by the Iraqi government and thrown into jail

Please read the entire article here

October 26, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contractor Oversight, Follow the Money, Iraq, KBR, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Deepening Mystery of Raymond Davis and Two Slain Pakistani Motorcyclists

By Dave Lindorff Special to Counter Punch

The mystery of American Raymond A. Davis, currently imprisoned in the custody of local police in Lahore, Pakistan and charged with the Jan. 27 murder of two young men, whom he allegedly shot eight times with pinpoint accuracy through his car windshield, is growing increasingly murky.

Also growing is the anger among Pakistanis that the US is trying to spring him from a Punjab jail by claiming diplomatic immunity. On Feb. 4, there were massive demonstrations, especially in Lahore, demanding that Davis be held for trial, an indication of the level of public anger at talk of granting him immunity.

Davis (whose identity was first denied and later confirmed by the US Embassy in Islamabad), and the embassy have claimed that he was hired as an employee of a US security company called Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, which was said to be located at 5100 North Lane in Orlando, Florida. Business cards for Hyperion were found on Davis by arresting officers.

However CounterPunch has investigated and discovered the following information:

First, there is not and never has been any such company located at the 5100 North Lane address. It is only an empty storefront, with empty shelves along one wall and an empty counter on the opposite wall, with just a lone used Coke cup sitting on it. A leasing agency sign is on the window.  A receptionist at the IB Green & Associates rental agency located in Leesburg, Florida, said that her agency, which handles the property, part of a desolate-looking strip mall of mostly empty storefronts, has never leased to a Hyperion Protective Consultants. She added, “In fact, until recently, we had for several years occupied that address ourselves.”

The Florida Secretary of State’s office, meanwhile, which requires all Florida companies, including LLSs  (limited liability partnerships), to register, has no record, current or lapsed, of a Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, and there is only one company with the name Hyperion registered at all in the state. It is Hyperion Communications, a company based in W. Palm Beach, that has no connection with Davis or with security-related activities.

The non-existent Hyperion Protective Consultants does have a website (www.hyperion-protective.com),

(this website was taken down but you can see the text from it here) but one of the phone numbers listed doesn’t work, an 800 number produces a recorded answer offering information about how to deal with or fend off bank foreclosures, and a third number with an Orlando exchange goes to a recording giving Hyperion’s corporate name and asking the caller to leave a message. Efforts to contact anyone on that line were unsuccessful. The local phone company says there is no public listing for Hyperion Protective Consultants–a rather unusual situation for a legitimate business operation.

Pakistani journalists have been speculating that Davis is either a CIA agent or is working as a contractor for some private mercenary firm–possibly Xe, the reincarnation of Blackwater. They are not alone in their suspicions. Jeff Stein, writing in the Washington Post on January 27, suggested after interviewing Fred Burton, a veteran of the State Department’s counter-terrorism Security Service, that Davis may have been involved in intelligence activity, either as a CIA employee under embassy cover or as a contract worker at the time of the shootings. Burton, who currently works with Stratfor, an Austin, TX-based “global intelligence” firm,  even speculates that the shootings may have been a “spy meeting gone awry,”  and not, as US Embassy and State Department officials are claiming, a case of an attempted robbery or car-jacking.

Even the information about what actually transpired is sketchy at this point. American media reports have Davis driving in Mozang, a busy commercial section of Lahore, and being approached by two threatening men on motorcycles. The US says he fired in self-defense, through his windshield with his Beretta pistol, remarkably hitting both men four times and killing both. He then exited his car and photographed both victims with his cell phone, before being arrested by local Lahore police. Davis, 36, reportedly a former Special Forces officer, was promptly jailed on two counts of murder, and despite protests by the US Embassy and the State Department that he  is a “consular official” responsible for “security,” he continues to be held pending trial.

What has not been reported in the US media, but which reporter Shaukat Qadir of the Pakistani Express Tribune, says has been stated by Lahore police authorities, is that the two dead motorcyclists were each shot two times, “probably the fatal shots,” in the back by Davis. They were also both shot twice from the front. Such ballistics don’t mesh nicely with a protestation of self-defense.

Also left unmentioned in the US media is what else was found in Davis’ possession. Lahore police say that in addition to the Beretta he was still holding, and three cell phones retrieved from his pockets, they found a loaded Glock pistol in his car, along with three full magazines, and a “small telescope.”  Again, heavy arms for a consular security officer not even in the act of guarding any embassy personnel, and what’s with the telescope?  Also unmentioned in US accounts: his car was not an embassy vehicle, but was a local rental car.

American news reports say that a “consular vehicle” sped to Davis’ aid after the shooting incident and killed another motorcyclist enroute, before speeding away. The driver of that car is being sought by Lahore prosecutors but has not been identified or produced by US Embassy officials. According to Lahore police, however, the car in question, rather than coming to Davis’s aid, actually had been accompanying Davis’s sedan, and when the shooting happened, it “sped away,” killing the third motorcyclist as it raced off. Again a substantially different story that raises more questions about what this drive into the Mozang district was all about.

Davis has so far not said why he was driving, heavily armed, without anyone else in his vehicle, in a private rental car in a business section of Lahore where foreign embassy staff would not normally be seen. He is reportedly remaining silent and is leaving all statements to the US Embassy.

The US claim that Davis has diplomatic immunity hinges first and foremost on whether he is actually a “functionary” of the consulate.  According to Lahore police investigators, he was arrested carrying a regular US passport, which had a business visa, not a diplomatic visa. The US reportedly only later supplied a diplomatic passport carrying a diplomatic visa that had been obtained not in the US before his departure, but in Islamabad, the country’s capital.

(Note: It is not unusual, though it is not publicly advertised, for the US State Department to issue duplicate passports to certain Americans. When I was working for Business Week magazine in Hong Kong in the early 1990s, and was dispatched often into China on reporting assignments, my bureau chief advised me that I could take a letter signed by her to the US Consulate in Hong Kong and request a second passport. One would be used exclusively to enter China posing as a tourist. The other would be used for going in officially as a journalist. The reason for this subterfuge, which was supported by the State Department, was that  once Chinese visa officials have spotted a Chinese “journalist” visa stamped in a passport, they would never again allow that person to enter the country without first obtaining such a visa. The problem is that a journalist visa places strict limits on a reporter’s independent travel and access to sources. As a tourist, however, the same reporter could – illegally — travel freely and report without being accompanied by meddling foreign affairs office “handlers.”)

Considerable US pressure is currently being brought to bear on the Pakistani national government to hand over Davis to the US, and the country’s Interior Minister yesterday issued a statement accepting that Davis was a consular official as claimed by the US.  But Punjab state authorities are not cooperating, and so far the national government is saying it is up to local authorities and the courts to decide whether his alleged crime of murder would, even if he is a legitimate consular employee, override a claim of diplomatic immunity.

Under Pakistani law, only actual consular functionaries, not service workers at embassy and consulate, have diplomatic status. Furthermore, no immunity would apply in the case of “serious” crimes–and certainly murder is as serious as it gets.

The US media have been uncritically quoting the State Department as saying that Pakistan is “violating” the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 by holding Davis in jail on murder charges. Those reporters should check the actual document.

Section II, Article 41 of the treaty, in its first paragraph regarding the “Personal inviolability of consular officers,” states:

“Consular officers shall not be liable to arrest or detention pending trial, except in the case of a grave crime and pursuant to a decision by the competent judicial authority.”

In other words, the prosecutorial, police and judicial authorities in Lahore and the state of Punjab are doing exactly what they are supposed to do in holding Davis on murder charges, pending a judicial determination concerning whether or not he can properly claim diplomatic immunity.

The US claim that Pakistan is violating the convention is simply nonsense.

There is also the matter of double standards. The US routinely violates the Vienna Diplomatic Accord that governs international diplomatic rights. For example, the same convention requires countries that arrest, jail and prosecute foreigners for crimes to promptly notify the person’s home country embassy, and to grant that embassy the right to provide legal counsel. Yet the US has arrested, charged with murder, and executed many foreign nationals without ever notifying their embassies of their legal jeopardy, and has, on a number of occasions, even gone ahead with executions after a convict’s home country has learned of the situation and requested a stay and a retrial with an embassy-provided defense attorney.  The US, in 1997, also prosecuted, over the objections of the government of Georgia, a Georgian embassy diplomat charged with the murder of a 16-year-old girl.

Apparently diplomatic immunity has more to do with the relative power of the government in question and of the embassy in question than with the simple words in a treaty.

It remains to be seen whether Davis will ever actually stand trial in Pakistan. The US is pushing hard in Islamabad for his release. On the other hand, his arrest and detention, and the pressure by the US Embassy to spring him, are leading to an outpouring of rage among Pakistanis at a very volatile time, with the Middle East facing a wave of popular uprisings against US-backed autocracies, and with Pakistan itself, increasingly a powder keg, being bombed by US rocket-firing pilotless drone aircraft.

Some Pakistani publications, meanwhile, are speculating that Davis, beyond simple spying, may have been involved in subversive activities in the country, possibly linked to the wave of terror bombings that have been destabilizing the central government. They note that both of the slain motorcyclists (the third dead man appears to have been an innocent victim of the incident) were themselves armed with pistols, though neither had apparently drawn his weapon.

A State Department official, contacted by Counterpunch, refused to provide any details about the nature of Davis’ employment, or to offer an explanation for Hyperion Protective Consultants LLC’s fictitious address, and its lack of registration with the Florida Secretary of State’s office.

Davis is currently scheduled for a court date on Feb. 11 to consider the issue of whether or not he has immunity from prosecution.  Please see the original here

February 8, 2011 Posted by | CIA, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, Legal Jurisdictions, NATO, Pakistan, Pentagon, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Efforts to Prosecute Blackwater Are Collapsing

by James Risen The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Nearly four years after the federal government began a string of investigations and criminal prosecutions against Blackwater Worldwide personnel accused of murder and other violent crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, the cases are beginning to fall apart, burdened by a legal obstacle of the government’s own making.

In the most recent and closely watched case, the Justice Department on Monday said that it would not seek murder charges against Andrew J. Moonen, a Blackwater armorer accused of killing a guard assigned to an Iraqi vice president on Dec. 24, 2006. Justice officials said that they were abandoning the case after an investigation that began in early 2007, and included trips to Baghdad by federal prosecutors and F.B.I. agents to interview Iraqi witnesses.

The government’s decision to drop the Moonen case follows a series of failures by prosecutors around the country in cases aimed at former personnel of Blackwater, which is now known as Xe Services. In September, a Virginia jury was unable to reach a verdict in the murder trial of two former Blackwater guards accused of killing two Afghan civilians. Late last year, charges were dismissed against five former Blackwater guards who had been indicted on manslaughter and related weapons charges in a September 2007 shooting incident in Nisour Square in Baghdad, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed.

Interviews with lawyers involved in the cases, outside legal experts and a review of some records show that federal prosecutors have failed to overcome a series of legal hurdles, including the difficulties of obtaining evidence in war zones, of gaining proper jurisdiction for prosecutions in American civilian courts, and of overcoming immunity deals given to defendants by American officials on the scene.

“The battlefield,” said Charles Rose, a professor at Stetson University College of Law in Florida, “is not a place that lends itself to the preservation of evidence.”

The difficulty of these cases also illustrates the tricky legal questions raised by the government’s increasing use of private contractors in war zones.

Such problems clearly plagued the Moonen case. In the immediate aftermath of the Christmas Eve shooting, Mr. Moonen was interviewed, not by the F.B.I., but by an official with the Regional Security Office of the United States Embassy in Baghdad, the State Department unit that supervised Blackwater security guards in Iraq.

Mr. Moonen’s lawyer, Stewart Riley, said that his client gave the embassy officials a statement only after he was issued a so-called Garrity warning — a threat that he might lose his job if he did not talk, but that he would be granted immunity from prosecution for anything he said.

The legal warning and protection given to Mr. Moonen were similar to warnings that embassy officials later gave to Blackwater guards involved in the Nisour Square case. In each case, the agreements presented an obstacle to prosecution in the United States. In effect, the Blackwater personnel were given a form of immunity from prosecution by the people they were working for and helping to protect.

“Once you immunize statements, it is really hard to prosecute,” said Andrew Leipold, a law professor at the University of Illinois. “In the field, the people providing the immunity may value finding out what happened more than they do any possibility of prosecution. But that just makes any future prosecution really very hard.”

Justice Department officials declined to comment Wednesday about specific Blackwater cases. But the department has appealed the dismissal of the Nisour Square case, and a new trial has been scheduled for next March in the Virginia murder case after a mistrial was declared. And Justice officials noted that the government had had a number of successful prosecutions against contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, including several for sexual assaults and other violent crimes. More than 120 companies have been charged by the Justice Department for contract fraud and related crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, officials said.

Still, a Justice official who spoke on the condition of anonymity acknowledged that the government had faced tough obstacles. “There are substantial difficulties in prosecuting cases committed in war zones,” the official said. “There’s problems with the availability of witnesses, availability of evidence, and the quality of the evidence. You also have claims of self-defense, which are generally difficult, although not insurmountable.”

And self-defense is a more compelling argument in war zones, where many people are routinely armed.

Read the entire article here

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Legal Jurisdictions | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blumenauer demands that Pentagon explain KBR immunity deal

Julie Sullivan The Oregonian

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer is demanding that the Pentagon explain how war contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root may have been granted immunity from harming any soldier or civilian in Iraq.

In a sharply worded letter Wednesday, Blumenauer gave the secretary of defense five days to produce details of KBR’s claims of indemnification. The details of a secret agreement have emerged in a U.S. District Court case in Portland and were reported Tuesday in The Oregonian. Blumenauer said he plans to take his concerns to colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee.

“I find this mind-numbing,” Blumenauer said after sending the letter to Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.

Twenty-six Oregon Army National Guard veterans who guarded KBR employees restoring Iraqi oil production in 2003 are suing the contractor, claiming the contractor knowingly or negligently exposed them to a cancer-causing chemical. Another 140 Indiana National Guard veterans have filed a similar suit. Read the entire story here

July 15, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, KBR, Pentagon, Safety and Security Issues, Toxic | , , , | Leave a comment