Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Wackenhut, Murder, and Vetting Employees

The Washington Post  Associated Press October 1, 2012WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court won’t let the family of a raped and murdered college girl sue the employer of her killers for her 1979 death.

The high court on Monday refused to let the parents of Janet Chandler sue Wackenhut Corp., which in 1979 was hired to send security guards to Holland, Mich., to provide security during a strike.

Chandler, who was a 23-year-old college student working at a hotel, was kidnaped, raped and killed by Wackenhut guards, who then covered up her death. Six people were convicted of first or second degree murder, five of whom worked for Wackenhut. But the federal courts have said Chandler’s family cannot sue Wackenhut for her long-ago death.The high court refused to reconsider that ruling.

October 1, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Civilian Police, Contractor Oversight, Lawsuits, Vetting Employees, Wackenhut | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DynCorp and Justin Pope

By David Isenberg at IISS  June 14, 2012

On June 6 the Detroit Metro Times published an article, Soldier of Misfortune, that deserves much more attention that it has gotten thus far. So let’s take a look at it. What follows relies principally on and borrows heavily from the article.

In 2006, after surviving one tour of duty in Iraq and another in Afghanistan, Cpl. Justin Pope was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. In 2007 he took a job with DynCorp, a private military contractor providing security at the American embassy in Erbil, Iraq. Pope completed a one year assignment with DynCorp, before agreeing to a second one-year assignment, beginning in the fall of 2008.

What is not disputed is that on the night of March 4, 2009, Pope was in his room at the embassy compound when a single bullet from a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun fired at point-blank range entered his mouth, passed through his brain and exited the back of his skull.

But what his family refuses to believe is the official account of that killing, a story of mutual, reckless gunplay detailed in the files of the U.S. District Court in Gulfport, Mississippi. That is where Kyle Palmer, a young man who went to war with Pope and claimed to love him like a brother, pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to three years in federal prison.

As someone with no special knowledge of the case I can’t say who ultimately was at fault but even if you accept the official version, that Pope’s death happened due to reckless horseplay, it still doesn’t speak well for either corporate professionalism or accountability. As the article notes:

Detroit attorney William Goodman, who along with law partner Julie Hurwitz is representing Pope’s family in a recently filed lawsuit, offers a big-picture look at what he sees at stake: a system designed to protect private military contractors such as DynCorp, even if they are guilty of “gross negligence and deliberate indifference to the rights of their employees, peoples of foreign lands and American public officials.”

“Moreover,” he contends, “this system shields private military contractors from any accountability even when an employee is killed while off duty as the direct result of the contractor’s own wrongdoing, or is killed by another employee of the contractor. This is simply outrageous. Even more disturbing, it extends the immunity that was once reserved to the government, to private corporations, even further reinforcing the notion that we are ruled not by a democratic government but, rather, by avaricious private interests.”

Pope’s family, sickened by the official account of his death which paints him as an irresponsible participant in his own demise, went to court once already in an attempt to force the discovery of information they hope will shed new light on what happened that night in Iraq a little more than three years ago. That first suit, filed in federal court, was dismissed last September. The judge ruled, in part, that any right to sue for negligence had been waived when Pope signed his contract with DynCorp. He also determined that the company was shielded by something known as the Defense Base Act, a 1941 law that creates a “federal compensation scheme for defense contractors and employees when such employee suffers injury or death while working outside of the United States.”

Now Pope’s survivors, a group that includes his wife, 11-year-old son, mother, stepfather, brothers and sisters, have launched a second lawsuit, in the U.S. District Court in Detroit.

This time, instead of claiming negligence, it is being alleged that the company and more than a dozen of its employees at the time conspired to cover up what actually occurred the night Pope was killed.

The company isn’t answering questions about the case. When contacted by Metro Times, a DynCorp International spokeswoman responded with this e-mail:

This was an extremely tragic accident that occurred several years ago, after working hours, when personnel were allegedly drinking alcohol in violation of Company policy. Although our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Pope’s family and loved ones, the allegations contained within the suit are without merit. Please be advised that the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan fully dismissed a related lawsuit last year.

When I contacted DynCorp I received the same quote.

Although not named in the suit, the U.S. State Department, which investigated the killing, is part of the cover-up, says the family and its attorneys.

The family first learned that something bad had happened to Justin when his wife, Ashley, received a call from a DynCorp employee around 5:30 p.m. Detroit time on March 4, 2009, informing her that Justin had been in an “accident” — and that it was serious. A second call informed them that he’d been shot in the “neck,” and that he’d been airlifted by helicopter to a hospital. A third call brought the news that Justin had died.

The next day, two women arrived at Ashley’s home where family members had gathered. They were Anne Boffo and her daughter Natalie. Natalie was Kyle Palmer’s fiancée, and the couple had socialized with Ashley and Justin when they all lived in Jacksonville, N.C., where the guys were stationed at Camp Lejeune.

Anne Boffo’s husband and Natalie’s father, Michael Boffo, is a former Marine who, at the time, was project manager for DynCorp International’s protective services unit in Iraq. According to court records, he supervised a group of 151 people. Included in that number were Kyle Palmer and Justin Pope.

It was through their connection to Michael Boffo that Kyle and Justin went to work for DynCorp. Kyle had two previous drunk driving arrests that had to be expunged from his record before the company would hire him. When the Boffos arrived, Ashley didn’t yet know it was Palmer who had shot and killed her husband. In fact, other than learning that he’d been shot, she had no information about how he died.

The next to arrive was DynCorp employee Mike Kehoe who’d flown to Michigan from Iraq. Ashley says Kehoe initially told her that Justin was alone in his room when he died.

“He asked me if Justin had been depressed about anything,” Ashley recalls.

The implication, she says, was that Justin might have committed suicide.

No one in his family believed that to be remotely possible.

Then the story changed, says the family. Justin was cleaning his weapon, they were told, and it accidentally misfired. Family members say they immediately dismissed that possibility as well. Justin, they say, had an intense concern regarding firearm safety.

Kevin Pope, Justin’s oldest brother, made handwritten notes as events unfolded. Among other things, he remarked about how Keho had shown up with paperwork for Ashley to sign. There were two insurance policies — one for $250,000 and other for $50,000 — that had to be processed.

“Mike [Kehoe] also said it would be probably two or three more days before we would have word on how he died.”

That claim was made even though court records would reveal that State Department investigators, who were in the area working on another case, were on the scene within an hour.

Palmer showed up in Michigan four days after the shooting to attend services for his friend. It was then that he confessed to Ashley that he was somehow involved, but that he had been too drunk at the time of the shooting to have a clear recollection of it. He did remember seeing someone else’s hand on the gun.

According to Kevin Pope’s contemporaneous notes, “Sunday the 8th Palmer was here in the Courtyard Marriott where I met him in the afternoon. I talked with Palmer alone in the hotel room. … He said both of their hands were on the gun. He said he was convulsing after that. He said he thinks Justin only had one Corona. I think he made it sound like he had a lot more to drink. He did say there was another guy in the room.”

Three days later Kevin wrote: “Palmer and Natalie came to Ashley’s on Wednesday night the 11th around midnight. I asked Palmer how long Justin’s blood was pumping after he was shot. Palmer answered that he didn’t remember anything until he woke up several hours later. … I told Palmer my brother loved him and I do too. I told him I forgive him if he’s living with guilt and he told me it means a lot.”

However, the stories being told to the family kept changing. They say now that it is difficult to keep track of all the versions of Justin’s death that were presented to them by both Palmer and DynCorp officials. The scenario evolved from Pope being alone in his room to him being there with Palmer and “possibly” one other person to there being a room full of people.

It wasn’t until Palmer, fired from DynCorp because of the killing, was back in the United States, in Gulfport, Miss., that investigators were able to extract a confession from him. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter, a felony that carries a maximum prison sentence of eight years. Under the original plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to request that Palmer serve no prison time whatsoever. Five years of supervised probation would be his penalty.

Before sentencing, the prosecutor read into the record what he says the government would be able to prove if the case were to go to trial.

The defendant and Pope were close friends who had served together in the U.S. Marine Corps during the battle of Fallujah back in Iraq in 2005. Both had been trained as snipers and were well versed in firearms, including their function and procedures for safely handling weapons.

The evidence would also show that in the late evening hours of March 4th and continuing into the early hours of March 5th of 2009, an informal party or get-together was taking place at Justin Pope’s embassy-provided residence inside the State Department embassy compound in Erbil. Pope, the defendant, and others had been escorting the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq during the day.

There were approximately eight to ten contractors in this small bedroom. Most had consumed alcohol. Indeed, the defendant had drank two bottles of wine, several beers, and some whiskey by himself before and during the party. The defendant himself believed that he was so drunk that he would not have been able to legally operate a motor vehicle. Pope was not drunk that night, and some people present believed he may have had one beer, but a toxicology report reflected there was no alcohol present in Pope’s system at the time of his death.

During the party, Justin Pope and the defendant had engaged in some playful and friendly wrestling on Pope’s bed. After that wrestling had concluded, the evidence would show that the defendant [Palmer] went to a bed at the opposite end of the room and stood there while Pope went to his desk. From his desk, Pope retrieved his 9-millimeter Glock 19 handgun. The evidence would show that Pope then went over to the bed where the defendant was standing. Pope pulled back the slide of his Glock handgun at least once, expelling an unfired round of ammunition. The defendant never saw Pope removing the magazine from the weapon, and the action, in the absence of seeing the magazine removed, made it clear that the gun was in fact loaded.

Pope then began to dance on the bed with the defendant while Pope was waiving the gun around. Justin Pope, in a joking manner, pointed the gun at the defendant’s head. So the evidence that the government would have collected would show that this was consistent with a game that is sometimes played with a semiautomatic handgun among Marines, a game sometimes referred to as a “Trust Me” game, where a loaded handgun is pointed at a friend and the friend is expected to trust the possessor of the weapon not to shoot him.

After that pointing of the weapon at the defendant, the defendant and Pope began wrestling, although not wrestling for possession of the gun, but friendly wrestling. After that wrestling concluded, the defendant at some point took the firearm from Pope. Then, as Pope had done, the defendant at some point took the firearm from Pope. Then, as Pope had done, the defendant pointed the gun at Justin Pope’s head. Witnesses are prepared to testify that Pope then said, in substance and in part, either ‘Do it’ or ‘Pull the trigger’ or something in that manner.

The defendant, still extremely intoxicated, pulled the trigger of the gun without checking to see whether the gun was loaded. The gun discharged a bullet, and the bullet struck Justin Pope in the head. Justin Pope collapsed on the bed. Although others in the room immediately provided medical assistance and attention and Justin Pope remained alive for a short period of time, he died soon after without regaining consciousness.

Pope’s family members say the official version of Justin’s death is as far-fetched as the stories that he’d possibly killed himself, or that his gun had accidentally misfired while being cleaned.

Which is why, after their first lawsuit had been dismissed (which they are appealing, acting as their own lawyers), they found new attorneys and are trying to get back in court again. Because this, in essence, is what they are being asked to accept: that a stone-cold sober Justin Pope — a guy who had never been anything less than intense about handling firearms safely — danced around waving a loaded pistol, and then “playfully” wrestled with another man while holding the weapon. And then, the most incredible part: that he would take that gun, knowing it was loaded, and hand the weapon to a guy wasted on alcohol and, with that gun maybe three feet from his face say, “Go ahead, pull the trigger.”

Aside from the family’s disbelief based on Justin’s character, there is an autopsy — conducted by the Armed Forces Institute of pathology in Rockville, Md. — that appears to call into doubt that official version of events.

As part of the first lawsuit, forensic pathologist Dr. Werner Spitz reviewed the autopsy report and a CD containing photographs of the body. In a sworn affidavit, Spitz reported that “in addition to the injuries directly associated with the gunshot wound, Justin suffered bruising in the upper eyelid, bridge of his nose, inside of his upper lip, outside of his left arm and the back side of his right hand as well as two fractured teeth.”

That raises the possibility that the “playful wrestling” described by the prosecution may really have been a fight.

Also of concern to the family is a conversation they say took place with State Department investigator Scott Banker and prosecutor David Jaffe at the U.S. federal building in Detroit just before the official version of events was presented to the court in Mississippi.

The family was told in that meeting that the truth of what happened might never be known because the DynCorp employees present when the shooting occurred either weren’t talking or were providing conflicting stories.

If the government wasn’t sure what the truth really was, why didn’t they press on with the investigation? The family says they have never been given an answer to that question.

The fact that it makes no sense is what has the family searching for a more plausible explanation.

One possibility says Pope’s mother, is that her son had a problem with something that had occurred among members of the security detail, or was concerned about something improper involving DynCorp.

She says that, shortly before his death, Justin told her he was considering asking for a transfer to a new assignment in Pakistan, even though that job would pay less than the one in Iraq. She says too that he seemed troubled by something on his last visit home a few weeks before he died.

Meanwhile while many people who worked with Kyle Palmer wrote letters testifying to his good qualities there is, however, another side to Palmer that isn’t revealed in these letters. It is a side of him captured on a video camera while he was still working for DynCorp in Iraq. Kevin Pope found it on his brother’s laptop computer when it was returned to the family after Justin’s death. It is a video posted on YouTube showing yet another party taking place among DynCorp employees at their Ebril quarters. Kyle is in that video — which features some raucous beer-bonging — even though alcohol consumption was, officially anyway, strictly prohibited.)

The video found on Justin’s computer was provided to the judge in Mississippi. It too is part of the court record. At the start of the five-minute recording, Palmer is clearly pictured. The cameraman sounds to be drunk, hiccupping frequently before putting the camera down before leaving the room because he has to “go pee.”

The camera continues to roll, but the screen goes dark. What gets captured, however, is the audio, resulting in a sort of theater of the absurd.

Palmer is clearly wasted, and one of his co-workers is trying to assist him.

There are two voices, one of which Pope’s family says is clearly Palmer’s. It’s not known who is trying to help him as he lays in bed, a trash can placed alongside in case he has to vomit.

“Stop touching me now,” Palmer says.

“Why are you so fucked up?”

“I’ll kill you now,” Palmer says.

“Whoa, whoa.”

“I’m going to fuckin’ fuck you up now.”

It goes on in that vein for a few minutes, with Palmer telling the man who’s trying to help him that he “smells like a nigger.” The man starts jabbing him.

“Goddam it, quit hitting me in the ribs,” Palmer yells.

“It’ll be a lot worse if you keep that up,” is the reply.

After a few more minutes someone else enters the room and you hear Palmer say, “Ah, shit, the boss man. We’re fucked now.”

“Just hit the can,” says the new voice, apparently that of a supervisor.

“Leave me alone,” Palmer says.

“It’s happened to me more than once,” the supervisor says, laughing.

And then, apparently referring to the assignment completed earlier, “Good fucking job tonight guys. Good fucking job.”

He then notices the camera.

“Don’t leave that on,” he says.

“Oh, shit,” says the other man.

And then it ends.

The article concludes with this, “Avoiding a trial has been the sole objective of DynCorp and they have changed their explanation of this tragedy several times. They continue to resist any testimony that might reveal the truth.”

Even if one believes that Pope was killed due to the horseplay between him and Palmer that leaves other questions unanswered. For example, why would DynCorp even hire someone with two drunk driving arrests on their record? Is that what DynCorp calls doing due diligence when vetting prospective employees? And what were DynCorp supervisors doing in terms of checking for alcohol, which never should have been there in the first place?

Also, I am not a lawyer, but Pope’s employment agreement with DynCorp (as mentioned in the case dismissal last September) states:

The Employee understands and accepts the fact that he or she will be exposed to dangers due to the nature of the mission. The Employee agrees that neither Employer nor its affiliates will be liable in the event of death, injury, or disability to Employee. Employer will obtain the insurance described in Attachment A on behalf of the Employee and the Employee agrees to accept these insurance benefits as full satisfaction of any claim for death, injury, or disability the Employee or the Employee’s representatives and heirs may have against Employer and its affiliates.

But if DynCorp supervisors were negligent in allowing alcohol use at their facility when it was banned is that not a “danger” that DynCorp created? After all, even the judge, while dismissing the suit, conceded that Pope’s death occurred during the course of DynCorp employment:

With respect to whether his death occurred in the [*25] course of employment, Pope was in Iraq at DynCorp’s premises based on the “obligations” and “conditions” of his Employment Agreement. See O’Leary, 340 U.S. at 507. Pope had just returned from his shift for the day and was positioned in his room provided by DynCorp on DynCorp’s premises. He was placed in a “zone of special danger” in which an accidental shooting by Palmer occurred based on such “obligations” and “conditions” of Pope’s employment with DynCorp. See id. Whether Pope and other DynCorp employees were participating in recreational activities is irrelevant as it is not necessary that Pope be engaged in an activity for the benefit of DynCorp at the time of his killing. See id. Therefore, Pope’s death occurred within the “course of his employment.” Accordingly, Pope’s death is one which is covered by the DBA.

Furthermore, even though this suit was dismissed it raises important questions, which to my mind have yet to be answered, such as:

a. Failure to ensure that the gun was properly unloaded and stored away from individuals.

b. Improperly allowing DynCorp individuals to consume alcohol and be under the influence of alcohol on DynCorp property.

c. Improperly allowing DynCorp to pull their loaded weapons on DynCorp property.

We should also note that even though that the federal suit was dismissed it didn’t exactly absolve DynCorp of wrongdoing. It didn’t say that Pope was at fault or that DynCorp was innocent. What it did say was this:

Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment are essentially identical with respect to their substantive arguments. They seek dismissal of Plaintiff’s action for two reasons. First, Defendants argue that the DBA and Longshore Act bar Plaintiff’s wrongful death suit against DynCorp and Palmer. Second, Defendants alternatively argue that the Employment Agreement contains a liability waiver provision barring Plaintiff from bringing any claim against DynCorp and Palmer for the death of Pope.

Please see the original and read much more at Davids blog

June 14, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Defense Base Act, DynCorp, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Former Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Paul Terrell, Civilian Contractor, Murdered in Afghanistan

Editors Note:  A murder would be covered under the DBA, a suicide would not….

Vicki Terrell  Comment left on November 7, 2010

I know for a fact the the CID in Afghanistan do not investigate all of the cases!

My husband, Paul A. Terrell, was murdered on base at Camp Phoenix on June 17, 2010 and they are trying to say that it was a suicide. It was NOT suicide! He had only been back on base for a few hours after a 2 week vacation home.

He was retired from the US Navy and on his third tour as a civilian contractor.

His passport is still missing along with his cell phone he had just called me from.

They have given me at least 5 places where his passport is and every place they say claims to not have it.

He was hung in his shop in the early hours of June 17.

When they sent me the list of evidence from the scene, the top of the list was a cigarette butt. When I told them that my husband did NOT smoke, they said they would do DNA on the cigarette.

Now they claim that the DNA matched and when they sent his things home they DID NOT send his shaving kit (obviously where I could have gotten DNA).

They waited to send everything home until he was cremated so I could not get his DNA.

Thinking I could trust the military to due a proper investigation

I WILL eventually find out what happened and clear my husband’s name, but until then there will not be any closure for myself or our 2 granddaughters that we are raising. I have contacted 2 of his friends there only to be hung up on or ignored.

It makes me wonder if they are afraid or been ordered not to talk to me.

If anyone out there knows of someone that will investigate this, please let me know.

My husband was not depressed or unhappy. He was there to serve his country and make the money to send our girls to college. We were very happily married without problems. A few hours before he had even gone jogging and told these friends about us looking for a new home in Florida on his vacation!

I ask you…Is this a man that would have committed suicide? Absolutely not…He WAS murdered!!!

February 24, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Has the UN learned lessons of Bosnian sex slavery revealed in Rachel Weisz film?

The Whistleblower is a shocking film that reveals how Balkan peacekeepers turned a blind eye to kidnapping, torture and rape. But these abuses still go on

“Those girls are whores of war. It happens.”

The Guardian  January 14, 2012

We do not see the torture inflicted on one girl for trying to flee her captors, but we see the tears of her fellow slaves forced to watch. We see the iron bar tossed on to the cellar floor when the punishment is over, and we know what has happened.

The Whistleblower spares you little. It is a film about that most depraved of crimes: trafficking women for enslaved sex, rape and even murder.

As a dramatised portrayal of reality, however, The Whistleblower is “a day at the beach compared to what happened in real life”, says its director, Larysa Kondracki. “We show what is just about permissible to show. We couldn’t possibly include the three-week desensitisation period, when they burn the girls in particular places. We couldn’t really capture the hopelessness of life these women are subjected to.”

Starring Rachel Weisz, The Whistleblower, released tomorrow on DVD, is the most searing drama-documentary of recent years and has won many prizes. But more important than the accolades is that everything in the film is true. The film deals with enslavement and rape in Bosnia, not during wartime 20 years ago but during the peace. Worse, not only were the enslaved women’s “clients” soldiers and police officers – so too were the traffickers, protected at the top of the United Nations operation in Bosnia

Please read the entire story here

January 15, 2012 Posted by | Balkans, Civilian Contractors, DynCorp, Human Trafficking, Rape, United Nations | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Abu Ghraib Inmates Lose U.S. High Court Bid to Sue Contractors

by Greg Stohr at Bloomberg News  June 27, 2011

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to revive a lawsuit that accused two military contractors of abusing inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, turning away an appeal by 26 onetime prisoners.

The inmates sought to sue CACI International Inc. (CACI), which helped interrogate prisoners at the facility, and Titan Corp., which provided translation services. Titan has since been renamed and is now part of L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. (LLL)

The inmates, who were civilian detainees, said they were subjected to abuses by CACI and Titan employees including beatings, sexual humiliation, exposure to extreme temperatures and rape. In court papers, the inmates said some prisoners were tortured into unconsciousness and several were murdered.

Abu Ghraib became an international embarrassment for the U.S. in 2004, when photographs surfaced showing guards mistreating inmates.

Please read the entire report at Bloomberg News

June 27, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Government Contractor, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pakistan court indicts CIA contractor Raymond Davis for double murder

By Mubasher Bokhari at Rueters Africa March 16, 2011

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – A Pakistani court on Wednesday formally charged a CIA contractor on two counts of murder at a hearing held at a prison in Lahore, a police official said, in a move that may further strain relations with the United States.

Raymond Davis, 36, shot dead two Pakistanis in the eastern Punjab city on January 27 following what he described as an attempted armed robbery. He said he acted in self-defence and the United States says he has diplomatic immunity and should be repatriated.

“He has been indicted,” a police investigator assigned to the case told Reuters from inside Kot Lakhpat prison, where the trial is being held under tight security.

If convicted, Davis could face the death penalty.  Please read the entire article here

March 16, 2011 Posted by | CIA, Civilian Contractors, Government Contractor, Legal Jurisdictions, Pakistan, 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

UNREST IN PAKISTAN OVER “CONTRACTOR” SHOOTING

FAMILY OF SLAIN DEMANDS HANGING FOR PHONY AMERICAN “DIPLOMAT”

By Gordon Duff And Raja Mujtaba at Veterans Today

“Victims shot in the back repeatedly”

Protests throughout the city of Lahore, university students, various political parties, demanded stiff punishment for a group of Americans, one identified initially as “Raymond Allen Davis,” now “identity unknown,”  held on a variety of charges including 2 counts of murder along with four American security contractors  currently being sought after fleeing the scene of a vehicular homicide in a related incident.

“Davis” is accused of two counts of murder and terrorism related charges.  The other four, named to police but withheld from the media, are being sought for questioning in relation to a vehicular homicide while moving in traffic to assist “Davis.”  The four, though described by Davis and the American press to be “diplomats” are believed to be security contractors who entered Pakistan illegally under assumed identities.

The four not yet in custody, believed to be Americans, fled the scene after killing Ibadur Rehman, a local merchant, during a bizarre incident this week.  The Americans, mis-identified by the US Embassy as “diplomats” are believed involved in cover or “black ops” operations inside Pakistan, reportedly against the government of Pakistan, America’s primary ally in the region.

The victim of the vehicle homicide, Rehman, a bicyclist traveling on Jail Road in Lahore, was struck and killed by a four wheel drive vehicle that was part of what “Davis” describes as a “mission” in his statement to police.

According to the statement, the two vehicles, the Honda rental with “cloned” plates driven by “Davis”  and the “chase vehicle,”  a 4 wheel drive vehicle not registered to the American consulate, containing a 4 man armed security team, were heading toward the Mozang Chungi district.

Mozang Chungi is a densely populated are of small shops and street vendors typically only used by local residents.  Security sources in Pakistan state:

“No American tourist or diplomat would ever go there, certainly not two car loads of heavily armed private contractors equipped for a mission of some kind.  The only possible reason to be there would be terrorism.  The area has been attacked before by terrorists, taking advantage of the crowds and confusion.  We suspect we may have stumbled on the source of previous terror attacks and, in fact, broken up what may have become another ‘Mumbai.’

This is a classic terrorist cover, false identity, phony license plates, car filled with weapons, radios and surveillance gear.”

Please read the entire story here

“DAVIS” UNDER “SEMI-HOUSE ARREST” WITHDRAWN

Authorities in Lahore, Pakistan were allowing “Davis” to spend his nights at the American consulate and his days at a local police station.  But now due to mounting pressures this arrangement has been cancelled. The United States government continues to demand the release of “Davis” though it has also refused to identify him or his associates or state their actual mission in Pakistan.

“Davis” is believed to be a native of Las Vegas, 36 years old with a military background in Special Forces.  An internet search shows him to operate under a “one man” Florida based security company but there is, of yet, no known relationship between this entity and any State Department overseas mission.

A check of passport records show that “Davis” has traveled between Pakistan and Afghanistan 9 times during the past 18 months.

February 2, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Legal Jurisdictions, Pakistan, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Robert Landon, Security Contractor, sentenced in secret hearing in Afghanistan

Adelaide Now

Former South Australian soldier’s 20-year jail term in Afghanistan labeled a death sentence

A 20-YEAR jail term in Afghanistan for former South Australian soldier, Robert Langdon, has been branded “a virtual death sentence” by his lawyer.

It was revealed last night that Mr Langdon, 38, a security contractor and former Australian Army soldier, was sentenced in a secret hearing by the Supreme Court in October last year.

His health had seriously declined after October 2009, when an Afghan court found him guilty of murdering a fellow security contractor in May 2009 and sentenced him to death by hanging. He has always maintained that he shot the man in self-defence.

Mr Langdon is in Pol-e-Charkhi prison, which his Adelaide lawyer, Stephen Kenny, said last night was “the equivalent of a death sentence”.

Mr Langdon’s current state of health is not known.

Mr Kenny told The Advertiser he had not been officially contacted by the Afghani courts to confirm the decision.

“I have not spoken to him (Langdon) yet, but we would be very concerned about a 20-year prison sentence in Afghanistan,” he said.

Mr Kenny refused to rule out the possibility of appealing against the decision.

“We will need to look at what has happened. What our options are, and the possible outcomes of those.”

Mr Langdon’s family, who live in Port Augusta, declined to comment last night.

After twice being sentenced to death, at his initial trial and then at his appeal in January last year, Mr Langdon paid a sizeable amount of compensation, known as ibra, to appease the dead man’s family.

Mr Kenny travelled to Afghanistan in May last year hoping the compensation and forgiveness could save Mr Langdon’s life.

His former army mates also set up a fighting fund last year to contribute to the compensation payment. Such “act of grace” payments are routine when a local is killed by coalition forces. The amounts vary but most are in the vicinity of $20,000, which is a fortune for poor Afghans.

Mr Langdon grew up on Billa Kalina Station, 170km southeast of Coober Pedy and served as a corporal with the 1st Battalion in East Timor in 2000.

He was arrested and charged with murder following the shooting last May. At the time, he was acting as head of security for a convoy in Afghanistan which had already faced a Taliban attack.

There was an incident involving an Afghan security contractor who had halted the vehicles, but Mr Langdon wanted to keep moving.

“When Mr Langdon approached him to discuss the matter, the security contractor drew his gun on him and Mr Langdon shot him in self-defence,” Mr Kenny told The Advertiser last year.

“He’s always maintained it was self-defence . . . we want to make sure even in Afghanistan he gets what would be considered a fair go.”

Last year, Mr Langdon’s Port Augusta-based sister Katie Godfrey said she was worried about her brother’s deteriorating health and that he had lost 20kg.  Please see the original here

January 5, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Government won’t seek death penalty in Afghan murder case

The Virginian-Pilot

The federal government has decided not to pursue the death penalty against two former security workers charged with slaying two Afghan civilians while working in Kabul last year.

Lawyers for Christopher Drotleff and Justin Cannon expressed relief at the news Monday.

“I’m delighted,” said Virginia Beach defense attorney Lawrence H. Woodward Jr., who represents Drotleff.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Cannon’s lawyer, James Broccoletti. “The next step would be for them to drop the case.”

Drotleff, of Virginia Beach, and Cannon, of Corpus Christi, Texas, still could face life in prison if convicted of murder and related charges. The trial is scheduled for Sept. 14, and U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar reminded the lawyers that he does not anticipate the trial being continued.

Drotleff and Cannon were employed by a subsidiary of the Moyock, N.C.-based security firm Xe, once called Blackwater, last May when they became involved in a traffic accident that ended in gunfire with two Afghan civilians dead and a third wounded. The government alleges the two workers had left their post, were armed without authorization and had been drinking that day. Drotleff and Cannon say they fired in self-defense.

At a brief court hearing Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Stoker told Doumar the government would not seek a death sentence in the case, but provided the court with no reason or explanation as to how that decision was made.

Generally, the Justice Department’s Capital Case Committee reviews each case that is eligible for the death penalty. The ultimate decision is approved by the attorney general.

Drotleff and Cannon appeared relieved after the hearing, smiling and shaking hands with their attorneys. Drotleff’s wife and his mother, who sat through the proceeding, declined to comment afterward.

The next step in the case is a motions hearing scheduled for June 16.

Woodward told the court that prosecutors have turned over more than 5,000 pages of discovery in the case.

Tim McGlone, (757) 446-2343, tim.mcglone@pilotonline.com

April 20, 2010 Posted by | Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , , | Leave a comment