Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

2nd ex-Blackwater worker Justin Cannon gets 30 months for manslaughter

by Bill Sizemore at The Virginian Pilot  June 27, 2011

A second former Blackwater contractor was sentenced to prison for involuntary manslaughter today in the 2009 shooting death of a civilian in Afghanistan.

Justin Cannon of Corpus Christi, Texas, was sentenced to 30 months by U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar.

A Virginia Beach man, Christopher Drotleff, received a 37-month sentence earlier this month for his actions in the same incident.

The two were charged with murder and convicted of the lesser charge in March after an earlier trial ended in a hung jury. They are the first contractors for the Moyock, N.C.-based security company now known as Xe Services to get prison time for killing a civilian in a war zone.

Cannon and Drotleff were working for a Blackwater subsidiary providing weapons training to the Afghan army under a Defense Department subcontract.

Please read the details at The Virginian Pilot

June 27, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Security Contractor | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ex-Blackwater worker gets 37 months in Afghan’s death

Bill Sizemore The Virginian Pilot  June 14, 2011

NORFOLK  A former Blackwater contractor from Virginia Beach was sentenced to 37 months in prison today for involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 shooting death of a civilian in Afghanistan.

Christopher Drotleff is the first contractor for the Moyock, N.C.-based security company now known as Xe Services to get prison time for killing a civilian in a war zone. A second man, Justin Cannon of Corpus Christi, Texas, has been convicted in the same case and faces sentencing later this month.

The two were charged with murder and tried twice. Their first trial, in September, ended in a hung jury. The manslaughter convictions in their March retrial appeared to be a compromise verdict.

Drotleff and Cannon were working for Paravant, a Blackwater subsidiary, providing weapons training for the Afghan army under a Defense Department subcontract when their two-vehicle convoy became involved in a traffic accident in Kabul, the Afghan capital, in May 2009.

They were off duty at the time and had been drinking, according to testimony.

Fareed Haji Ahmad, driving home from dinner with a co-worker, approached the scene in his Toyota Corolla and offered to help, he testified. He became confused, he said, when three men waved him on but a fourth told him to stop.

When he drove off, Drotleff and Cannon opened fire on the retreating vehicle, according to testimony. Ahmad’s passenger, Romal Mohammad Naiem, was killed.

A pedestrian, Rahib Mirza Mohammad, out walking with a friend and a dog, was also shot in the back of the head and died a month later. The contractors were acquitted of charges in his death.

Please read the entire story here

June 14, 2011 Posted by | Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Security Contractor, Xe | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Contractors Fight Over Money & Deaths

Courthouse News March 11, 2011

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) – Paravant, a private security firm, says it’s not its fault that its independent contractors killed two Afghan civilians and injured a third. It claims that Raytheon Technical Services, which hired it, “improperly demanded that Paravant indemnify it” for costs of investigating the killings, which were done “by Paravant agents when off duty and not performing under the parties’ contract.”
Paravant sued Raytheon in Fairfax County Court.
Raytheon hired Paravant as a subcontractor to train the Afghan National Army personnel in Afghanistan under Raytheon’s prime contract with the U.S. Army.
Four of Paravant’s “independent contractors” were involved in a “widely publicized” incident of May 5, 2009 in which two Afghanis were killed and another was injured, according to the complaint.
“At the time of the incident, the independent contractors were off-duty, away from any work location, and not performing any services specified in the Purchase Order,” Paravant says.
After months of investigations by various government organizations, “Raytheon for the first time claimed indemnification of Paravant for over $1 million of costs it claimed arose from the May 5 incident, principally related to attorney’s fees and expenses of Raytheon to respond to the governmental inquiries,” according to the complaint.
Paravant claims that Raytheon has refused to pay it $2.6 million it owes for Paravant’s work on the contract.
Paravant seeks a declaration that it owes no indemnification to Raytheon for the incident and that Raytheon owes it the $2.6 million.
Paravant is represented by David O’Brien with Crowell & Moring of Washington, D.C

March 11, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Security Contractor, Xe | , , , , | Leave a comment

Security contractors accused of killing civilians to be retried

CNN Justice Jury selection begins Tuesday in the retrial of two U.S. security contractors accused of killing two Afghanistan civilians.

In September, a federal judge declared a mistrial in the case against Christopher Drotleff and Justin Cannon after the jury in the case said they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

Drotleff and Cannon worked as security contractors for a subsidiary of Xe, the military contracting firm formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide.

Each were charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in connection with a May 2009 shooting in Kabul, Afghanistan.

The 12-count, 19-page indictment returned by a federal grand jury in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia also included weapons charges against the two men.

Both Drotleff and Cannon were in Afghanistan working for the security company Paravant — a subsidiary of Xe — to help the U.S. Army train Afghan troops.

Drotleff, Cannon and two other contractors, Steven McClain and Armando Hamid, were driving their interpreters on a busy Kabul street called Jalalabad Road on May 5, 2009, when they said a car slammed into one of their two cars.  Please see the original here

The men said they got out to help their colleagues, and the vehicle that had struck the car did a U-turn and headed back at them.

The contractors said they fired at the oncoming vehicle in self-defense.

The incident spotlights the issue of the role and conduct of U.S. security contractors in Afghanistan.

A similar issue arose in Iraq after a September 2007 confrontation involving then-Blackwater contractors that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead.

Blackwater lost its contract there after Iraq’s government refused to renew its operating license. The company then changed its name to Xe.

March 1, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Security Contractor, Xe | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Judge won’t drop charges against ex-Blackwater contractors

By Tim McGlone The Virginian-Pilot
NORFOLK

A federal judge today refused to throw out charges against two former Blackwater security workers accused of murdering two Afghan civilians, clearing the way for a September trial.

Lawyers for Christopher Drotleff and Justin Cannon challenged the constitutionality of the indictment against the two men, claiming that the long arm of the U.S. government cannot extend to Afghanistan soil.

U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar quickly dismissed that notion.

“You’re asking that he be sent back to Afghanistan” to face charges there? Doumar asked Cannon’s lawyer. “Is that what you really want?”

Drotleff and Cannon were charged under a 10-year-old act of Congress meant to close loopholes that prevented the government from charging nonmilitary civilians with crimes committed outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I think the act is constitutional,” Doumar said.

Drotleff, of Virginia Beach, and Cannon, of Texas, were employed by Paravant, a subsidiary of Blackwater (also known as Xe) in May 2009. They were based at Camp Alamo in Kabul, training the Afghan National Army on the use of weapons.

The indictment alleges that both men fired at unarmed Afghan civilians following a traffic accident in Kabul, killing two and wounding a third. The trial is set for Sept. 14.

July 9, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ex-Blackwater workers say U.S. charges are unlawful

By Tim McGlone The Virginian-Pilot
June 2, 2010    NORFOLK

Lawyers for two former Blackwater workers charged with murdering two Afghan civilians are mounting a constitutional challenge that has never been tested before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The government has had difficulties in the past gaining convictions against private contractors and military personnel for conduct in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This latest move represents the challenges faced by both sides in the murder case against Christopher Drotleff and Justin Cannon.

Both defendants filed a flurry of motions over the past two weeks seeking to have the case thrown out and, among other things, demanding the government turn over any evidence favorable to the defendants that it might have.

One joint motion calls for the dismissal of the indictment, arguing that Congress overstepped its authority when it passed a law, and several amendments, specifically targeting private contractors accused of crimes in war zones.

“Congress has attempted to expand federal criminal jurisdiction overseas in ways never imagined by the Founding Fathers,” Cannon’s attorneys wrote in a May 19 motion to dismiss.

The argument has been tried before, without success, but one federal judge in a similar case called it “rather strong.” Legal experts and a military analyst say the U.S. Supreme Court must eventually decide whether Congress went too far.  Read the full story here

June 2, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Former Blackwater workers charged with murder mount challenge

By Tim McGlone The Virginian-Pilot
May 28, 2010  NORFOLK

Lawyers for two former Blackwater workers charged with murdering two Afghan civilians are mounting a constitutional challenge that has never been tested before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The government has had difficulties in the past gaining convictions against private contractors and military personnel for conduct in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This latest move is indicative of the challenges faced by both sides in the murder case against Christopher Drotleff and Justin Cannon.

Both defendants filed a flurry of motions over the past two weeks seeking to have the case thrown out and, among other things, demanding that the government turn over any exculpatory evidence it might have.

One joint motion calls for the dismissal of the indictment, arguing that Congress overstepped its authority when it passed a law, and several amendments, specifically targeting private contractors accused of crimes in war zones.

“Congress has attempted to expand federal criminal jurisdiction overseas in ways never imagined by the Founding Fathers,” Cannon’s attorneys wrote in a May 19 motion to dismiss.

The arguments has been tried before without success, but one federal judge in a similar case called the argument “rather strong.” Legal experts and a military analyst say the U.S. Supreme Court must eventually decide whether Congress went too far.

U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar will hear arguments in the case on July 9.

Drotleff, of Virginia Beach, and Cannon, of Texas, were employed by Blackwater (also known as Xe) subsidiary Paravant in May 2009. They were based at Camp Alamo in Kabul, training the Afghan National Army on the use of weapons.

On the night of May 5 last year, Drotleff, Cannon and two other Paravant workers were driving three Afghan nationals, who worked as interpreters and computer technicians for the Army and private contractors, to a taxi stand.

The new filing paints a different picture of the ensuing events than what prosecutors have alleged, adding new details supporting their self-defense claim:

Driving in two vehicles on Jalalabad Road, which the State Department describes as one of the most dangerous Afghan roads and one where travel is tightly restricted, the Paravant workers say they were concerned about the safety of the Afghans. Drotleff, armed with an Army-issued handgun, drove one vehicle with Cannon riding in back protecting the rear with an assault rifle.

A speeding car pulled up on them from the rear, passed Drotleff and then wedged in between them, striking the lead Paravant vehicle. That Paravant driver lost control and crashed into a wall, injuring everyone inside.

As Drotleff and Cannon tried to help the injured, the car that caused the accident, or another car just like it, began heading toward them “again at a high rate of speed,” according to the May 19 court filing.

“Fearing for their own safety and the safety of their fellow Paravant employees and the Afghans, the defendants fired their weapons at the approaching car,” the court filing states.

The approaching car suddenly turned down a side street and sped away. Drotleff and Cannon did not learn until later that they had struck two people in the car as well as a third bystander walking by.

The pedestrian, Rahib Mirza Mohammad, also known as Rahib Heleludin, was shot in the head. He slipped into a coma and died about a month later. His father told the Los Angeles Times that his son was walking home from prayers that evening.

The passenger in the car, Romal Mohammad Naiem, was killed and the driver, Fareed Haji Ahmad, also known as Sayd Kamal, injured. Witnesses told the Times that those two young men were driving home from work when they were fired upon for no reason. They were unarmed.

A federal grand jury here indicted Drotleff and Cannon in January on 13 charges of murder and illegal use of firearms. They remain jailed without bond pending trial on Sept. 14.

Prosecutors said Drotleff had been drinking that day and fired out of aggravation over an unintentional traffic accident. They also say the contractors left Camp Alamo without permission and took weapons without authorization.

But defense attorneys say they have reviewed statements – supplied by prosecutors, the defendants’ coworkers, investigators, interpreters and Afghan nationals – and none indicated that Drotleff or Cannon had been drinking or were intoxicated that day. They also cite a report by the Army’s lead investigator into the incident that said alcohol was not a factor.

The attorneys have also asked the judge in the case to prohibit prosecutors from introducing evidence showing that the defendants were fired or that they had left the base and carried weapons without permission, calling such information irrelevant.

A larger challenge looming in the case is whether the charges against the defendants are legal under the U.S. Constitution.

Drotleff and Cannon were charged under a relatively new section of law called the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, passed by Congress in 2000 and amended several times since. The act was meant to close loopholes that prevented the government from charging non-military civilians with crimes committed outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The act “goes well beyond the enumerated powers of Congress,” the attorneys argue. Congress is limited, they said, to punishing for offenses involving navigation, trade, diplomacy, war, terrorism, torture or piracy that occur outside traditional U.S. borders. None of those apply here, they say, not even war, because the middle of Kabul is not a traditional battlefield.

The same arguments failed in similar criminal cases against Iraq and Afghanistan contractors, currently pending in Louisiana and Washington. The Washington case, the now-notorious 2007 Nisoor Square mass killings in Baghdad by five Blackwater contractors, was ultimately dismissed for other reasons.

Columbia Law School professor Scott Horton, who consulted with Congress on some of the MEJA amendments, said the Founding Fathers would have considered it “preposterous” to prosecute anyone outside the United States during the American Revolution, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t give Congress the authority to change the law.

“In the course of the 20th Century, the U.S. began getting assertive,” he said. “We would say there were certain types of crimes that affected U.S. interests. MEJA was designed to deal with those cases.”

The alternative, he wondered, is to let the foreign nations prosecute the contractors, which would create obvious problems of fairness.

Horton said challenges to MEJA are only now making their way through the federal appeals courts.

Eugene Fidell, a Yale law professor and president of the National Institute of Military Justice at American University, said he too has been following the issue and sees a likely Supreme Court challenge, though not one that would likely favor Drotleff and Cannon.

“To say that Congress lacks authority I think is a very tough row to hoe,” he said. “Congress does make a number of crimes extraterritorial for good reason. Would people really prefer to be prosecuted by an Afghan court?”

David Isenberg, a military analyst and author of a book on private contractors in Iraq, sees it differently, as the federal government “attempting to fit square pegs in round holes.” Still, “no one can say what the Supreme Court is going to say or do,” he said.  Original Story here

May 28, 2010 Posted by | Blackwater, Civilian Contractors | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Private Contractors Running Wild with Little Oversight, Paid For By YOU

May 27, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Levin urges Pentagon to rethink plans for $1 billion in new Blackwater contracts

Washington Post March 5

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee has issued a strong warning to the Defense Department over plans to award $1 billion in new contracts to the firm formerly known as Blackwater, accusing managers of the private security company of lying to win lucrative jobs in Afghanistan.

Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) also cited a history of allegedly abusive behavior by Blackwater employees, including misappropriation of government weapons and hiring of workers with criminal records that included assault and drug offenses.

Levin did not directly say that the Pentagon should cancel its plans for the contracts but urged officials to “consider the deficiencies” in Blackwater’s performance before making a final decision.

The firm’s inadequacies “appear to have . . . undermined our mission in Afghanistan,” the senator said in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

Levin released the letter Thursday after an investigation by his committee raised questions about efforts by Xe Services, as Blackwater is now known, to seek defense contracts to train Afghan National Army troops.

The company bid for the job through a subsidiary known as Paravant.

In applying for the contracts, Paravant submitted statements saying it had years of experience and a strong cadre of trained, thoroughly screened instructors. In reality, Paravant was a shell company created solely to conceal Xe’s involvement and to avoid what one executive with the firm “called the ‘baggage’ associated with the Blackwater name,” according to a statement issued by Levin’s office.

Evidence gathered by Levin’s investigators raised “very serious questions about Blackwater’s conduct,” the senator said in the letter to Gates.

In a separate letter, also released Thursday, Levin called on Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to launch an investigation into contract practices by Xe and Raytheon, which had hired Blackwater as a subcontractor.

Full Story here



March 5, 2010 Posted by | Blackwater, Private Military Contractors | , , , | Leave a comment

Senate Slams ‘Reckless’ Contractor

By AUGUST COLE

Wall Street Journal

Military contractors in Afghanistan affiliated with the security company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide regularly carried unauthorized weapons and engaged in “reckless” behavior that included the accidental shooting of a fellow contractor, a Senate investigation has found.

Investigators from the Senate Armed Services Committee also found weak oversight by the U.S. Army and Raytheon Co., which had hired the contractors from Paravant LLC to train Afghan forces. Paravant was a special unit set up by Blackwater to work for Raytheon on the contract.

The problems reveal a potential weak link in the Obama administration’s strategy to build up Afghan forces to secure the country, an approach that relies heavily on defense firms to conduct training missions that are difficult to oversee and often dangerous. It also reveals the risk big defense companies, such as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp., court as they consider whether to bid on what will amount to billions of dollars in future training contracts in war zones in the coming years. Xe Services LLC, which is the new name for the parent company of Blackwater Worldwide, is continuing to vie for such work.

The committee’s chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.) said misconduct by contractors in Afghanistan undermines U.S. efforts there. The Defense Department and civilian agencies are intent on winning over the Afghan populace to help stabilize the war-ravaged country. “If we are going to win that struggle we need to know that our contractor personnel are adequately screened, supervised, and held accountable, because in the end the Afghan people will hold us responsible for their actions,” said Mr. Levin at a briefing with reporters ahead of a Senate hearing Wednesday on the Paravant contract.

The Justice Department indicted two former military trainers working for Paravant in January for their alleged role in a May 2009 shooting in Kabul that left two Afghan civilians dead and another injured. The men were charged with second-degree murder, attempted murder and weapons charges. The men have said they acted in self-defense after a traffic accident.

In a statement, Xe said the company’s new management, brought in early last year, “was taking steps to address shortcomings in the Paravant program” at the time of the May 2009 incident. Xe also said that Raytheon and the Defense Department knew that Paravant contractors carried unauthorized weapons, and said they shouldn’t have been doing so without official approval, which was being sought. The two contractors involved in the May shooting “clearly violated clear company policies,” Xe said.

Prior to that incident, Senate investigators uncovered a December 2008 shooting that involved a senior Paravant trainer accidentally shooting a colleague during an impromptu practice session of firing assault rifles from moving vehicles. A Paravant executive wrote in a memo after the incident that “everyone on the team showed poor judgment.” There were about 72 trainers on the contract, but it was frequently undermanned, according to committee staffers. The Army was notified of the incident by Raytheon, but didn’t investigate it.

The trainers were not authorized to carry weapons. Yet Blackwater contractors had already taken hundreds of AK-47 rifles from a supply intended for use by the Afghan National Police, which was also where the Paravant trainers acquired their assault rifles, according to committee staffers. The company has yet to account for all of the weapons it removed from the depot, they said.

In September 2008, more than 200 assault rifles guns were signed out to “Eric Cartman,” which is the name of a character on the animated television show “South Park.” The company said it had no contractors by that name, according to committee staffers.

Mr. Levin was particularly critical of the companies, as well as the Army. He said of Raytheon’s supervision of Paravant: “They weren’t minding the shop at all.”

Raytheon declined to comment ahead of the hearing.

According to the committee, the Paravant subcontract was valued at about $20 million over two years as part of Raytheon’s approximately $11 billion U.S. Army training contract that stretches over 10 years.

Raytheon replaced Paravant with MPRI, a unit of L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., last year.

A spokesman for the U.S. Army office overseeing the training program declined to comment ahead of the hearing.

Mr. Levin was especially critical of Blackwater, who he said “misrepresented the facts” during the committee’s investigation and who he accused of operating with “carelessness and recklessness” in Afghanistan.

Raytheon and Xe executives are expected to appear as witnesses at Wednesday’s hearing.

February 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment