Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Scahill’

Obama Administration Keeping Blackwater Armed and Dangerous in Afghanistan

June 20, 2010

by Jeremy Scahill, The Nation, June 20, 2010

Blackwater is up for sale and its shadowy owner, Erik Prince, is rumored to be planning to move to the United Arab Emirates as his top deputies face indictment for a range of alleged crimes, yet the company remains a central part of President Obama’s Afghanistan war. Now, Blackwater’s role is expanding.

On Friday, the US State Department awarded Blackwater another “diplomatic security” contract to protect US officials in Afghanistan. CBS News reports that the $120 million deal is for “protective services” at the US consulates in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif. Blackwater has another security contract in Afghanistan worth $200 million and trains Afghan forces. The company also works for the CIA and the US military and provides bodyguards for US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry as well as US lawmakers and other officials who visit the country. The company has four forward operating bases in Afghanistan and Prince has boasted that Blackwater’s counter-narcotics forces have called in NATO airstrikes.

The new security contract was awarded to one of Blackwater’s alter egos, the United States Training Center, despite the indictments of five senior company officials on bribery, weapons and conspiracy charges. Its operatives in both Afghanistan and Iraq have been indicted for killing innocent civilians. The Senate Armed Services Committee has called on the Justice Department to investigate Blackwater’s use of a shell company, Paravant, to win training contracts in Afghanistan. Despite these and numerous other scandals, the State Department once again awarded the company a lucrative contract.

“Under federal acquisition regulations, the prosecution of the specific Blackwater individuals does not preclude the company or its successive companies and subsidiaries from bidding on contracts,” a State Department spokesperson told CBS. “On the basis of full and open competition, the department performed a full technical evaluation of all proposals and determined the US Training Center has the best ability and qualifications to meet the contract requirements.”

Representative Jan Schakowsky, who chairs the Intelligence Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, immediately blasted the State Department’s awarding of the contract to Blackwater. “This is a company whose cowboy-like behavior has not only resulted in civilian deaths; it has also jeopardized our mission and the safety of U.S. troops and diplomatic personnel worldwide.  Instead of punishing Blackwater for its extensive history of serious abuses the State Department is rewarding the company with up to $120 million in taxpayer funds,” Schakowsky said. “I strongly believe that the former Blackwater should not be receiving further U.S. contracts, and I have repeatedly urged the U.S. government to no longer do business with this company. Though the name Blackwater has become synonymous with the worst of contractor abuses, the bigger problem is our dangerous reliance on such companies for the business of waging war.”

Earlier this year, Schakowsky and Senator Bernie Sanders reintroduced the Stop Outsourcing Security Act, which would phase out the use of private security contractors by the government. Ironically, Hillary Clinton was a co-sponsor of the legislation when she was a senator and running for president. Now, as Secretary of State, she is the US official in charge of most Blackwater contracts. Blackwater is also bidding on a contract potentially worth up to $1 billion to train the Afghan National Police.

© 2010 The Nation

Scahill: Pentagon Seeks Private Contractor to Move Weapons Through Pakistan/Afghanistan

May 26, 2010

Jeremy Scahill, The Nation, May 25, 2010

The United States military is in the process of taking bids from private war contractors to secure and ship massive amounts of US military equipment through sensitive areas of Pakistan into Afghanistan where it will then be distributed to various US Forward Operating Bases and other facilities. According to the contract solicitation [PDF], “There will be an average of 5000” import shipments “transiting the Afghanistan and Pakistan ground lines of communication (GLOC) per month, along with 500 export shipments.” The solicitation states that, “This number may increase or decrease due to US military transportation requirements,” adding, “The contractor must maintain a constant capability to surge to any location within Afghanistan or Pakistan” within a 30-day period. Among the duties the contractor will perform is “intelligence, to include threat assessments throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

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Scahill: What Accountability, Mr. President?

May 12, 2010

Obama on Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan: ‘I am Accountable’

by  Jeremy Scahill, CommonDreams.org, May 12, 2010

During his White House press conference Wednesday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, President Obama addressed the issue of civilian deaths caused by US operations in Afghanistan. “I take no pleasure in hearing a report that a civilian has been killed,” said Obama. “That’s not why I ran for president, that’s not why I’m Commander in Chief.”

“Let me be very clear about what I told President Karazi: When there is a civilian casualty, that is not just a political problem for me. I am ultimately accountable, just as Gen. McChrystal is accountable, for somebody who is not on the battlefield who got killed,” said Obama.

That statement is quite remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it is not true. How are President Obama or Gen. McChrystal accountable? Afghans have little, if any, recourse for civilian deaths. They cannot press their case in international courts because the US doesn’t recognize an International Criminal Court with jurisdiction over US forces, Afghan courts have not and will not be given jurisdiction and Attorney General Eric Holder has made clear that the Justice Department will not permit cases against US military officials brought by foreign victims to proceed in US courts to go forward. So, what does it mean to be accountable for civilian deaths? Public apology? Press conferences? A handful of courts martial?

Obama praised US forces for their restraint in Afghanistan, saying, “Because of Gen McChrystal’s direction, often times they’re holding fire, they’re hesitating, they’re being cautious about how they operate even though it would be safer for  them to go ahead and take these locations out.”

But how does that square with recent, heinous instances of civilian killings in Afghanistan? In February, for example, US special forces shot and killed five people, including three women who collectively had 16 children. The US military tried to cover it up and blame it on the Taliban, saying coalition forces “found the bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed.” The New York Times reported that military officials had “suggested that the women had all been stabbed to death or had died by other means before the raid, implying that their own relatives may have killed them.”

Later, General McChrystal’s command admitted US-led forces had done the killing, saying it was an accident. This was hard to square with reports that soldiers may have dug bullets out of the dead bodies to try to cover it up. The head of the Joint Special Operations Command, Vice Admiral William McRaven, eventually apologized to the family of the dead Afghans and offered them two sheep as a condolence gift. Was this accountability?

Or, what about the incident last May when US warplanes bombed civilian houses in Farah province killing more than 100 people? The dead, according to the Red Cross, included an “Afghan Red Crescent volunteer and 13 members of his family who had been sheltering from fighting in a house that was bombed” in the air strike. US Military sources floated the story to NBC and other outlets that Taliban fighters used grenades to kill three families to “stage” a massacre and then blame it on the US.

“War is tough and difficult and mistakes are gonna be made,” President Obama said today. Part of the problem, though, is that when “mistakes” happen and civilians are killed, attempts are made to cover them up or to blame them on the Taliban.

© 2010 The Nation

Jeremy Scahill is the author of the New York Times bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is currently a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at the Nation Institute.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates Confirms Blackwater in Pakistan

January 22, 2010

by Jeremy Scahill, Rebel Reports, Jan 21, 2010


In an interview with the Pakistani TV station Express TV, Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirmed that the private security firms Blackwater and DynCorp are operating inside Pakistan. “They’re operating as individual companies here in Pakistan,” Gates said, according to a DoD transcript of the interview. “There are rules concerning the contracting companies.  If they’re contracting with us or with the State Department here in Pakistan, then there are very clear rules set forth by the State Department and by ourselves.”

This appears to be a contradiction of previous statements made by the Defense Department, by Blackwater, by the Pakistani government and by the US embassy in Islamabad, all of whom claimed Blackwater was not in the country. In September, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, denied Blackwater’s presence in the country, stating bluntly, “Blackwater is not operating in Pakistan.” In December in The Nation magazine, I reported on Blackwater’s work for JSOC in Pakistan and on a subcontract with a private Pakistani security company. The Pentagon did not issue any clear public denials, and instead tried to pass the buck to the State Department, which in turn passed it to the US embassy, which in turn issued an unsigned statement saying the story was false.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said on numerous occasions that he would resign if it is proven that Blackwater is operating inside Pakistan.

Asked what the US response would be if the Pakistani parliament passed a law banning private security companies, Gates said, “If it’s Pakistani law, we will absolutely comply.”

Asked about Seymour Hersh’s recent report in The New Yorker that US special forces were inside Pakistan helping to secure the country’s nuclear weapons, Gates said, “Well, you know, we sometimes have journalistic reports in the United States that aren’t terribly accurate either.  You can’t respond to all of them.  I think that one was not true.”

US Security Company Offers to Perform “High Threat Terminations” and to Confront “Worker Unrest” in Haiti

January 20, 2010

Here we go: New Orleans 2.0

By Jeremy Scahill, Rebel Reports, Jan 18, 2010

We saw this type of Iraq-style disaster profiteering in New Orleans and you can expect to see a lot more of this in Haiti over the coming days, weeks and months. Private security companies are seeing big dollar signs in Haiti thanks in no small part to the media hype about “looters.” After Katrina, the number of private security companies registered (and unregistered) multiplied overnight. Banks, wealthy individuals, the US government all hired private security. I even encountered Israeli mercenaries operating an armed check-point outside of an elite gated community in New Orleans. They worked for a company called Instinctive Shooting International. (That is not a joke).

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Blackwater and the Khost Bombing: Is the CIA Deceiving Congress?

January 7, 2010

Jeremy Scahill, The Nation, January 6, 2009

A leading member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has told The Nation that she will launch an investigation into why two Blackwater contractors were among the dead in the December 30 suicide bombing at the CIA station at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan. “The Intelligence Committees and the public were led to believe that the CIA was phasing out its contracts with Blackwater and now we find out that there is this ongoing presence,” said Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky, chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, in an interview. “Is the CIA once again deceiving us about the relationship with Blackwater?”

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Stunning Statistics About the War Every American Should Know

December 18, 2009

Contrary to popular belief, the US actually has 189,000 personnel on the ground in Afghanistan right now—and that number is quickly rising.

By Jeremy Scahill, RebelReports, Dec 18, 2009

A hearing in Sen. Claire McCaskill’s Contract Oversight subcommittee on contracting in Afghanistan has highlighted some important statistics that provide a window into the extent to which the Obama administration has picked up the Bush-era war privatization baton and sprinted with it. Overall, contractors now comprise a whopping 69% of the Department of Defense’s total workforce, “the highest ratio of contractors to military personnel in US history.” That’s not in one war zone—that’s the Pentagon in its entirety.

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The Secret US War In Pakistan

December 7, 2009

By Jeremy ScahillZNet, Dec 7, 2009
Source: The Nation
Jeremy Scahill’s ZSpace Page

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, “snatch and grabs” of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

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Blackwater’s Secret War in Pakistan

November 24, 2009

Jeremy Scahill, The Nation, Nov 23, 2009

At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, “snatch and grabs” of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help run a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.

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Where is the Defund Blackwater Act?

September 25, 2009

Democrats joined Republicans in voting to “Defund ACORN,” yet have done nothing to stop Blackwater’s ongoing taxpayer funded crusade in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By Jeremy Scahill, RebelReports, Sep 24, 2009

Republican Congressional leaders are continuing their witch-hunt against ACORN, the grassroots community group dedicated to helping poor and working class people. This campaign now unfortunately has gained bi-partisan legislative support in the form of the Defund ACORN Act of 2009 which has now passed the House and Senate. As Ryan Grim at Huffington Post has pointed out, the legislation “could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex:”

The congressional legislation intended to defund ACORN, passed with broad bipartisan support, is written so broadly that it applies to “any organization” that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things.

According to the Project on Oversight and Government Reform, this legislation could potentially eliminate a virtual Who’s Who of war contractors including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and KBR to other corporations such as AT&T, FedEx and Dell.

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