Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Real Reason Blackwater Is Still Getting Your Tax Dollars

For more than year now, only one person has gotten the ugly truth about murdering, criminal military contractor Blackwater: Jeremy Scahill at The Nation.

Now Scahill reveals the real reason Blackwater is still sucking up millions of taxpayer dollars in new government contracts:

In an interview Sunday on ABC's "This Week," CIA Director Leon Panetta made it clear that the Agency is dependent upon private security companies to operate globally. But, not just any private security companies. Specifically, Panetta said, the CIA needs Blackwater.


Blackwater is still Blackwater. Yes, the company changed its name and yes they hired some new figureheads and yes Erik Prince says he is selling the company and leaving the government services business. But let's be clear: this is a company that remains under serious investigation by multiple US agencies and Congress for a range of alleged crimes and violations. Among these are weapons charges, murder, manslaughter, conspiracy, making false statements and using shell companies to win contracts that may not have been awarded to Blackwater if the company's true identity was clear. Most recently, McClatchy revealed that "the U.S. government and the private military contractor are negotiating a multimillion-dollar fine to settle allegations that Blackwater violated U.S. export control regulations in Sudan, Iraq and elsewhere."


Panetta said that the CIA had reviewed Blackwater's work for the Agency "to ensure that first and foremost, that we have no contract in which they are engaged in any CIA operations," adding, "We're doing our own operations. That's important, that we not contract that out to anybody." This is simply an blatanly misleading statement.

I have talked with many US military and Blackwater sources who have told me point-blank that while Blackwater technically is hired for "security," they regularly are pulled into operations. The Blackwater guys are not dime store rent-a-cops. Many of them are former Navy SEALs or other US special forces veterans--precisely the type of men recruited by the CIA's paramilitary division for operations. The idea that the Blackwater guys are just standing around Afghanistan or any other war zone (declared or not) smoking cigarettes and admiring their tattoos while their colleagues who happen to officially work for the CIA chase the bad guys is simply not true. Blackwater forces have been a major part of sensitive US operations almost from the moment the US went into Afghanistan in 2001.


No one is paying any attention to what should be a major part of the story of Blackwater's thriving second marriage to the current Administration: the money trail. Blackwater has spent heavily this year on lobbyists—particularly Democratic ones. In the first quarter of 2010, the company spent more than $500,000 for the services of Stuart Eizenstat, a well-connected Democratic lobbyist who served in the Clinton and Carter administrations. Eizenstat heads the international practice for the powerhouse law and lobbying firm Covington and Burling.

Put that together with two other important facts about Blackwater and you get a clear picture of why this company continues to win contracts. First, Blackwater does have the market pretty well cornered on providing large numbers of seasoned special forces veterans, security clearance in-hand, ready for rapid deployment. This results from a dramatic over reliance on using private companies--specifically Blackwater-- for security that has expanded rapidly over the past decade. The US government has not moved to create its own force that could provide these services despite the need for them created by US foreign policy. Second, Blackwater has been involved with so many sensitive operations for a decade and knows where the bodies are buried and who buried them. Those are not the kind of people you simply cut loose without fear of consequences.

Blackwater has spent heavily on Democratic lobbyists in 2010 and clearly it has paid off. Despite the investigations, the indictments, the trail of dead bodies, George W Bush's favorite mercenary company is thriving under the Obama Administration. After its original sugar daddy left town, Blackwater has happily remarried. Over the past two weeks, the Administration has awarded nearly a quarter billion dollars in new US government contracts to Blackwater to work for the State Department and CIA in Afghanistan and other hot zones globally.

Read the whole thing.

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