Bill Maher Warms Up For The Coming Apocalypse
I can't count the times JT has tipped me off first to the story that soon came to dominate the news cycle." - ROBERT STERLING
THE NEW YORK TIMES
by James Risen and Mark Mazzetti
WASHINGTON — Blackwater Worldwide created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq, according to Congressional investigators and former Blackwater officials.
While it is not clear how many of those businesses won contracts, at least three had deals with the United States military or the Central Intelligence Agency, according to former government and company officials. Since 2001, the intelligence agency has awarded up to $600 million in classified contracts to Blackwater and its affiliates, according to a United States government official.
The Senate Armed Services Committee this week released a chart that identified 31 affiliates of Blackwater, now known as Xe Services. The network was disclosed as part of a committee’s investigation into government contracting. The investigation revealed the lengths to which Blackwater went to continue winning contracts after Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in September 2007. That episode and other reports of abuses led to criminal and Congressional investigations, and cost the company its lucrative security contract with the State Department in Iraq.
The network of companies — which includes several businesses located in offshore tax havens — allowed Blackwater to obscure its involvement in government work from contracting officials or the public, and to assure a low profile for any of its classified activities, said former Blackwater officials, who, like the government officials, spoke only on condition of anonymity. [Read more…]
Service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan:
US Army SPC Ryan J Grady, 25, Bristow, OK
US Air Force Capt David A Wisniewski, 31, Moville, IA
US Army SGT Louis R Fastuca, 24, West Chester, PA
US Army SPC Clayton D McGarrah, 20, Harrison, AR
US Army PFC David Jefferson, 23, Philadelphia, PA
US Army SGT Jordan E Tuttle, 22, West Monroe, LA
US Army PFC Edwin C Wood, 18, Omaha, NE
US Army SSG Christopher F Cabacoy, 30, Virginia Beach, VA
US Army SGT Andrew J Creighton, 23, Laurel, DE
US Army PFC Jacob A Dennis, 22, Powder Springs, GA
US Army SPC Keenan A Cooper, 19, Wahpeton, ND
US Army SPC Jerod H Osborne, 20, Royse City, TX
US Army SSG Marc A Arizmendez, 30, Anaheim, CA
US Army SPC Roger Lee, 26, Monterey, CA
US Army PFC Michael S Pridham, 19, Louisville, KY
By Stephen C. Webster
Published: September 2, 2009
The mercenary group formerly known as Blackwater International, which was banned from Iraq by its government after a Baghdad massacre which killed 17 civilians, will see its contract extended in the country by the U.S. State Department, according to a published report.
ABC News reporter Kirit Radia notes: “Sources say the department has agreed to temporarily continue using the subsidiary known as Presidential Airways to provide helicopter transport for embassy employees around Iraq until a new contract with another security company, Dyncorp International, is fully implemented. Presidential Airways is an arm of U.S. Training Center, which is a subsidiary of the company Xe, formerly and still commonly known as Blackwater.”
Controversy has surrounded the private security firm practically since it was founded, but erupted anew recently when former employees accused Blackwater’s founder and former CEO of murdering or facilitating the murders of other employees who were preparing to blow the whistle on his alleged criminal activities.
The sworn statements also say that founder Erik Prince and Blackwater executives were involved in illegal weapons smuggling and had, on numerous occasions, ordered incriminating documents, e-mails, photos and video destroyed. The former employees described Blackwater as “having young girls provide oral sex to Enterprise members in the ‘Blackwater Man Camp’ in exchange for one American dollar.” They add even though Prince frequently visited this camp, he “failed to stop the ongoing use of prostitutes, including child prostitutes, by his men.”
One of the statements also charges that “Prince’s North Carolina operations had an ongoing wife-swapping and sex ring, which was participated in by many of Mr. Prince’s top executives.”
The former employees additionally claim that Prince was engaged in illegal arms dealing, money laundering, and tax evasion, that he created “a web of companies in order to obscure wrong-doing, fraud, and other crimes,” and that Blackwater’s chief financial officer had “resigned … stating he was not willing to go to jail for Erik Prince.”
The company was also allegedly involved in the planning stages of the CIA’s assassination program, which was reportedly never used, then scrapped by CIA chief Leon Panetta.
Prince has repeatedly insisted his company has done nothing wrong and Blackwater continues to fulfill its contracts with the United States government.
For the massacre of Iraqi civilians, five Blackwater guards were arrested and charged with manslaughter. A sixth guard flipped and agreed to testify against the others. Government informants later claimed the company tried to gather up and destroy weapons involved in the slaughter.
The State Department announced last January that it would not be renewing Blackwater’s contract for security services in Iraq when it was set to expire in May, however the Obama administration decided to extend it through Sept. 3, according to The Nation Jeremy Scahill.
ABC reported the new contract extension is for an unspecified amount of time and could end “within weeks or months.”
When it is finally allowed to expire, Blackwater’s involvement with Iraq will have ended, completely.
Civilian contractors working for the Pentagon in Afghanistan not only outnumber the uniformed troops, according to a report by a Congressional research group, but also form the highest ratio of contractors to military personnel recorded in any war in the history of the United States.
On a superficial level, the shift means that most of those representing the United States in the war will be wearing the scruffy cargo pants, polo shirts, baseball caps and other casual accouterments favored by overseas contractors rather than the fatigues and flight suits of the military.
More fundamentally, the contractors who are a majority of the force in what has become the most important American enterprise abroad are subject to lines of authority that are less clear-cut than they are for their military colleagues.
What is clear, the report says, is that when contractors for the Pentagon or other agencies are not properly managed — as when civilian interrogators committed abuses at Abu Ghraib in Iraq or members of the security firm Blackwater shot and killed 17 Iraqi citizens in Baghdad — the American effort can be severely undermined.
As of March this year, contractors made up 57 percent of the Pentagon’s force in Afghanistan, and if the figure is averaged over the past two years, it is 65 percent, according to the report by the Congressional Research Service.
The contractors — many of them Afghans — handle a variety of jobs, including cooking for the troops, serving as interpreters and even providing security, the report says.
The report says the reliance on contractors has grown steadily, with just a small percentage of contractors serving the Pentagon in World War I, but then growing to nearly a third of the total force in the Korean War and about half in the Balkans and Iraq. The change, the report says, has gradually forced the American military to adapt to a far less regimented and, in many ways, less accountable force.
The growing dependence on contractors is partly because the military has lost some of its logistics and support capacity, especially since the end of the cold war, according to the report. Some of the contractors have skills in critical areas like languages and digital technologies that the military needs.
The issue of the role of contractors in war has been a subject of renewed debate in Washington in recent weeks with disclosures that the Central Intelligence Agency used the company formerly known as Blackwater to help with a covert program, now canceled, to assassinate leaders of Al Qaeda. Lawmakers have demanded to know why such work was outsourced.
The State Department also uses contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, although both the department and the C.I.A. have said they want to reduce their dependence on outside workers.
Responding to the Congressional research report, Frederick D. Barton, a senior adviser to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said it was highly questionable whether contractors brought the same commitment and willingness to take risks as the men and women of the military or the diplomatic services.
He also questioned whether using contractors was cost effective, saying that no one really knew whether having a force made up mainly of contractors whose salaries were often triple or quadruple those of a corresponding soldier or Marine was cheaper or more expensive for the American taxpayer.
With contractors focused on preserving profits and filing paperwork with government auditors, he said, “you grow the part of government that, probably, the taxpayers appreciate least.”
Congress appropriated at least $106 billion for Pentagon contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 through the first half of the 2008 fiscal year, the report says.
The report said the combined forces in Iraq and Afghanistan still had more uniformed military personnel than contractors over all: 242,657 contractors and about 282,000 troops as of March 31