Something funny happened in the Eastern District of North Carolina [on Thursday]. Out of the blue in an extremely significant case, and without particular notice to interested observers, much less the public, the criminal case against former Blackwater executives for weapons trafficking, and a myriad of other weapons violations, ended. Poof! Gone with an undeserved and inexplicable sweetheart misdemeanor plea.
A federal weapons case against the defense contractor formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide ended Thursday with misdemeanor pleas by two former executives, who were fined and placed on probation.
The case stems in part from a raid conducted by federal agents at the company’s Moyock headquarters in 2008 that seized 22 weapons, including 17 AK-47s. An indictment alleged that the company used the Camden County Sheriff’s Office to pose as the purchaser of dozens of automatic weapons.
The indictment also alleged that Blackwater purchased 227 short barrels and installed them on long rifles without registering them and that company officials presented the king of Jordan with five guns as gifts in hopes of landing a lucrative overseas contract and then falsified federal documents once they realized they were unable to account for the weapons.
Gary Jackson and William Matthews, the former president and executive vice president of the company and both Navy Seals, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count each of failure to keep records on firearms. They were sentenced to four months of house arrest, three years on probation and fined $5,000.
But, instead of taking them to trial, or even extracting a reasonable plea that did justice for the public, the DOJ collaborated with the defense and walked into court without notice today, filed a new information containing a single misdemeanor charge and proceeded to sentence them on the spot to a hand slap. [continue]
[…] The lucrative business of destroying, rebuilding and securing has been witnessed in other wars and conflicts spurred on by western interventions. Private security firms are the middlemen that keep local irritants from getting in the way of post-war ‘diplomacy’ and the work business giants.
When a country eventually collapses under the pressure of bunker busters and other advanced weapons, security firms move in to secure the realm as western diplomats start their bargaining with the emerging local elites over the future of the country’s wealth. In Libya, those who contributed the biggest guns were the ones that received the largest contracts. Of course, while the destroyed country is being robbed blind, it is the local population that suffers the consequences of having brute foreigners with guns watching their neighborhoods in the name of security.
It must be said that the new Libyan government has specifically rejected Blackwater-style armed contractors – as in having boots on the ground – fearing provocations similar to those that occurred in Baghdad’s Nisour Square and similar killing throughout Afghanistan. The aim in Libya is to allow smooth business transactions without occasional protests provoked by trigger-happy foreigners. But considering the deteriorating security in Libya which has been created by the systematic destruction of the central government and its entire military apparatus, a solution to the security vacuum remains a major topic of discussion.
Private security firms are essentially mercenaries who offer services to spare western governments the political cost of incurring too many casualties. While they are often based in western cities, many of their employees come from so-called Third World countries. For all involved, it’s much safer this way, for when Asian, African or Arab security personnel are wounded or killed on duty, the matter tends to register, if ever, as a mere news item, with little political consequence, Senate hearings or government enquiries.
Mali, a west African country that is suffering multiple crises – military coups, civil war, famine and finally an all-out French-led war – is the likely next victim or opportunity for the deadly trio: western governments, large corporations and of course, private security firms. [++]
U.S. Special Operations Forces have a brand new home in Afghanistan. It’s owned and operated by the security company formerly known as Blackwater, thanks to a no-bid deal worth $22 million.
You might think that Blackwater, now called Academi, was banished into some bureaucratic exile after its operatives in Afghanistan stole guns from U.S. weapons depots and killed Afghan civilians. Wrong. Academi’s private 10-acre compound outside Kabul, called Camp Integrity, is the new headquarters for perhaps the most important special operations unit in Afghanistan.
One thing I like about the military is that dry, ironic humor.
NOTE Nice to see the continuity between the Bush and the Obama administrations on absolutely no accountability for mercenaries, ever. It’s reassuring. Stability in a changing world!
Now that the private security company formerly known as Blackwater is under new ownership, it’s entering into a new partnership with the Defense Department. The U.S. military’s intelligence service is hiring the firm, along with five others, to train its operatives to defend themselves as they collect information in dangerous places — something particularly salient as the Mideast continues to light up with anti-American fervor.
The Defense Intelligence Agency announced on Thursday evening it would award six private security companies a share of a $20 million contract to provide “individual protective measures training courses” for its operatives. Among them is Academi, the 3.0 version of Blackwater, now under new ownership and management. It appears to be the first Blackwater/Academi contract with the military since a Blackwater “shell company” called Paravant held one to train Afghan policemen — and used it to steal their guns for personal use, while posing as South Park characters to disguise their tracks.
The international security contractor formerly known as Blackwater has agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine to settle federal criminal charges related to arms smuggling and other crimes.
Documents unsealed Tuesday in a U.S. District Court in North Carolina said the company, now called Academi LLC, agreed to pay the fine as part of a deferred prosecution agreement to settle 17 violations.
The list of violations includes possessing automatic weapons in the United States without registration, lying to federal firearms regulators about weapons provided to the king of Jordan, passing secret plans for armored personnel carriers to Sweden and Denmark without U.S. government approval and illegally shipping body armor overseas.
Federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents said the company, which has held billions in U.S. security contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, repeatedly flouted U.S. laws.
In 2010, the company reached a $42 million settlement with the Department of State as part of a settlement of violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations.
On the campaign trail, Barack Obama’s advisers said he ‘can’t rule out [and] won’t rule out’ using mercenary forces, like Blackwater. Now, it appears that the Obama administration has decided on its hired guns of choice: Triple Canopy , a Chicago company now based in Virginia. It may not have Blackwater’s thuggish reputation, but Triple Canopy has its own bloody history in Iraq and a record of hiring mercenaries from countries with atrocious human rights records. What’s more, Obama is not just using the company in Iraq, but also as a U.S.-government funded private security force in Israel/Palestine, operating out of Jerusalem.
Jeremy Scahill, Obama’s Blackwater? Chicago Mercenary Firm Gets Millions for Private “Security” in Israel and Iraq
The security firm once known as Blackwater has repeatedly tried to distance itself from its bad old days of wrongful death and corporate misconduct. But a new lawsuit filed by two former employees raises questions about whether the firm’s kinder, gentler rebranding is more than skin deep.
Two former employees of the firm, now called Academi, say that they were fired from their jobs in Afghanistan after blowing the whistle on an attempt by a colleague to falsify dozens of marksmanship tests for security contractors. Robert Winston and Allen Wheeler thought that they were following Academi’s new ethics guidelines, which require employees to report suspected instances of waste, fraud and abuse. But not only were Winston and Wheeler fired, they allege Academi arranged with the State Department to blacklist the two security contractors from finding future work with private security firms.
According to the lawsuit, which Nation reporter Jeremy Scahill first tweeted about on Thursday, Winston and Wheeler witnessed a fellow firearms instructor twice fail to record the results of shotgun and machine-gun training amongst dozens of Colombian employees of Academi. The State Department, which hires Academi to protect its diplomats in conflict zones, requires weapons certification from the guards: If contractors can’t properly fire their weapons, they’re a danger to diplomats in need of protection and innocent civilians nearby.
But on two occasions in March 2012, Winston and Wheeler say that instructor Timothy Enlow informed the State Department inaccurately that Academi’s guards were proficient with shotguns and machine guns. On the second occasion, Enlow failed to bring an M249 belt-fed machine gun to the test range near Kabul, but reported a successful test anyway.
Similarly, the fourth page of Academi’s code of conduct instructs employees, “do not remain silent” after observing potential malfeasance.
This isn’t the only lawsuit Academi is facing. As Enlow alluded to in Kabul, a different lawsuit, known as Beauchamp v. U.S. Training Center, became public last July. The claim, according to a summary by the Project on Government Oversight: making “a series of false statements and certifications to the government regarding the positions its employees were performing and their qualifications.”
Last month, apparently without attracting any public attention (until now), they quietly bought another security firm, International Development Solutions, and took over its piece of the State Department’s $10 billion World Protective Services contract, which then-Blackwater got kicked out of years ago.
[…] Blackwater and State have a, well, history. Records released after a four year FOIA fight between the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the web site Gawker show that mercenaries, primarily from Blackwater, shot and sometimes killed a lot of Iraqis in the name of protecting America’s diplomats while under contract with the State Department. The mercs, er, the private security companies, were supposed to be operating under the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s command and control but instead shot up Iraq like outcasts from the Road Warrior.
The 4500 FOIA’ed pages released are filled with contact/incident reports. Every time a Blackwater shooter cranked off a few rounds at some Iraqi, he was supposed to file a report. State’s Diplomatic Security would validate the shoot as having taken place under its own rules and that would be that. No attempts were made to seriously investigate anything, no attempts were made to find out what happened to any of the Iraqis popped by American hired guns and certainly no attempts to rein in Blackwater are documented.
And now, Blackwater and State are back, together again, baby! Get some!
One of the highest-profile prosecutions stemming from the Iraq war period is to go ahead after the US supreme court refused to dismiss manslaughter and weapons charges against four employees of the private security company Blackwater Worldwide.
The shooting took place on September 16, 2007 at the congested Nisour Square intersection, after a convoy of four armoured vehicles manned by Blackwater guards had departed from Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone.
In a span of 15 minutes, heavy gunfire erupted and by the time it was over, more than three dozen Iraqi civilians had been shot, at least 17 fatally. Among the dead was nine-year-old Ali Kinani, who was shot in the head as he rode in a car with his father, Mohammed Kinnani.
The April 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine includes “The Warrior Class,” a feature by Charles Glass on the rise of private-security contractors since 9/11. The conclusion to the piece describes a series of videos shown to Glass by a source who had worked for the private-security company Blackwater (now Academi, formerly also Xe Services) in Iraq. Clips and photos from the videos are shown below, introduced by Glass’s descriptions:
[The] American public has been detached from our perpetual war-making. The crucial moment here occurred almost four decades ago when President Nixon officially ended the draft Army, essentially severing citizens in a distinctly rebellious mood from military service. Think of it as a pacification campaign that worked. The citizenry was demobilized and left to go about its business without any obligation to Washington’s war-making. A fully professionalized all-volunteer military, increasingly separated from (if also deified by) American society, paved the way for many things: first came professional war, then privatized war, then mercenary and outsourced war—the arrival of what I call the “warrior corporation.” (In Afghanistan, there are now more private contractors dying than troops.) Americans are almost startlingly remote from our present wars, which go on without us (if you leave aside the tiny percentage of Americans who fight, or who are family members of those fighting). Perhaps this is why drone warfare, which couldn’t be more literally “remote” from us or make us more remote from war, seems, according to the latest poll I’ve seen, so soaringly popular here.Tom Engelhardt
On the incremental shift (from the end of the Vietnam War) to the tacit public consent of perpetual global war (the so-called “war on terror”) - an excerpt from a timely post by the inimitable Tom Engelhardt:
“[On] the very day the Paris Peace Accords were signed in January 1973, officially signaling the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam (though not quite its actual end), President Richard Nixon also signed a decree ending the draft. It was an admission of the obvious: war, American-style, as it had been practiced since World War II, had lost its hold on young minds.”
[…] From the 1990s on, in a way that would have been inconceivable for a draft army, [the American military] began to be privatized — fused, that is, into the corporate way of war and profit.
War would now be fought not for or by the citizen, but quite literally for and by Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, KBR, DynCorp, Triple Canopy, and Blackwater (later Xe, even later Academi). Meanwhile, that citizen was to shudder at the thought of our terrorist enemies and then go on with normal life as if nothing whatsoever were happening. (“Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life the way we want it to be enjoyed,” was George W. Bush’s suggested response to the 9/11 attacks two weeks after they happened, with the “war on terror” already going on the books.)
Despite a paucity of real enemies of any substance, taxpayer dollars would pour into the coffers of the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex, as well as a new mini-homeland-security-industrial complex and a burgeoning intelligence-industrial complex, at levels unknown in the Cold War years. Lobbyists would be everywhere and the times would be the best, even when, in the war zones, things were going badly indeed.
Meanwhile, in those war zones, the Big Corporation would take over the humblest of soldierly roles — the peeling of potatoes, the cooking of meals, the building of bases and outposts, the delivery of mail — and it would take up the gun (and the bomb) as well. Soon enough, even the dying would be outsourced to corporate hirees. Occupied Iraq and Afghanistan would be flooded with tens of thousands of private contractors and hired guns, while military men trained in elite special operations units would find their big paydays by joining mercenary corporations doing similar work, often in the same war zones.
It was a remarkable racket. War and profit had long been connected in complicated ways, but seldom quite so straightforwardly. Now, win or lose on the battlefield, there would always be winners among the growing class of warrior corporations.
This is a war where traditional military jobs, from mess hall cooks to base guards and convoy drivers, have increasingly been shifted to the private sector. Many American generals and diplomats have private contractors for their personal bodyguards. And along with the risks have come the consequences: More civilian contractors working for American companies than American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year for the first time during the war.Read this story on the growing risks to contract workers in the Afghan war. The consequences to those hired to do work for the military is grave, and often unconsidered and undiscussed. To accompany this read, go look through the investigative work done at ProPublica a little while ago called the “Disposable Army.” (via thepoliticalnotebook)