Tagblackwater

John Ashcroft Joining Blackwater as Ethics Chief (Not from the Onion)

The consortium in charge of restructuring the world’s most infamous private security firm just added a new chief in charge of keeping the company on the straight and narrow. Yes, John Ashcroft, the former attorney general, is now an “independent director” of Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater.

Ashcroft will head Xe’s new “subcommittee on governance,” its backers announced early Wednesday in a statement, an entity designed to “maximize governance, compliance and accountability” and “promote the highest degrees of ethics and professionalism within the private security industry.”

Danger Room: Blackwater’s New Ethics Chief: John Ashcroft

The mind boggles. More evidence that as far as corporations are concerned “ethical” just means “legal,” and the best way to make sure things are legal is to hire former regulators to find the loopholes.

Blackwater Said to Approve Iraqi Payoffs After Shootings

Top executives at Blackwater Worldwide authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support after a September 2007 episode in which Blackwater security guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, according to former company officials.

Blackwater approved the cash payments in December 2007, the officials said, as protests over the deadly shootings in Nisour Square stoked long-simmering anger inside Iraq about reckless practices by the security company’s employees. American and Iraqi investigators had already concluded that the shootings were unjustified, top Iraqi officials were calling for Blackwater’s ouster from the country and company officials feared that Blackwater might be refused an operating license it would need to retain its contracts with the State Department and private clients, worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Four former Blackwater executives said in interviews that Gary Jackson, who was then the company’s president, had approved the bribes, and the money was sent from Amman, Jordan, where Blackwater maintains an operations hub, to a top manager in Iraq. The executives, though, said they did not know whether the cash was delivered to Iraqi officials or the identities of the potential recipients.

New York Times: Blackwater Said to Approve Iraqi Payoffs After Shootings

(via Jeremy Schahill)

Judge Refuses to Dismiss War Crimes Case Against Blackwater

Jeremy Scahill writes for the Nation:

On Wednesday, a federal judge rejected a series of arguments by lawyers for the mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater seeking to dismiss five high-stakes war crimes cases brought by Iraqi victims against both the company and its owner, Erik Prince. At the same time, Judge T.S. Ellis III sent the Iraqis’ lawyers back to the legal drawing board to amend and refile their cases, saying that the Iraqi plaintiffs need to provide more specific details on the alleged crimes before a final decision can be made on whether or not the lawsuits will proceed.

“We were very pleased with the ruling,” says Susan Burke, the lead attorney for the Iraqis. Burke, who filed the lawsuits in cooperation with the Center for Constitutional Rights, is now preparing to re-file the suits. Blackwater’s spokesperson Stacy DeLuke said, “We are confident that [the plaintiffs] will not be able to meet the high standard specified in Judge Ellis’s opinion.”

Nation: Judge Refuses to Dismiss War Crimes Case Against Blackwater

Fascism Watch: Police and Military Lining Up Against Obama

Launched in March by Las Vegan Stewart Rhodes, Oath Keepers bills itself as a nonpartisan group of current and retired law enforcement and military personnel who vow to fulfill their oaths to the Constitution.

More specifically, the group’s members, which number in the thousands, pledge to disobey orders they deem unlawful, including directives to disarm the American people and to blockade American cities. By refusing the latter order, the Oath Keepers hope to prevent cities from becoming “giant concentration camps,” a scenario the 44-year-old Rhodes says he can envision happening in the coming years. […]

It’s the “cross-pollinating” of extremist groups — some racist, some not — that is of concern, Potok said. As evidence that the danger is real, he points to several recent murders committed by men with anti-government or racist views.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reached a similar conclusion in a report earlier this year about the rise of right-wing extremism. The report said the nation’s economic downturn and Obama’s race are “unique drivers for right-wing radicalization and recruitment.”

The homeland security report added that “disgruntled military veterans” might be vulnerable to recruitment by right-wing extremist groups.

That warning was enough to make Rhodes feel paranoid.

“They’re accusing anybody who opposes Obama of being a racist or a potential terrorist,” he said. “What they’re saying is, ‘We’re coming after you.'”

Las Vegas Review: Ready To Revolt: Oath Keepers pledges to prevent dictatorship in United States

(via Nick P)

To their credit, the “Oath Keepers” acknowledge the Patriot Act’s erosion of civil liberties as well. But where were they during the 8 years that Bush was president? Obama gets 400% more death threats than Bush but still lets people carry assault rifles around him, and the Oathers think that they’re being persecuted? Bush had people hauled away for wearing the wrong t-shirts.

I have little good to say about Obama, but I can’t say that his administration is less tolerant of dissent than Bush’s.

From the Oather’s Declaration of Orders We Will NOT Obey: “We will NOT obey any order to conduct warrantless searches of the American people, their homes, vehicles, papers, or effects — such as warrantless house-to house searches for weapons or persons.”

I take this to mean they will start refusing to do warrantless searches for drugs? For 28 years the federal government has waged war on its people (a disproportionate number of them black), using militarized civilian law enforcement agents, and it’s only now that a not-right-wing-enough black president has been elected that they are worried?

Now, there have been militia movements before, and they got particularly scary during the Clinton years. But most of those fears were overblown. The Oklahoma City bombing was used to justify the proto-Patriot Act: the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. So it’s worth while to reiterate that this should not be a call for more repressive laws.

These latest developments – Oath Keepers, assault rifles at Obama rallies, violent attacks on pro-health care demonstrators – do seem particularly more frightening than those of the Clinton-era. And those Clinton-era movements did have a real result. Not the assassination of a president, or a legitimate insurrection by right-wing militias. The result was the sharp right-wing turn the country took during and after the Clinton administration.

And that’s what’s scariest now. Even if the current movements don’t end in, say, a Blackwater coup (and the chance that something like that would happen this time around does seem greater), we’re still probably in for darker days.

Update: Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes opines on the drug war and the Bush administration here (via Jesse Walker in the comments):

The Pentagon and its close allies, the defense contractors, turned to the “war on drugs” and “terrorism” as the new cash-crop reason for the bloated Pentagon budget. We even had shrill warnings about the grave dangers of “narco-terrorists” who actually combined those two horrid evils (shudder) and we were told that only the military could stop them! Thus a new mission was born for the U.S. military which has steadily pushed its way into law enforcement, starting out in support roles, just like in Vietnam, but getting closer and closer to in-your-face and hands-on direct action. There has also been a corresponding and complimentary steady militarization of law enforcement such that the two are now hard to tell apart.

Is Rhodes position the official position of the Oath Keepers? As of now (10am PST 10/25/09) there is no official position on the drug war recorded on their site by Google. The question is posed here in the comments and not answered.

Still, I’m impressed with Rhodes’s position and encouraged by the fact that he’s “writing a book on the dangers of applying the laws of war to the American people.” (See Radley Balko’s paper Overkill for more on this subject.)

Blackwater accused of using child prostitutes in Iraq

New disturbing charges have emerged against XE, the infamous private security firm formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, whose operations came under spotlight after its 2007 carnage in Baghdad.

According to a report by MSNBC and based on alleged sworn declarations by two Blackwater employees in federal court, the firm used child prostitutes at its compound in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.

The declarations added Iraqi minors got involve in sexual acts with Blackwater members in exchange for one dollar and Erik Prince, the firm’s owner, “failed to stop the ongoing use of prostitutes, including child prostitutes, by his men.”

PressTV: Blackwater used ‘child prostitutes in Iraq’

(via Dr. Menlo)

ACORN Opponents: Where is the Defund Blackwater Act?

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.

Perhaps one of the most jarring comparisons here is the fact that ACORN is now being attacked while the Obama administration continues to contract with Blackwater, the favorite mercenary company of the Bush administration, which is headed by Erik Prince, who was a major donor to Republican causes and campaigns, including those of some of the Defund ACORN bill’s sponsors, including Indiana Republican Mike Pence, one of the key figures in hunting down Van Jones. Prince, of course, was recently described by a former employee as a man who “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.”

Jeremy Scahill: Where is the Defund Blackwater Act?

Blackwater Contractor Saw Killing Iraqis as 9/11 Payback – Justice Department

For sport, they rolled through the streets of Baghdad hurling frozen oranges and water bottles at civilians and nearby vehicles, trying to smash windshields and injure bystanders. Convoying through the city in armored vehicles, the contractors fired their weapons indiscriminately. One member of the Blackwater security team known as Raven 23 regularly bragged about his body count and viewed killing Iraqis as “payback for 9/11.”

These allegations are contained in court records [PDF] filed on Monday by Justice Department lawyers prosecuting five Blackwater contractors for the September 2007 shooting frenzy in Baghdad’s Nisour Square that killed 14 Iraqis and wounded 20 others. Anticipating that lawyers representing the contractors will argue that they were acting in self defense, the prosecution is seeking to introduce evidence that “several of the defendants had harbored a deep hostility toward Iraqi civilians which they demonstrated in words and deeds.” The charges are similar to those that recently emerged in civil lawsuits against Blackwater, stemming from the Nisour Square episode.

Mother Jones: Justice Dept.: Blackwater Contractor Saw Killing Iraqis as 9/11 Payback

(see also: Blackwater founder accused of murder)

Reports: CIA hired Blackwater to help assassinate terrorists

The CIA in 2004 outsourced portions of a secret program to kidnap or assassinate terrorists to the controversial private security firm Blackwater USA, now called Xe Services, according to news reports.

The New York Times reports that according to current and former government officials, Blackwater’s involvement was a key factor in CIA Director Leon Panetta’s decision to cancel the program and divulge it to Congress during an emergency meeting with Congress in June. Congress had not been informed previously of the program’s existence, allegedly under orders from then-Vice President Dick Cheney, as The Christian Science Monitor reported last month.

Christian Science Monitor: Reports: CIA hired Blackwater to help assassinate terrorists

(via Disinfo)

Blackwater founder accused of murder

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company’s owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.”

Jeremy Scahill: Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder

(via Disinfo)

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