This video from the USA is called Blackwater Guards Indicted for Role in Nisour Square Massacre; Jeremy Scahill on Democracy Now.
Happy New Year to all readers of this blog!
Unfortunately, 2010 starts with the not so happy news from the last hours of 2009 of Blaclwater/Xe mercenaries going scot free for kiling Iraqi civilians.
From Jeremy Scahill’s blog in the USA:
Apparently there is one set of rights for Blackwater mercenaries and another for the rest of us. Normally when a group of people alleged to have gunned down 17 civilians in a lawless shooting spree are questioned, investigators will tell them something along the lines of: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” But that is not what the Blackwater operatives involved in the September 16 Nisour Square shooting in Iraq were told. Most of the Blackwater shooters were questioned by State Department Diplomatic Security investigators with the understanding that their statements and information gleaned from them could not be used to bring criminal charges against them, nor could they be introduced as evidence. In other words, “Anything you say can’t and won’t be used against you in a court of law.”
See also here.
The Iraqi government on Friday criticized the dismissal of charges against five Blackwater security guards, saying they murdered 17 innocent civilians: here.
The Iraqi government has declared that it will take legal action against the mercenary company Blackwater after a US judge rejected charges against gunmen accused of the massacre of 17 people in Baghdad: here.
Xe Services Aiming For Afghan Police Training Deal
RICHARD LARDNER, Associated Press Writer
Published: January 8, 2010
Updated: January 9, 2010
WASHINGTON (AP) Blackwater Worldwide’s legal woes haven’t dimmed its prospects in Afghanistan, where the company is a contender to be a key part of President Barack Obama’s strategy for stabilizing the country.
Now called Xe Services, the company is in the running for a Pentagon contract potentially worth $1 billion to train Afghanistan’s troubled national police force. Xe has been shifting to training, aviation and logistics work after its security guards were accused of killing unarmed Iraqi civilians more than two years ago.
Yet even with a new name and focus, the expanded role would seem an unlikely one for Xe because Democrats have held such a negative opinion of the company following the Iraqi deaths, which are still reverberating in Baghdad and Washington.
During the presidential campaign, then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, now Obama’s secretary of state, backed legislation to ban Blackwater and other private security contractors from Iraq.
Xe eventually lost its license to operate as guardian of U.S. diplomats in Iraq and the State Department, with Clinton at the helm, elected not to rehire the company when the contract expired in 2009. Delays in getting a new company in place led to a temporary extension of the State contract.
A federal judge on New Year’s Eve dismissed criminal charges against five of the Blackwater guards, citing repeated missteps by federal prosecutors. The Iraqi government has vowed to pursue the case, a new strain on relations between the U.S. and Iraq.
Xe on Wednesday reached a settlement in a series of civil lawsuits in which dozens of Iraqis accused the company of cultivating a reckless culture that allowed innocent civilians to be killed. On Thursday, however, two former Blackwater contractors were arrested on murder charges in the shootings of two Afghans after a traffic accident last year.
Despite the scrutiny, the U.S. relies heavily on Xe pronounced “zee” for support in Afghanistan and the workload may grow significantly.
Xe spokesman Mark Corallo declined to comment on whether the company, based in Moyock, North Carolina, is bidding for the Afghan police training contract. But a U.S. official knowledgeable of the deliberations said Xe is competing. The official requested anonymity to discuss sensitive information about the federal contracting process.
Xe provides security services in Afghanistan, though on a smaller scale than it did in Iraq. As of November, Xe had more than 200 security personnel on the ground in Afghanistan, according to documents highlighting Xe’s operations.
Two Xe guards were killed Dec. 30 during a suicide bombing attack at a CIA base in southeastern Afghanistan, again raising questions about services the firm provides for the CIA.
Late last year, CIA Director Leon Panetta terminated the use of Xe personnel in loading and other logistics for airborne drones used to hunt militants in Pakistan.
Xe is also a prolific provider of aviation services in Afghanistan, where travel on land is complicated by the rugged terrain and roadside bombs. In airplanes and helicopters, Presidential Airways, a Xe subsidiary, has carried thousands of passengers and millions of pounds (kilograms) of cargo and mail under contracts with U.S. Transportation Command with a potential value of nearly $870 million, according to the command.
In 2009 alone, Xe projected total revenues at $669 million, the documents state, and three-quarters of the total stems from federal contracts to support U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Afghan national police training contract is expected to be awarded soon and Xe is among five companies eligible to compete.
Obama is ramping up efforts to expand and improve the Afghan army and national police into a force able to handle the country’s security burden so U.S. troops can begin withdrawing in July 2011. The private sector’s help is needed because the U.S. doesn’t have a deep enough pool of trainers and mentors with law enforcement experience.
Under an existing defense contract, Xe already trains the Afghan border police an arm of the national police and drug interdiction units in volatile southern Afghanistan, according to the documents.
The Defense Department’s plan is to fold the border police training into the broader contract.
Charles Tiefer, a professor of government contracting at the University of Baltimore Law School, says Xe’s foothold in Afghanistan could give it an edge over other competitors. And defense officials considering bids for the police training work may pay more attention to Xe’s resume in Afghanistan than as a security contractor in Iraq, he added.
“Blackwater’s current contract for the border police means it already has assets experience, a proven record and existing capacity and personnel in Afghanistan for a contract to train the Afghan national police,” said Tiefer, a member of the independent Commission on Wartime Contracting.
The top military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, wants to build the Afghan national police to a force of 160,000 by 2013 up from the roughly 94,000 now.
The Afghan army is in better shape than the national police, an organization riddled with corruption and generally unable to control crime or combat the Taliban.
At a hearing in December held by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, Fred Roitz, Xe’s executive vice president of contracts and sales, sought to burnish the company’s credentials. He said the company trains Afghan law enforcement units to operate effectively “in one of the most dangerous border regions in the world.”
Roitz added that Xe has a new chief executive officer, Joseph Yorio, who replaced the company’s founder, Erik Prince, in March. Prince’s decision to step aside underscored the company’s efforts to distance itself from the Blackwater brand.
Since 2003, DynCorp International of Falls Church, Virginia, has held a large State Department contract for training Afghanistan’s national police. The most recent installment of the training contract was awarded in August 2008 and it generates about $20 million in revenue a month for DynCorp, according to company spokesman Douglas Ebner.
But a decision by McChrystal to give U.S. military officials control over all police training contracts is ending DynCorp’s run and creating a major opportunity for Xe and the other companies.
DynCorp has filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office, alleging that the approach is “procedurally and legally flawed,” according to company vice president Donald Ryder.
Military authorities gave responsibility for managing the expanded contract to a Navy office in Dahlgren, Virginia. The Counter NarcoTerrorism Technology Program Office has five pre-approved vendors: Xe, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and ARINC Engineering Services.
Two Blackwater Employees Charged with Afghan Murders
Murder and Other Offenses Related to Shooting Death of Two Afghan Nationals in Kabul, Afghanistan; Third Afghan National Wounded in Shooting That Led to Charges
January 7, 2010 — WASHINGTON — Justin Cannon, 27, of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Christopher Drotleff, 29, of Virginia Beach, Va., have been charged with crimes including second-degree murder, attempted murder, and firearms offenses while working as contractors for the U.S. Department of Defense in Afghanistan, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride of the Eastern District of Virginia, and John Perren, Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office announced today.
Cannon and Drotleff were charged under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA).
The 13-count indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia on Jan. 6, 2010, and unsealed today, alleges that on May 5, 2009, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Cannon and Drotleff shot and killed two Afghanistan nationals and wounded a third.
The indictment alleges that at the time of the shootings, Cannon and Drotleff were Department of Defense contractors employed by Paravant LLC, which is a subsidiary of Xe (formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide). According to the indictment, as contractors, Cannon and Drotleff provided training to the Afghan National Army for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in the use and maintenance of weapons and weapons systems.
Cannon was arrested today in Corpus Christi by FBI agents. Drotleff was also arrested today by FBI agents in Virginia Beach. Cannon and Drotleff were each charged with two counts of second-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, six counts of using and discharging a firearm during a violent crime, and four counts of murder resulting from the use of a firearm during a violent crime. If convicted, the maximum penalty faced by Cannon and Drotleff is life in prison or the death penalty.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Randy C. Stoker and Alan M. Salsbury from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia – Norfolk Division as well as Trial Attorney Robert McGovern of the Criminal Division’s Domestic Security Section. The case is being investigated by the FBI.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.
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