Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.
H/t reader squodgy:
“The Taliban were the ones who tried to eradicate both Opium & Marijuana production.
This starved the CIA of its main income source needed to fund covert ‘black ops’.
Invading Afghanistan had no purpose other than to reinstate that income flow.
This article is pure disinfo apart from the fact that it was and still is a cash cow for the Military Industrial Complex.”
– Does Obama Want to Stay in Afghanistan to Harvest Its Opium? (Global Research, June 9, 2014):
“opium production has increased 33 fold from 185 tons in 2001 to 6100 tons in 2006. In 2007, Afghanistan provided approximately 93% of the global supply of heroin…”
So it’s really:
Opium poppy cultivation is up in Afghanistan
despitebecause the infamous mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater being paid $569m by the Pentagon to stop itguard it.
– Former Blackwater gets rich as Afghan drug production hits record high (Guardian, March 31, 2015):
Opium poppy cultivation is up in Afghanistan despite the infamous mercenary firm formerly known as Blackwater being paid $569m by the Pentagon to stop it
In a war full of failures, the US counternarcotics mission in Afghanistan stands out: opiate production has climbed steadily over recent years to reach record-high levels last year.
Yet there is a clear winner in the anti-drug effort – not the Afghan people, but the infamous mercenary company formerly known as Blackwater.
H/t reader M.G.:
“The evil bastard who founded Blackwater walks free while his employees get convicted of murder. What it is to be a friend of GW Bush……no consequences…….this should show anyone there is zero difference between the two parties……
Bet this won’t be covered by corporate media.”
– Blackwater Founder Remains Free and Rich While His Former Employees Go Down on Murder Charges (The Intercept, Oct 22, 2014):
A federal jury in Washington, D.C., returned guilty verdicts against four Blackwater operatives charged with killing more than a dozen Iraqi civilians and wounding scores of others in Baghdad in 2007.
The jury found one guard, Nicholas Slatten, guilty of first-degree murder, while three other guards were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter: Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard. The jury is still deliberating on additional charges against the operatives, who faced a combined 33 counts, according to the Associated Press. A fifth Blackwater guard, Jeremy Ridgeway, had already pleaded guilty to lesser charges and cooperated with prosecutors in the case against his former colleagues. The trial lasted ten weeks and the jury has been in deliberations for 28 days.
– How Blackwater Survived Iraq Probes Of Being “Above The Law” – By Threatening To Kill Investigators (ZeroHedge, June 30, 2014):
Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, The NY Times reports that the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. However, as James Risen reports, a senior official of the notorious private security firm allegedly threatened to kill a government investigator leading the probe into the firm’s Iraqi operation. Stunningly (or not), the US embassy sided with him and forced the inspector to cut the visit short.
As The Times reports, based on documents which were turned over to plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Blackwater… According to the documents, the investigators found numerous violations, including changing of security details without the State Department’s approval, reducing the number of guard details and storing of automatic weapons and ammunition in Blackwater employees’ private rooms.
– 400 Blackwater Mercs Deployed In Ukraine Against Separatists, German Press Reports (ZeroHedge, May 11, 2014):
In what is becoming a weekly ritual, the German press continues to demolish the US case of “idealistic humaniatrian” Ukraine intervention. Recall, that it was a week ago that German tabloid Bild am Sonntag, hardly the most reputable source but certainly one which reaches the broadest audience, reported that dozens of CIA and FBI agents were “advising the Ukraine government.” This conclusion is hardly a stretch and certainly based on facts considering the recent semi-secret jaunt by CIA head Brennan to Kiev. Fast forward one week when overnight the same Bild reported that about 400 elite mercenary commandos of the private US security firm, Academi, f/k/a Xe Services, f/k/a Blackwater “are involved in a punitive operation mounted by Ukraine’s new government” against east Ukraine separatists.
Bild cites sources who report that on April 29, Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) informed the Angela Merkel government about Academi commandos’ involvement in Kiev’s military operations in eastern Ukraine. Spiegel adds that “the information originates from U.S. intelligence services and was presented during a meeting chaired by the Chancellor’s Office chief Peter Altmaier (CDU). At the meeting were present the president of the intelligence agencies and the Federal Criminal Office, as well as the intelligence coordinator of the Chancellor’s Office and senior Ministry officials.”
Bild am Sontag did not have information about who was paying the Blackwater commandos: it is well-known they do not come cheap.
RT has more:
In March, media reports appeared suggesting that the coup-imposed government in Kiev could have employed up to 300 mercenaries.That was before the new government launched a military operation against anti-Maidan activists, or “terrorists” as Kiev put it, in southeast Ukraine.
At the time, the Russian Foreign Ministry said then that reports claiming Kiev was planning to involve “involve staff from foreign military companies to ‘ensure the rule of law,’” could suggest that it wanted “to suppress civil protests and dissatisfaction.”
In particular, Greystone Limited, which is currently registered in Barbados and is a part of Academi Corporation, is a candidate for such a gendarme role. It is a similar and probably an affiliated structure of the Blackwater private army, whose staff have been accused of cruel and systematic violations of human rights in various trouble spots on many occasions.
“Among the candidates for the role of gendarme is the Barbados-registered company Greystone Limited, which is integrated with the Academi corporation,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “It is an analogue, and, probably and affiliated body of the Blackwater private army, whose employees have repeatedly been accused of committing grievous and systematic human rights abuses in different troubled regions.”
As this is not the first time Academi has been implicated in the Ukraine, its canned response is already prepared. This is what it said back on March 17:Some irresponsible bloggers and an online reporter have recently posted rumors that ACADEMI employees (operating under the name of Blackwater) are present in Ukraine. They are not and ACADEMI has no relationship with any entity named Blackwater or with the former owner of Blackwater, Erik Prince. Such unfounded statements combined with the lack of factual reporting to support them and the lack of context about the company, are nothing more than sensationalistic efforts to create hysteria and headlines in times of genuine crisis.
The basics: Those who understand the facts know that Erik Prince sold the company (which he had renamed ‘Xe’) in 2010 and retained the rights to the ‘Blackwater’ name. The new management of ACADEMI has made tremendous efforts to build a responsible, transparent company ethos, evidenced by the numerous awards ACADEMI has received for being among the most compliant companies in our industry. More information can be found here.
Sure enough, moments ago the soldier for hire company followed up with a second denial, when as German Zeit reported, “the U.S. security services denied a ZEIT ONLINE report, that it has put mercenaries in Ukraine.”
Of course, since no western entity, and certainly not the company itself, would ever admit its involvement in the Ukraine as it would promptly crash the official US foreign policy track claiming US non-involvement in Ukraine, none of this is surprising.
Readers may have greater luck inquiring Blackwater directly via their Twitter account. After all #AskJPM was such a smashing success we don’t see a reason why #AskBlackwater wouldn’t work just as well.
Upcoming Courses in New Iberia, LA: Jun 30 – M1911A1 Handgun Armorer; Jul 01 – Mossberg 500/590 Armorer (2-days) http://t.co/2nC1tSmgy7
— ACADEMI, LLC (@AcademiElite) May 9, 2014
Finally, in this proxy war between west and east, to believe that the US won’t throw everything it can at Putin is naive, and as such the involvement of trained US mercenaries in Ukraine is beyond debate.
However what is certainly surprising and far more interesting, is the persistent attempts by the German press to discredit none other than their biggest “Developed world” ally, the US. It is almost as if someone (a quite wealthy and powerful someone) has material interests that diverge with those of the Obama administration, and hence converge with those of Putin. Alongside the emerging China-Russia axis, keeping tabs on just how close to Russia Germany is willing to get, is easily the most notable story in the entire Ukraine conflict.
– Blackwater Guards Finally to be Tried for Killing 14 Iraqi Civilians (AllGov, April 13, 2014):
One of the darkest episodes during the U.S. occupation of Iraq last decade is finally resulting in the prosecution of private American security guards who killed more than a dozen Iraqi civilians in a single incident.
The name Blackwater became famous after the 2007 event in which guards from the security firm’s Raven 23 unit opened fire in Baghdad’s Nisour Square on September 16. The shootings, which the Iraqi government said were unprovoked, killed 14 people and wounded 20 others.
The guards claimed they came under attack from insurgents while carrying out their duties for the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), which had hired the firm that has since undergone multiple name changes (Blackwater Worldwide, then Xe Services, now Academi).
– The ‘Crackdown’ Begins: Ukraine Launches “Anti-Terrorist” Operations In Eastern Ukraine, Arrests 70 (ZeroHedge, April 8, 2014):
Despite Russia’s veiled threat that any ongoing action against pro-Russian demonstrators had the potential to instigate civil war and bring action by the Russian forces, Ukraine’s interior minister Arsen Avakov has announced, Reuters reports, that Ukraine has launched an “anti-terrorist” operation in the eastern city of Kharkiv and about 70 “separatists” have been arrested for seizing the regional administration building. Is this the red-line that Putin laid down last night?
As Russia made clear last night, as ITAR-TASS reports,
Greystone is a subsidiary of Blackwater (= Xe = Academi).
– Blackwater’s Black Ops (The Nation, Oct 4, 2010, by Jeremy Scahill):
One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the “intel arm” of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.
– Russia Accuses US Mercenaries Of Inciting Civil War In Ukraine (ZeroHedge, April 7, 2014):
In response to claims by the Ukraine government (and the west) that Russia provoking trouble in Eastern Europe – with The White House’s Jary Carney even suggesting that pro-Russia demonstrators were paid – Russia’s foreign ministry has responded. Posting via their Facebook page, Russia urged Ukraine to halt any interior military preparations which could instigate a civil war. But the kicker, for which we anxiously await a rebuttal, is Russia’s comment that they “are particularly concerned that the operation involves some 150 American mercenaries.”
The US administration perspective… (via WaPo)
In Washington, the Obama administration expressed deep skepticism that the scattered uprisings and building takeovers in cities such as Donetsk and Kharkiv have been spontaneous. “There is strong evidence suggesting some of these demonstrators were paid,” said Jay Carney, the White House spokesman.
“If Russia moves into eastern Ukraine, either overtly or covertly, this would be a very serious escalation,” Carney said.
The Ukrainian perspective…
Blackwater, then Xe and now Academi.
Greystone is a subsidiary of Blackwater.
– Ukrainian authorities to tame Eastern regions with aid of private military company (ITAR-TASS, March 25, 2014):
Dnepropetrovsk, March 25. /ITAR-TASS/. An overseas private military company will engages in the suppressing of protest moods of the mostly Russian-speaking population in the East of Ukraine, a source at the Security Service of Ukraine said Monday
“The case in hand is Greystone Ltd. company,” he said.
– Once called Blackwater, firm changes name (Sydney Morning Herald/AFP, Dec. 13, 2011):
The US security firm formerly known as Blackwater, which was barred from Iraq over a deadly 2007 shooting, has renamed itself a second time.
USTC Holdings, the investor consortium that acquired ex-Blackwater firm Xe Services in December 2010, announced ACADEMI as the new name and brand for Xe Services.
The rebranding came as President Barack Obama met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Monday, marking America’s exit from a war launched to oust Saddam Hussein.
“We have had a year of extraordinary changes that have resulted in a new, better company,” ACADEMI president and chief executive Ted Wright said in a statement.
“I know that everyone at ACADEMI shares in this commitment to promote the highest standards of ethical conduct, compliance and integrity in all of our activities.
– Blackwater’s New Director: Bill Clinton’s Lawyer (Wired, July 6, 2011):
Blackwater’s rebranding continues at a torrid pace. Danger Room has learned the latest Washington greybeard hired to spruce up the image of the world’s most infamous private security firm is Jack Quinn, a top Washington lobbyist and former White House counsel to President Bill Clinton.
Now renamed Xe and owned by an investor consortium called USTC Holdings, the company is bringing Quinn — pictured left, with Rep. Joe Crowley — onto its board as an “independent director.” He’ll focus on “governance and oversight,” keeping the company out of trouble, especially with the government. USTC Holdings’ Jason DeYonker says that Quinn’s reputation for “commitment to the highest ethical standards of conduct in both the public and private sectors” makes him a great fit.
To be cynical about it, a man who gave legal advice to Clinton knows a whole lot about crisis management. Which is important, since Xe intends to keep providing security to U.S. diplomats in dangerous places – activities that, under its old leadership, led its guards into a shooting debacle that killed 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007.
Quinn is one of a string of board members and executives Xe brought on to draw a bright line between the old Blackwater and the new. All of them are powerful people, like ex-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Quinn’s lobbying clients include AT&T, old-folks association AARP and Visa.
May 16 (Reuters) — The crown prince of Abu Dhabi has hired the founder of the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide to set up an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the United Arab Emirates, the New York Times reported Sunday.
The Times said it obtained documents that showed that the unit being formed by Erik Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, with $529 million from the UAE would be used to thwart internal revolt, conduct special operations and defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from attacks.
The newspaper said the UAE’s decision to hire the contingent of foreign troops was taken before a wave of popular unrest spread across the Arab world in recent months, including to neighboring Bahrain and Oman.
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 U.S. 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. The subcommittee is designed to “maximize governance, compliance and accountability” and “promote the highest degrees of ethics and professionalism within the private-security industry.”
In other words, no more shooting civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, no more signing for weapons its guards aren’t authorized to carry in war zones, no more impersonations of cartoon characters to acquire said weaponry, and no more ‘roids and coke on the job.
– US ‘concerned’ about Iran influence in Afghanistan (Telegraph):
The White House said on Monday the world has “every reason to be concerned” about Iranian influence in Afghanistan, after President Hamid Karzai admitted receiving bags of money from Tehran.
– Former UK ambassador Craig Murray (The Raw Story):
Murray alleged that in the late 1990s the Uzbek ambassador to the US met with then-Texas Governor George W. Bush to discuss a pipeline for the region, and out of that meeting came agreements that would see Texas-based Enron gain the rights to Uzbekistan’s natural gas deposits, while oil company Unocal worked on developing the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline.
“The consultant who was organizing this for Unocal was a certain Mr. Karzai, who is now president of Afghanistan,” Murray noted.
“There are designs of this pipeline, and if you look at the deployment of US forces in Afghanistan, as against other NATO country forces in Afghanistan, you’ll see that undoubtedly the US forces are positioned to guard the pipeline route. It’s what it’s about. It’s about money, it’s about oil, it’s not about democracy.”
Karzai: Blackwater behind terrorism
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said US private security firms, including Xe Services LLC, formerly known as Blackwater, are being behind terrorism in the country.
At a press conference in Kabul, Karzai said that US security companies have been behind explosions that have claimed the lives of women and children.
The Afghan president added that they have caused “blasts and terrorism” in different parts of Afghanistan over the past months.
The Afghan president said his administration cannot even distinguish between the bomb blasts carried out by US security firms and those of the Taliban militants.
“In fact we don’t yet know how many of these blasts are by Taliban and how many are carried out by them (US security companies).”
Blackwater has been involved in the murder of several Afghan citizens over the past years. The company has also been struggling with a trail of legal cases and civil lawsuits, including one for killing 17 Iraqi civilians during a Baghdad shootout in 2007.
Earlier in June, the CIA reportedly admitted that Blackwater had been loading bombs on US drones that target suspected militants in neighboring Pakistan.
Never mind the dead civilians. Forget about the stolen guns. Get over the murder arrests, the fraud allegations, and the accusations of guards pumping themselves up with steroids and cocaine. Through a “joint venture,” the notorious private-security firm Blackwater has won a piece of a five-year State Department contract worth up to $10 billion, Danger Room has learned.
Apparently, there is no misdeed so big that it can keep guns-for-hire from working for the government. And this is despite a 2008 campaign pledge from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ban the company from federal contracts.
Eight private security firms have won State’s giant Worldwide Protective Services contract, the big Foggy Bottom partnership to keep embassies and their inhabitants safe. Two of those firms are longtime State contract holders DynCorp and Triple Canopy. The others are newcomers to the big security contract: EOD Technology, SOC, Aegis Defense Services, Global Strategies Group, Torres International Services and International Development Solutions LLC.
Don’t see any of Blackwater’s myriad business names on there? That’s apparently by design.
Blackwater and the State Department tried their best to obscure their renewed relationship. As Danger Room reported Wednesday, Blackwater did not appear on the vendors’ list for Worldwide Protective Services. And the State Department confirms that the company, renamed Xe Services, didn’t actually submit its own independent bid.
Instead, they used a blandly named cut-out, “International Development Solutions,” to retain a toehold into State’s lucrative security business. No one who looks at the official announcement of the contract award would have any idea that firm is connected to Blackwater.
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.
Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, the American private security organisation, has claimed that his employees have called in airstrikes in Afghanistan.
He also mocked Afghan military recruits for needing lessons in how to use a toilet, and questioned the value and quality of other countries’ troops in the country.
In a speech in January at the University of Michigan which was secretly recorded, he questioned the will to fight of many Nato troops in Afghanistan, saying that “a lot of them should just pack it in and go home”.
Blackwater, now renamed Xe Services, has been a lightning rod for controversy surrounding America’s use of private contractors in war zones since its personnel killed 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians in a Baghdad square in 2007.
More than 500 AK47 rifles had been removed from the bunker by Blackwater staff without permission.
Private American security guards working for the US military in Afghanistan removed hundreds of handguns and automatic weapons from stores intended for the exclusive use of the Afghan police and used them on drunken shooting rampages that killed two Afghan civilians and injured at least two more.
The guards included a former US Marine with a criminal record of assault and battery and a former soldier discharged from the US Army after testing positive for cocaine, Congress heard yesterday.
Justin Cannon, Christopher Drotleff and a guard using the name “Eric Cartman” from the cartoon South Park were employees of a subsidiary of the Blackwater Worldwide group, implicated in a litany of extrajudicial shootings since 2003 in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Cannon and Drotleff have been charged with killing two Afghans and injuring a third in an incident last May when they opened fire on a car carrying four civilians in Kabul, while under the influence of alcohol. The men, who were hired to train Afghan soldiers, had no permission from US authorities to carry guns.
Iraqi officials have ordered 250 Blackwater security guards to leave the country within a week.
The Interior Ministry says both current and former employees of the firm, were told of their expulsion a few days ago. It comes after a U.S. judge dismissed the manslaughter charges against 5 members of the company, in connection with the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007.
Blackwater, which is now called ‘Xe Services’, was one of three private U.S. security contractors hired to protect diplomats in Iraq.
The Pentagon has gone into damage control mode after Defense Secretary Robert Gates appeared to confirm that security contractor Blackwater is operating in Pakistan.
The admission, quickly denied by Defense Department officials, has set fire to long-simmering rumors inside Pakistan about the involvement of for-profit contractors in the war against the Taliban.
Defense Department officials say Gates did not mean to suggest that Blackwater is now operating on Pakistani soil when a journalist from Pakistan’s Express TV asked him about military contractors’ activities.
In the interview, which took place Thursday, Gates was asked “about another issue that has come up and again … about the phone security companies [sic] that have been operating in Iraq, in Afghanistan and now in Pakistan. Xe International, formerly known as Blackwater or Data Corp. Under what rules are they operating here in Pakistan?”
“Well, they’re operating as individual companies here in Pakistan, in Afghanistan and in Iraq,” Gates replied. “If they’re contracting with us or with the State Department here in Pakistan, then there are very clear rules set forth by the State Department and by ourselves.”
“This appears to be a contradiction of previous statements made by the Defense Department, by Blackwater, by the Pakistani government and by the US embassy in Islamabad, all of whom claimed Blackwater was not in the country,” investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill wrote.
In November, Scahill reported that Blackwater is operating out of a covert US operating base in Karachi, where it “plan[s] targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, ‘snatch and grabs’ of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan.”
In December, the UK’s Guardian reported that Blackwater guards are patrolling a CIA airbase in Baluchistan province.
Pakistan has been rife with rumors in recent years about private security contractors operating on the country’s soil, and “about purported US plots to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and build permanent American military bases,” as the Wall Street Journal puts it.