Blackwater - washington post

The WashPost has a great special section on security contractors, in particular Bl.Water

About Blackwater: [For few years ppl (ie media and commentators) continually mention Blackwater but they never explained who they are and what they actually do]

Pentagon vs State selected highlights
State Department Struggles To Oversee Private Army
The State Department Turned to Contractors Such as Blackwater Amid a Fight With the Pentagon Over Personal Security in Iraq

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 21, 2007; A01


The FBI is investigating the incident, Baghdad has vowed to overturn a law shielding contractors from prosecution, and congressional critics have charged State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security with failing to supervise Blackwater and other security companies under its authority.

The shootings have also reopened long-standing, bitter arguments between the State Department and the Pentagon, which over the years have feuded over policies including the decision to invade Iraq and the treatment of detainees. Such broad disagreements have frequently played out over a narrow question: Who is responsible for the safety of U.S. civilians serving in Iraq?

With State Department and FBI investigations underway, the military leaked its own report on the Sept. 16 shootings, finding no evidence that the Blackwater guards fired in self-defense, as the company has maintained. U.S. officers have publicly criticized the security contractors as out-of-control "cowboys" who alienate the same Iraqis the military is trying to cultivate.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said last week that the contractors are at "cross purposes" with military goals, and he has suggested they be put under his authority. Many at State see this as a power grab by a Defense Department that has long refused to supply protection for diplomats .....

At its headquarters in a Rosslyn high-rise, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) is in crisis mode. Already, the service has more than doubled its three dozen agents in Baghdad, dispatching at least a third of the elite, 100-agent mobile SWAT force it keeps for emergencies around the world. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has ordered that at least one DS agent accompany every Blackwater-guarded convoy leaving the Green Zone -- an average of six or seven each day -- and has directed DS to monitor and archive radio and video transmissions from Blackwater vehicles to be used as evidence in any future incident.


An examination of State Department security contractor operations awaits Rice's review. Some officials speculated that Rice will have no choice but to remove Blackwater's approximately 900 personal-security personnel from Iraq; others said they think the company will be allowed to stay through the end of its current contract in May.

Replacing Blackwater -- by far the largest and most visible of three private security companies under State Department contract in Iraq -- would be difficult and expensive. DS officials fear that their bureau may be permanently tasked with guarding the hundreds of U.S. civilian officials now under Blackwater protection in Iraq. The service has only 1,400 trained agents worldwide, spread among the State Department building in Washington, 25 domestic U.S. offices and 285 U.S. diplomatic facilities overseas.

In the short term, taking over in Iraq would require pulling agents from other assignments. Training new agents "would take anywhere from 18 months to two years to identify them, do all the backgrounds, do the clearance work, seven months of basic training [and] follow-up training for high threats," said Richard Griffin, the assistant secretary of state for Diplomatic Security, in recent testimony.

A new, $112 million contract signed last month with Blackwater may also be in jeopardy, according to a senior DS official who, like other current and former administration officials and military officers interviewed for this article, discussed the contractor issue on the condition of anonymity. The new contract -- adding 241 Blackwater personnel and increasing its helicopter fleet in Iraq from eight to 24 -- will provide a quick-reaction air component for diplomatic transport, medical evacuation and rescue, the senior official said, something for which the military has declined to dedicate resources.

The need for the helicopters, the official maintained, was underscored when a convoy carrying Poland's ambassador in Baghdad was ambushed early this month. "Our technical ops center [in Baghdad] heard the radio chatter" between the ambassador's guards and the U.S. military, the official said. When the military said a rescue would take an hour, DS contacted Blackwater. Its helicopter extricated the dead and wounded -- including the badly burned ambassador -- in seven minutes.


DS operations grew after the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, but it was not until after the administration declared war on the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 that security contractors became a permanent fixture on the State Department's payroll.

North Carolina-based Blackwater was hired to protect Hamid Karzai, first installed as head of a transitional government in Kabul and later elected president. Karzai was reluctant to accept the guards, said a U.S. diplomat posted to Afghanistan. "He was concerned about how it would look to have blonde or African-American guards, even women." Karzai asked why he couldn't have Italian Americans who could blend in more easily. 8O

Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, who arrived in Kabul in December 2001 as President Bush's special envoy, later serving as ambassador there before moving to Iraq in 2005, received complaints about the contractors from Karzai. Tribal elders were insulted when they were refused access to him; some were even pushed to the ground if they approached too aggressively, the U.S. diplomat recalled.

Blackwater also guarded Khalilzad, whose gratitude was mixed with worry that the guards' speeding convoys would hit an Afghan child darting from a side street.

But Afghanistan, in security terms, was child's play compared with what would lie ahead in Iraq.

A Convenient Choice

When the U.S. military invaded and occupied Iraq in early 2003, there was no question who would be in charge of security for the official civilians pouring in to remake the country. Under an executive order signed by Bush, the Coalition Provisional Authority and its head, L. Paul Bremer, reported directly to then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. But as U.S. troops became preoccupied with a growing insurgency, the Pentagon hired Blackwater to provide protection for Bremer and other civilians.


A new executive order, signed in January 2004, gave State authority over all but military operations. Rumsfeld's revenge, at least in the view of many State officials, was to withdraw all but minimal assistance for diplomatic security.

Despite the tension, many at State acknowledged the Pentagon's point that soldiers were not trained as personal protectors. Others worried that surrounding civilian officials with helmets and Humvees would undermine the message of friendly democracy they were trying to instill in Iraq.

"It was a question of, 'Do you want uniforms?' " the senior DS official said. " 'Should the military be doing that kind of work?' "

It was clear that the mission was beyond DS capabilities, and as the mid-2004 embassy opening approached, "we had to decide what we were going to do," the former State Department official said. "We had to get jobs done, and to do that we had to have some protection."

State chose the most expedient solution: Take over the Pentagon's personal security contract with Blackwater and extend it for a year. "Yes, it was a sole-source contract" justified by "urgent and compelling reasons," said William Moser, the deputy assistant secretary of state for logistics management,


Both Blackwater and State say the firm provides good value.


In any case, Prince said, "I know it would be hard for the State Department to recruit other people to come over and do reconstruction work . . . if some of them are going home in coffins."

U.S. diplomats who have served in Iraq are uniform in their defense of Blackwater and the other security firms that protect them. Blackwater, they point out, has lost about 30 of its own personnel in Iraq -- and not one diplomat.

It's fortunate that they haven't investigated that much more shadowy organisation, ARRSEwater
Not the biggest fans of this lot.

Showy, loud, aggressive, not tolerant of anything foreign...real winners of hearts and minds.

Our standing orders were to steer well feckin' clear of them.

I was watching them conducting entry and clearance drills on some large building in the Green Zone.
All blacked up, roping in from the helos, approaching the building in wagons at mach ten-blokes hanging off the outside of them (like they do on the telly), stacking up, doing the running around and jumping and shouting "clear" thing.

It was very exciting...and I remember thinking...."knobs".
inbredyokel666 said:
Not the biggest fans of this lot.

Showy, loud, aggressive, not tolerant of anything foreign...real winners of hearts and minds.

Our standing orders were to steer well feckin' clear of them.

For a moment there I thought you meant The State Department.


Yes, Blackwater are gung-ho idiots, this is hardly news, how long before Halo-Jones is harping on about privatisation of war and how it is a disgrace, blah, blah, blah.
They might be a bunch of Cnuts, but they have got their heads screwed on when it comes to liability.

I wouldn't mind have a non prosecution clause in my terms of service.

Latest Threads