German Arms Firm Ends Blackwater Deal After TV Report

Weapons manufacturer Heckler & Koch said it would end its relationship with Blackwater after German media reported that the controversial US-run military firm was using its guns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Blackwater, a private security company which has been contracted to protect high-profile US officials and foreign dignitaries in Iraq, had been using Heckler & Koch machine guns in both Iraq and Afghanistan, German broadcaster ARD’s “Report Mainz” program reported Monday, Feb. 19.

The German arms manufacturer contacted the program shortly before the report was aired on Monday night and said it would cut all its ties to the US firm, according to “Report Mainz.”

The German company on its Web site described its work with Blackwater as a “unique and strategic partnership” in which the two firms were cooperating to develop “special edition” firearms and offer training courses in the United States to use Heckler & Koch weapons.

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Hayden Admits: Contractors Lead ‘Enhanced Interrogations’ at CIA Black Sites

Ciaprison In testimony before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, Director of Central Intelligence Mike Hayden admitted to using contractors for “enhanced interrogation” at the CIA’s secret prisons, the so-called black sites.  It was an issue first raised last summer on The Spy Who Billed Me.  From Tuesday’s exchange:

FEINSTEIN:  I’d like to ask this question: Who carries out these [enhanced interrogation] techniques? Are they government employees or contractors?

HAYDEN: At our facilities during this, we have a mix of both government employees and contractors. Everything is done under, as we’ve talked before, ma’am, under my authority and the authority of the agency. But the people at the locations are frequently a mix of both — we call them blue badgers and green badgers.

FEINSTEIN: And where do you use only contractors?

HAYDEN: I’m not aware of any facility in which there were only contractors. And this came up…

FEINSTEIN: Any facility anywhere in the world?

HAYDEN: Oh, I mean, I’m talking about our detention facilities. I want to make something very clear, because I don’t think it was quite crystal clear in the discussion you had with Attorney General Mukasey.

Earlier, Senator Feinstein has asked Attorney General Mukasey whether the use of contractors in coercive interrogation techniques (i.e. enhanced interrogation techniques) is legal.  Specifically, Senator Feinstein asked:

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Showdown in Blackwater’s Backyard

Marshall Adame is a Democrat running for Congress in North Carolina’s 3rd District, a jurisdiction along the Tar Heel state’s low-lying eastern coast that is home to the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune, Air Station Cherry Point, and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, as well as Blackwater Worldwide’s 7,000-acre corporate headquarters and training facility. Adame is an underdog in the congressional race, where he will likely face seven-term Republican incumbent Walter B. Jones—who brought the term “freedom fries” to Congress—in the general election. Jones has since become an opponent of the Iraq war, atoning for his vote to authorize the war by writing letters of condolence to the families of dead soldiers—a “mea culpa to my Lord,” he says. But the incumbent and his Republican party are not the only obstacles Adame will have to overcome if he hopes to take over the 3rd District’s congressional seat. He also faces tough opposition from Blackwater.

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Pioneering Blackwater Protesters Given Secret Trial and Criminal Conviction

The message to you the American citizen: Do not attack Blackwater Worldwide peacefully or otherwise.
The first secret courtcases against political activists in America have been and gone. The end game has begun.
 
Meet Blackwater; Cheneys Gestapo. The army of the New World Order.(travellerev)

By Jeremy Scahill.

Last week in Currituck County, N.C., Superior Court Judge Russell Duke presided over the final step in securing the first criminal conviction stemming from the deadly actions of Blackwater Worldwide, the Bush administration’s favorite mercenary company. Lest you think you missed some earth-shifting, breaking news, hold on a moment. The “criminals” in question were not the armed thugs who gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians and wounded more than 20 others in Baghdad’s Nisour Square last September. They were seven nonviolent activists who had the audacity to stage a demonstration at the gates of Blackwater’s 7,000-acre private military base in North Carolina to protest the actions of mercenaries acting with impunity — and apparent immunity — in their names and those of every American.

The arrest of the activists and the subsequent five days they spent locked up in jail is more punishment than any Blackwater mercenaries have received for their deadly actions against Iraqi civilians. “The courts pretend that adherence to the law is what makes for an orderly and peaceable world,” said Steve Baggarly, one of the protest organizers. “In fact, U.S. law and courts stand idly by while the U.S. military and private armies like Blackwater have killed, maimed, brutalized and destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.”

U.S. Cannot Manage Contractors In Wars, Officials Testify on Hill

With even more U.S. contractors now in Iraq and Afghanistan than U.S. military personnel, government officials told Congress yesterday that the Bush administration is not prepared to manage the contractors’ critical involvement in the American war effort.

At the end of last September, there were “over 196,000 contractor personnel working for the Defense Department in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Jack Bell, deputy undersecretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness.

Contractors “have become part of our total force, a concept that DoD [the Defense Department] must manage on an integrated basis with our military forces,” he also said in prepared testimony for a hearing yesterday of the Senate homeland security subcommittee. “Frankly,” he continued, “we were not adequately prepared to address” what he termed “this unprecedented scale of our dependence on contractors.”

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US quietly demands Iraq give defense contractors, US military immunity from prosecution

US officials are dragooning Iraq into accepting immunity for US civilian contractors in new negotiations with the Iraqi government just months after a feud over a private defense contractor exploded into an international outcry.

The Bush administration insists that Baghdad give the US “broad authority to conduct combat operations and guarantee civilian contractors specific legal protections from Iraqi law, according to administration and military officials,” a front page story in Friday’s New York Times reports.

The Administration’s proposed security agreement would replace the current United Nations mandate authorizing the US presence in Iraq, which is set to expire Dec. 31, 2008.

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Blackwater dropped blinding tear gas on Iraqis, US soldiers in 2005

Blackwater security contractors employed in Iraq dropped a blinding riot-control gas on Iraqi civilians and US military personnel on a busy Baghdad street in May 2005, according to the reporter who first broke the NSA wiretapping scandal in the New York Times.”The copter dropped CS gas, a riot-control substance the American military in Iraq can use only under the strictest conditions and with the approval of top military commanders,” James Risen writes. “An armored vehicle on the ground also released the gas, temporarily blinding drivers, passers-by and at least 10 American soldiers operating the checkpoint.”

CS gas — 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile — is among the most common tear gases used by law enforcement and militaries in conflict zones.

Use of CS gas in war is prohibited by the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention (signed in 1993), as it could trigged retaliation with more toxic substances such as nerve gas. “A 1975 presidential order allows their use by the United States military in war zones under limited defensive circumstances and only with the approval of the president or a senior officer designated by the president,” the Times notes.

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Blackwater USA steps up lobbying efforts

WASHINGTON — Private-security contractor Blackwater Worldwide, which protects U.S. government officials in Iraq and faces scrutiny over its role in the shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians, has ramped up its lobbying representation on Capitol Hill.

Law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice was tapped by the company, whose chairman is Erik Prince, a Holland native. They’ve been hired to lobby the government on contracting and other issues, according to the form posted online Tuesday by the Senate’s public records office.

Womble Carlyle is the third lobbying firm to be hired by Moyock, N.C.-based Blackwater since October.

The company has attracted considerable congressional scrutiny and criticism from the Iraqi government and human rights groups for its involvement in several dozen shooting incidents.

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Police State America – A Look Back and Ahead

Something to ponder while you eat your X-mas turkey.

Operation FALCON – Police State America in Real Time

Mike Whitney won a 2008 Project Censored Award for his February, 2007 article titled “Operation FALCON and the Looming Police State.” In it, he reported that the Bush administration “carried out three massive sweeps in the last two years, rolling up more than 30,000 minor crooks and criminals” that he calls a “blueprint for removing dissidents and political rivals” reminiscent of Nazi Germany or any other repressive police state. Those chickens now reside at home, but the public is largely unaware and unconcerned. We all should be as Whitney raises a “red flag for anyone who cares at all about human rights, civil liberties, or simply saving his own skin.”

Operation FALCON stands for “Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally” and came out of the Bush Justice Department and right-wing think tanks “where fantasies of autocratic government have a long history” and are now playing out in real time. The scheme centralizes power in Washington and uses resources of local authorities for its own purposes.

Whitney traces its short history starting in the week of April 4 – 10, 2005 when over 10,000 criminal suspects were arrested in “the largest criminal sweep in the nation’s history” in a “single initiative.” Its aim was “quantity,” not “quality,” but Whitney asked why did the Feds get involved in local police work and suggested something more sinister was involved “than just ensuring public safety.” His answer – “to enhance the powers of the ‘unitary’ executive” by giving Washington power over local law enforcement, and that makes perfect sense under an administration obsessed with wanting unchallengeable control.

Operation FALCON II followed a week later from April 17 – 23 and swept up another 9037 “alleged fugitives.” The final FALCON III came from October 22 – 28, 2006 with 10,773 more arrests. Each sweep was the same and concentrated on alleged criminal types out of character for a federal operation, so clearly another motive was involved. Further, no one arrested was charged with a terrorist-related crime, and that alone looks fishy. Whitney thought so and called FALCON “new drills for a new world order” that’s waging permanent war, defiles the law, ignores checks and balances, condones torture, repealed habeas, and illegally spies on everyone.

Police State America Preparations

Today, dissent is an endangered species, and preparations are underway for mass detentions in the “war on terrorism” targeting anyone seen as a threat. Halliburton is the beneficiary with a DHS contingency contract worth nearly $400 million to build US-based camps for “detention and processing” in case of an “emergency influx of immigrants….or to support the rapid development of new programs (for planned) expansion facilities (for anyone with capacity for 5000 or more persons).”

This language is cover for planned US-based concentration camps for anyone labeled an enemy of the state or threat to “national security.” The plan is clear – to have facilities in place if martial law is declared with plenty of reasons to fear it’s coming. Why else these camps and why all the repressive laws, EOs, NSPDs, and HSPDs put in place if they weren’t for a purpose.

The Pentagon is also ready with a DOD action plan called “Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support.” It envisions an “active, layered defense” both within and outside the country that pledges to “transform US military forces to execute homeland defense missions in the….US homeland.” It lays out a strategy for increased reconnaissance and surveillance to “defeat potential challengers before they threaten the United States.” It also “maximizes threat awareness and seizes the initiative from those who would harm us.”

These are ominous developments that suggest a likely real or contrived homeland terror attack severe enough to warrant suspending the Constitution and declaring martial law with the public acquiescing out of fear. If it comes, anyone may be targeted as a “national security” threat, indefinitely detained in a camp, and no evidence is needed for proof. The state and military will be empowered by law to act preventively through mass roundups and detentions that appears the reason for three test-run FALCON operations.

Full-scale militarization of the country is already lawful under the 1988 Reagan administration’s “national security emergency” EO 12656. It was meant for “Any occurrence, including natural disaster, military attack, technological or other emergency, that seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States.” “Police state America” has been in the works a long time, and it now may be near the boiling point.

The Role of Blackwater USA in Police State America

Most people know about Blackwater but not how it operates. We better learn because it’s coming to a neighborhood near you, and that means trouble. Author Jeremy Scahill wrote the book on the company he calls “the world’s most powerful mercenary army” and describes it as a “shadowy mercenary company (employing) some of the most feared professional killers in the world accustomed to operating without worry of legal consequences (and) largely off the congressional radar.” It has friends in high places who give it “remarkable power and protection within the US war apparatus” with unaccountable license to practice street violence with impunity to include cold-blooded murder wherever their paramilitaries are deployed.

For now, that’s mostly abroad, and controversy surfaced about the company after its mercenaries killed two dozen or more Iraqis and wounded dozens more in al-Nisour on September 16. It was the latest incident involving a company with a disturbing history of unprovoked violence and then claiming self-defense. Blackwater is contracted to provide security services for US diplomats, officials and others that once was assigned to the military at one-sixth or less what the company charges under an administration that believes anything government can do private business does better, so let it whatever the cost.

Using Blackwater and other paramilitaries is part of the scheme to militarize America, and New Orleans is its first test case. Scahill wrote that “about 150 heavily armed Blackwater troops dressed in full battle gear” arrived in the Crescent City right after Katrina hit and spread out into the city’s chaos. Others came later. Their cover was to provide hurricane relief, but that was a ruse as local residents still around in the wrong places soon discovered. They patrolled like Gestapo in SUVs with tinted windows and their logo on the back. Others used unmarked cars with no license plates, and relief wasn’t their mandate. They came to secure neighborhoods from their legal residents and treat those wanting to return like criminals. They wore flak jackets, carried automatic weapons and had extra guns strapped to their legs. They weren’t for show.

Instead of helping hurricane victims, they came as vigilantes to terrorize them and be empowered by federal, state and local authorities to do it. Blackwater USA is the face of paramilitarism on US streets as the “war on terrorism” comes to a neighborhood near you with New Orleans the first test case to see if the company can operate here the way it does in Iraq and get away with it. It’s doing it.

More than two years after Katrina, New Orleans is still a disaster zone, and many thousands of its residents are still without homes. Instead of helping them rebuild and restore their lives, federal funds instead go to private mercenaries to protect the privileged from desperate people needing help. Blackwater is another element in place in “police state America” where the streets of Boston, Boise or Buffalo may one day resemble Baghdad and bring the “war on terror” to the homeland with chilling implications of what that means.

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