The Secret Raids of Alberto Gonzales
Operation Falcon: 10,000 Swept Up
By MIKE WHITNEY
18/05/08 “Counterpunch” — – There’s only one way to make sure that the machinery of state-terror is operating at maximum efficiency; flip on the switch and let er rip. That was thinking behind last month’s massive roundup of 10,000 American citizens in what was aptly-christened Operation Falcon.
Operation Falcon was a massive clandestine dragnet that involved hundreds of state, federal and local law-enforcement agencies during the week of April 4 to April 10, 2005. It was the largest criminal-sweep in the nation’s history and was brainchild of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his counterpart in the US Marshal’s office, (Director) Ben Reyna.
Read more and listen to speeches by Mike Whitney and Jeremey Scahill on the militarization of America and on the looming martial law.
Blackwater USA, the private security contractor that has operated in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and New Orleans, has been booming the past few years. Founded in December of 1996, the company spent its early years “paying staff with an executive’s credit card and begging for customers,” according to the Virginian-Pilot. But today, Blackwater reportedly has revenues of about $100 million annually, almost all of it from government contracts, and maintains “a compound half the size of Manhattan and 450 permanent employees,” according to the newspaper.
How did Blackwater rise so high, so fast? The “war on terrorism” got the ball rolling for the firm, but one suspects that political connections played a big part as well. Erik Prince, Blackwater’s founder, is a former SEAL who is deeply involved in Republican Party politics. Since 1998, he has funneled roughly $200,000 to GOP committees and candidates, including President Bush. In 2004, Blackwater retained the Alexander Strategy Group, the PR and lobbying firm that closed down earlier this year due to its embarrassing ties to Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay. (Paul Behrends, a former national security adviser to Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, handled the account for Alexander. After the firm shut down, Behrends moved on to a firm called C&M Capitolink, and took the Blackwater account with him.)
BAGHDAD (AFP) — Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Wednesday that Blackwater should leave the country because of the mountain of evidence against the under-fire US security firm.
His comments came amid growing anger among Iraqis that “above-the-law” security contractors are continuing to operate in Iraq while Blackwater is being probed over a deadly shooting 17 days ago.
“I believe the abundance of evidence against it makes it unfit to stay in Iraq,” Maliki told a televised press conference in Baghdad.
A New York Times report on Wednesday citing witnesses, Iraqi investigators and a US official said that as many as 17 people were killed and 24 wounded when Blackwater employees opened fire in central Baghdad on September 16.
America’s hired guns in Iraq have been called ‘the coalition of the billing’, but Blackwater mercenaries are accused of more than just taking the money.
Investigations Editor Neil Mackay examines the links between the security firm and the US political elite
EVEN FOR Blackwater, it was an atrocity too far. If an Iraqi government report is to be believed, Blackwater, a US mercenary company which is unofficially the world’s largest “for hire” private army, indiscriminately and without provocation opened fire earlier this month on civilians in a Baghdad street, killing at least 20 people.
Iraq immediately revoked the firm’s licence to operate in the country and moved to expel its staff and prosecute those responsible for the shootings, but Blackwater’s activities have since resumed.
This coincides with the release of a US Embassy report on the September 16 shooting, obtained by the Washington Post and described by a State Department official as a “first blush” account. It details the events, as given by Blackwater guards, and has stirred controversy in Iraq and Washington and prompted an inquiry into the role of Blackwater and other private security firms in Iraq.
On February 7, 2007, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing to initiate an investigation into the performance and accountability of private military contractors in Iraq. The hearing included the examination of one prominent case study: a pivotal event of the Iraq War in which four Blackwater USA security contractors were ambushed and killed in Fallujah on March 31, 2004, while escorting a convoy.
At the hearing, Blackwater’s General Counsel testified that the company acted responsibly in preparing for and executing the Fallujah mission. He asserted that the vehicles involved had an “appropriate” amount of protection and that the level of staffing was “the norm” given “the threat as it was known on the ground in Iraq.”
Blackwater involved in Rendition flights.
This flight was spotted landing at a UK airport – proof that ‘rendition ‘ flights are still taking place
By GLEN OWEN
The row over CIA ‘torture flights’ using British airports has deepened following fresh evidence that a plane repeatedly linked to the controversial programme landed in the UK just days ago.
The plane was logged arriving at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk last weekend, and watching aviation experts said the aircraft, piloted by crew clad in desert fatigues, was immediately surrounded on the runway by armed American security forces.
Its registration number, clearly visible on the fuselage, identifies it as a plane which the European Parliament says has been involved in ‘ghost flights’ to smuggle terrorist suspects to shadowy interrogation centres abroad. Records show the plane is owned by Blackwater USA, a CIA contractor described as ‘the most secretive and powerful mercenary army on the planet’. An eyewitness, who previously worked as an RAF electronic warfare expert, said that as the plane – a CASA-212 Aviocar – taxied to a stop on the runway it was met by a US military Humvee.