Outsourcing the “war on drugs”.

22 Jan

The BBC’s Spanish language edition reports this week that the Pentagon wants to outsource more of its drug war duties to private security firms such as Blackwater, now called Academi… as well as Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.

The “no bid” contracts are issued through the Pentagon’s Counter-Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office a murky government shop, started back in 1995, that outsources global counternarcotics and counterterrorism duties to private firms.

In 2009, Blackwater received a $1 billion contract to train Afghanistan’s police, which had been formerly handled by the U.S. State Department. This was the same year Caldwell started training Afghan security forces for NATO. According to Spencer Ackerman at Wired magazine, “CNTPO received the funding and chose Blackwater for the contract, even though Blackwater guards in Afghanistan on a different contract stole hundreds of guns intended for those very Afghan cops.”

So perhaps Army North’s duties are going to be increasingly parceled out to private firms. In order for the United States to police the world it takes a lot of cash and a lot of boots on the ground. Sometimes those boots aren’t military issued. So, as we’ve seen since the days of President George W., the U.S. military force has increasingly become a murky, opaque mixture of mercenaries, trained military and private contractors.

Outsourcing allows the Pentagon to move its growing drug war expenses off its books and in to the nether regions of private contracting. “They surreptitiously want to reduce the anti-drug budget by transferring it to private agencies,” says Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, in the BBC report. “The drug war is unpopular and has no political weight except in an election year like this, so the Department of Defense wants to remove that spending from their accounts.”

Bruce Bagley, head of International Studies at the University of Miami, warns in the BBC report that the whole outsourcing idea is really a bad idea. A lesson the U.S. government has had ample time to learn over the past decade in Iraq and Afghanistan.  “Here we enter a vague area where the rules of engagement are not clear and there is almost zero accountability to the public or the electorate,” he says. Not to mention a violation of national sovereignty that could “generate a nationalist backlash if the public realizes what is happening.”

Outsourcing the drug war. What could go wrong? I am reminded again of the oft quoted line from Albert Einstein about the definition of insanity: repeating the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results.


Since the drug war has become so unpopular with the electorate, instead of politicians actually changing the drug laws, the Department of Defense seeks to reduce and conceal the real costs by transferring the “dirty work” to private contractors to do what “U.S. military forces are not allowed or not encouraged to do.”...

”Here we go into a vague area where the rules of engagement are not clear and there is almost zero accountability to the public or the electorate,” said Bagley.

There are concerns that contractors acting independently will threaten the sovereignty of the “key countries” in which they will operate.  The Pentagon says the largest efforts will occur in Latin America including Mexico,  Central America, Caribbean, Columbia and other Andean countries.

Professor Bagley says these private armies could “generate a nationalist backlash if the public came to realize the situation” of operations in their countries.

Once again, the war on drugs creates the opportunity to place troops in countries where having American soldiers would be politically disadvantageous, or simply impossible.
Ultimately, the Pentagon claims they will save money because private contractors don’t have the bureaucracy and hierarchy involved in operations and because “if any of its employees dies, they are responsible.”… – Eric Blair, for prisonplanet

Who is running Blackwater/Xe/Academi now, anyway?

Spencer Ackerman introduced some of the new people at Academi in June, ’11.

Xe’s new owners, USTC Holdings, aren’t exactly bringing in scandal-free talent to run Xe v.2.0. On Monday, they announced Xe’s new “Chief Regulatory & Compliance Officer,” a new position for the company, will be Suzanne Folsom, most recently of insurance giant AIG.

Yes, the woman in charge of making sure the world’s most infamous private security firm is in compliance with U.S. laws and regulations is a veteran of the insurance giant that helped plunge the country into financial chaos. The public bailed out AIG to the tune of $182 billion. Folsom — then as now, regulatory compliance chief for a scandal-plagued firm — got a golden parachute reportedly worth $1 million.

Nor is Folsom the only such example. Xe’s new CEO is Ted Wright, hired June 1 to run the company after helming North American operations for military services giant KBR. Among KBR’s recent hits: kidnapping Filipinos to work for the company in Iraq; confining its Iraq workers to “windowless warehouses“; and locking a woman employee in isolation after she was gang-raped — by other KBR employees.


On the board of directors of Academi, we find former US Attorney General John Ashcroft.   (Yes, that John Ashcroft.)  The Academi bio of Ashcroft reads, in part: “Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is an independent director of ACADEMI and the Chairman of the Ashcroft Group, and has been leading Americans for over 30 years in public and private service…

“As Attorney General, Mr. Ashcroft led the U.S. Department of Justice through the transformational period after the September 11, 2001 attacks, reorganizing the Department to focus on its number one priority: preventing terrorism. The tough antiterrorism campaign he directed helped keep America safe throughout his tenure and resulted in the dismantling of terrorist cells across America and the disruption of over 150 terrorist plots worldwide…”

The Chairman of the Board, we find, is one Billy Joe McCombs; a former car salesman and co-founder of Clear Channel Communications.  This will be a boon for Academi’s attempt to advertise itself as a new and improved, reformed group of mercenaries.

“Billy Joe “Red” McCombs is a director of ACADEMI and the founder of the Red McCombs Automotive Group, a co-founder of Clear Channel Communications, a former owner of the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and the Minnesota Vikings, and the namesake of the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. He is a long-standing member of Forbes Magazine’s top 400 richest Americans and has owned nearly 400 businesses during his career.

“Mr. McCombs is recognized as one of the leading automobile dealers in the United States…  McCombs Automotive ranked sixth in the U.S. in sales in 1998, exceeding $1.7 billion in revenues, with more than 100 locations.

“He is also the co-founder of Clear Channel Communications, Inc. Clear Channel is the largest radio station operator and outdoor advertising business in the world, with operations in more than 30 countries. The company was sold to private investors for an excess of $20 billion in 2008…”

Another member of the board is Retired Admiral Bobby R. Inman (USN).

“Adm. Bobby Inman is a director of ACADEMI and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1950, and from the National War College in 1972. He became an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin in 1987…

“Adm. Inman served in the U.S. Navy from November 1951 to July 1982, when he retired with the permanent rank of admiral. While on active duty he served as Director of the National Security Agency and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence. After retirement from the Navy, he was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC) in Austin, Texas, for four years and Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Westmark Systems, Inc., a privately owned electronics industry holding company for three years. He also served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas from 1987 through 1990…”

[All bios from: ]

There is something repugnant about a former US Att’y General, sworn to see that the laws of the United States as written in the Constitution are upheld, and a retired Navy admiral, who once swore to protect and defend the Constitution and the people of the US, now signing on with a corporate mercenary giant which will take money to work for any country or group with enough cash.  I wonder how Ashcroft feels about Academi’s contract with Monsanto.  Will he protect and uphold Monsanto’s contract over and above the civil rights of a US citizen?  What if Academi took a contract with China against the US – would this just be “business” for Adm. Inman?

Theoretically, the hiring of mercenaries is allowed in the Constitution via the issuance of “letters of marque and reprisal”.  However, Letters of Marque and Reprisal have specific goals.   Blackwater/Xe/now Academi is employed indefinitely by the federal gov’t. for purposes that are very murky, at best.  What is the “war on drugs” or the “war on terror” and how long do they last?  Do these mercenaries have to follow the Constitution?  They certainly do not have to swear an oath to uphold and protect it, the way our armed forces and government officials do.  They simply work for the highest bidder with no fealty to any specific country.  What is the oversight system for mercenaries?  (Does Congress or the Pentagon have legal authority over them?)  Do mercenary groups have to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests?  Are they allowed to arrest people, and if so, do they issue the Miranda warning and follow the other civil rights afforded citizens?  If they are allowed to arrest, where do their “detainees” get sent?  I ask because the “war on drugs” is not limited to Latin American countries, but also takes place in the US.  And if the Latin American countries thusly invaded by Blackwater/Xe/Academi decide to rid themselves of the thugs and kill a few of them, have those countries just “declared war” on the US?

Has anyone thought about this shit?  Has Ron Paul thought about it?  He wants to privatize the entire armed forces – his great idea after 9/11 was to draft legislation that would make mercenaries the only forces being used in the “war on terror”.  Has Barack Obama thought about it?  He has consistently increased the use of mercenary forces since taking office.  In his famous way of looking forward, not back, in Aug, ’10, Blackwater paid a 42 million dollar fine for charges related to its Iraq operations and was allowed to resume its contracts with the State Dept.  The Obama administration awarded Blackwater/Xe Services a quarter of a billion dollar contract to work for the U.S. State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency in Afghanistan.  As of 2009, Obama was even using Triple Canopy, another mercenary company, in Israel.  There is no information available as to the purpose of this unit in Israel.  Jeremy Scahill reported on this here:

I will grant that it is a little late to be wondering about all this, but as more private companies and cities across the US start hiring mercenaries for security purposes – as they are already doing in increasing numbers – we need to ask the right questions.  This is apparently something we are not very inclined to do until it is too late.


Posted by on January 22, 2012 in mercenaries, MIC, security state, State Dept/diplomacy


4 responses to “Outsourcing the “war on drugs”.

  1. paxhonu

    January 22, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Aloha, Teri:

    I appreciate your response to an earlier comment (to your article: Who are Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson) and your nearly correct deciphering of my screen name, paxhonu. While as you noted, the nom de plume does translate literally to Peace Turtle, the more accurate etymology is “Green Sea Turtle Peace”; the critical difference being that paxhonu describes a type of peace (that being a green sea turtle type of peace), rather than a type of turtle. But enough nitpickery, and grateful I am that you recognized the composition in the first place.

    Today’s article, and the Admiral Inman connection in particular, has me wondering exactly how much mercenary contracting (and even mercenary company ownership) the CIA engages in. That CIA operations have been actively covered by private companies, and conversely that private companies’ actions have been in fact CIA, and even further that apparently private companies have been, in fact, majority owned or even entirely owned creatures of the CIA is a well known fact dating back to WWII or earlier.

    And, as exhibited by Admiral Inman’s senior positions with NSA and CIA and the woefully misnamed Federal Reserve (it is neither federal nor a reserve but a privately owned crony of the country’s largest privately held banks (the US has no actual “central bank”), yet the Fed was insanely granted (after intense bank lobbying) immense and exclusive power over the country’s national monetary and currency policies and it continues to benefit and enrich only its sole actual constituency – the major banks, at the uncountable and unaccountable expense of the U.S. and its citizenry; ah, but another story, another day), that somehow dovetail with his board positions in both electronics firms and mercenary soldier of fortune firms, there seems to be no clear line drawn between private and public when it comes to the military, intelligence agencies, covert operations, and secret associations.

    There are, of course, many instances of CIA ownership and/or control of electronics firms in particular, an early and quite notable example being Collins Radio which I’ll take a moment to expound upon. The documentation behind Collins is closely related to the JFK assassination and ranges from James W. Douglas’ seminal work: JFK and the Unspeakable (see review at, to Harvey, Lee and Tippit: A New Look at the Tippit Shooting by John Armstrong (, both of which report that Oswald or an Oswald double was credibly identified in a car “bearing plates belonging to Carl Mather, a long time employee of Collins Radio and close friend of J.D. Tippit.” In April of 1963, the Wall Street Journal announced that Collins [Radio] would construct a modern radio communications system linking Laos, Thailand, and South Vietnam. On November 1, 1963, the New York Times reported that Fidel Castro had captured a large boat called the Rex which was being leased to Collins Radio at the time. The next day, one of the captured Cuban exiles aboard the Rex confessed that the boat had been used to ferry arms into Cuba and that “the CIA organized all arms shipments” (New York Times 11/3/63). According to Bill Kelly’s “Back Channels”, the Rex was the flagship of the JM/WAVE fleet, the CIA’s super station in Miami.

    Documents later released under the JFK Act indicate that Mather was questioned by investigators [with full immunity and not under oath] and claimed that he worked on electronics at Collins, his specific job being the installation of the radio equipment aboard Air Force Two – the Vice President’s plane. (

    Per both George DeMohrenschildt (I am a Patsy: – as also cited by the House Select Committee on Assassinations (“HSCA”)), and Edward Epstein in “Legend: How the Clandestine Intelligence Services of the U.S., Russia, and Cuba set up a Legend who Assassinated a President”, (, Oswald had connections to an Admiral Henry Bruton, a key Collins executive. Bruton had been a lawyer in Virginia before becoming a Navy intelligence officer with a specialty in electronic surveillance, and later joined Collins Radio, and both DeMohrenschild and David Ferri provided testimony about a meeting they had attended with themselves, Oswald, and Adm. Bruton.

    The Warren Commission heard a full slate of testimony on this matter, but failed to include any mention of it whatsoever in its final “Report”. The Warren Commission, that is to say, omitted the connection completely despite the great amount of information provided it by numerous sources. And the only mention of this information (the CIA/Collins Radio/Oswald link) as provided by the later HSCA investigation is contained in the section of its final work entitled “OSWALD-TIPPIT ASSOCIATES” contained in the Staff Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations, U.S. House of Representatives, Ninety-fifth Congress, Second Session, March 1979:; which says, in short, nothing.

    It is likely a coincidence that in 1969, Ross Perot, founder and head of EDS (Electronic Data Systems) “attempted to take control, through a stock swap, of the Collins Radio Company, an Iowa-based CIA and military contractor with a division in the Richardson suburb of Dallas”. (

    Anyway, sorry to belabor the matter so much, but all this definitely gives question to Clear Channel Communications, Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation, Westmark Systems, etc. And further to your point, to whether the CIA is actively engaged in the ownership, operation, and/or contracting of the U.S.’ most favored mercenary soldier of fortune firms including Blackwater/Xe/Academi, etc.

    Thanks once again, Teri, for the insightful reporting and excellent writing.


    • Teri

      January 22, 2012 at 6:16 pm

      There is enough information in your comment to warrant a book – or at the least, many chapters in a book. The CIA is known to have been behind the formation of any number of NGOs and “aid groups” as well. (In other words, the NGOs/aid groups were actually CIA all along. The book you mention, “JFK and the Unspeakable”, cites irrefutable evidence that JFK’s own brainchild, the Agency for International Development – AID – was quickly turned into a CIA front. AID, or USAID, as it is now called, is a government aid group, not an NGO. Although technically an independent federal agency, USAID is subject to the foreign policy guidance of the President, Secretary of State, and the National Security Council. USAID’s Administrator works under the direct authority of the Secretary of State. One USAID director, John Gilligan, admitted: “At one time, many AID field offices were infiltrated from top to bottom with CIA people. It was pretty well known in the agency who they were and what they were up to…The idea was to plant operatives in every kind of activity we had overseas, government, volunteer, religious, every kind.” – George Cotter, “Spies, Strings and Missionaries,” The Christian Century. I recall reading that Obama’s mother worked for one of these groups, the Ford Foundation. Her New York-based boss at the time was Peter Geithner, the father of Obama’s Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. She also worked in Java for USAID for some time.)

      There is also a huge overlap between private security firms, the military, and local police forces. Jeremy Scahill has written about this several times. There is a danger there that is largely ignored by the public. With the military giving millions of dollars worth of equipment to local police, and the same private firms being contracted to work for both the military and local police forces, at what point do we have to acknowledge that our police are in fact a branch of the military? Or perhaps I should say, at what point do we admit that almost all of our armed forces and local police are mercenary operatives?

      We have created a strange hybrid security force that works for the highest bidder; without considering exactly what laws they have to respect or under whose jurisdiction they fall.

      Thank you for taking the time to write and for bringing forward all this information. Astonishing stuff, and in a way, quite horrible. The webs being woven….

      Best and aloha, Teri


  2. tree stump

    March 24, 2013 at 1:35 am

    I’ve gone ahead and added a backlink back to your site from one of my clientele requesting it. I have used your blog URL: and blog title: Random Thoughts


  3. Teri

    July 19, 2013 at 4:14 am

    That would be fine. Thanks.




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