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: http://academi.com/pages/about-us/board-of-directors ]
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: http://tinyurl.com/7z5lhtj
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.