Blessed with immunity from the laws of any nation and a new company name mercenaries for the company formerly known as Blackwater are still hard at work, doing what mercenaries do.. getting paid, while corporate media protect us from the news. Independent journalist Jeremy Scahill uncovers another instance of oru tax dollars at work in Afghanistan
May 22, 2009
This item was Originally published at Rebel Reports
For those of you who have been following the intricacies of the various ongoing Blackwater/Xe scandals (hard to keep up with indeed), the situation unfolding in Kabul is certainly on your radar. In short, four Blackwater/Xe operatives working for Paravant LLC, a subsidiary of Blackwater/Xe are alleged to have fired on a civilian car they say they saw as a threat, killing at least one Afghan civilian. According to The Wall Street Journal’s August Cole, "At least some of the men, who were former military personnel, had been allegedly drinking alcohol that evening, according to a person familiar with the incident. Off-duty contractors aren’t supposed to carry weapons or drink alcohol."
The US military said the incident took place in Kabul on May 5. "While stopped for the vehicle accident, the contractors were approached by a vehicle in a manner the contractors felt threatening," according to the military. At last one Afghan was killed and three others were wounded.
Now, there are many layers to this story, not the least of which is yet another allegation of Blackwater-affiliated personnel drinking and killing in a foreign war zone. (A drunken Blackwater operative was alleged to have killed a bodyguard to an Iraqi vice president on Christmas Eve 2006 inside Baghdad’s Green Zone).
What’s more, this represents the first public mention of the Blackwater/Xe subsidiary Paravant, but also the fact that its work was apparently buried in a subcontract with Raytheon, which in turn has a large US Army training contract in Afghanistan. "Raytheon’s use of Paravant is for a program called Warfighter Focus, a sweeping U.S. Army training effort valued at more than $11 billion over a 10-year period," reports The Wall Street Journal.
"Warfighter Focus" is carried out by a Raytheon program the company describes in its contract handbook as such [PDF]:
The Raytheon-led Warrior Training Alliance (WTA) team is comprised of over 65 subcontractors with one common mission: to deliver unmatched training support services that cost-effectively meet the U.S. Army’s requirement for total warfighter readiness. The WTA’s ability to provide a comprehensive range of integrated training services will assist the Army in transitioning to a more collaborative, consolidated and streamlined training environment.
Now, the "Warfighter Focus" contract in and of itself is very intriguing and worthy of further investigation. But it is also particularly interesting given that Blackwater is under multiple investigations (DoJ, Congress, IRS, ATF, etc.) and continues to operate in Afghanistan (in part) on a subcontract through a subsidiary working for a massive defense Goliath. This is how the whole contracting scam works, particularly for companies in trouble. They hide under layers of subcontracts and subsidiaries. Blackwater/Xe of course still holds overt contracts in Afghanistan as well.
In addition to Raytheon/Paravant part of the Kabul story, there is yet another internal drama unfolding. According to the WSJ:
Paravant has terminated contracts with the four men "for failure to comply with the terms of their contract," according to Xe spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell. "Contractual and or legal violations will not be tolerated," she said.
The contractors were ordered not to leave Afghanistan without permission of the Defense Department, she said, and the company said it is cooperating with authorities.
A US military spokesperson confirmed this, saying, "The contracting company is cooperating with us. We have asked them to keep the individuals in-country until the investigation is complete."
In light of all of this, I thought it appropriate to share a document that proves an interesting read. Late Friday night/early Saturday, I received an email from Callahan & Blaine— the law firm that represents the four families of the Blackwater men killed in Fallujah on March 31, 2004. That lawsuit, of course, was the first really big case against Blackwater.
Callahan & Blaine has now apparently decided to represent the four Blackwater/Xe/Paravant men involved with the May 5 Kabul shooting. The law firm claims that the men are being held against their will in Afghanistan by Blackwater/Paravant "in a safe house located in a mosque in Kabul in an 8’ x 8’ room." The company’s alleged motivation for this according to Callahan & Blaine is as follows:
"[T]he Letter of Authorization issued by the Department of Defense to Blackwater specifically provided that the Blackwater personnel would not be armed in Afghanistan. This limitation presumably arose out of concern emanating from the September 16, 2007 shootings in Iraq which resulted in the deaths of 17 Iraqi citizens. Blackwater in knowing violation of the limited authorization issued AK47s to each of the four men. Blackwater acquired these AK47s from a cache of weapons taken from Afghan insurgents. The fact that these men had weapons probably saved their lives but also puts Blackwater’s future involvement in Afghanistan at risk."
It is believed that Blackwater has already paid the families of the individuals that were injured or killed and is attempting to negotiate with Afghan authorities to allow Blackwater to remain in Afghanistan despite its breach of the Letter of Authorization in exchange for turning over these four Americans to the Afghanistan authorities, despite their being cleared for release.
I am providing the document below in-full for the public record and as a reference for journalists covering this case more closely than I am able to right now. I am not saying that this is what happened, but rather that it is a version that differs from that of Blackwater/Xe and publicly quoted US military spokespeople. It is from Callahan & Blaine:
FOUR AMERICANS HELD CAPTIVE IN KABUL, AFGHANISTAN
Blackwater USA, now known as Xe Company, is holding four Americans captive and against their will in Kabul, Afghanistan. The four men are being kept in a safe house located in a mosque in Kabul in an 8’ x 8’ room. These men, Mr. Chris Drotleff, Mr. Steve McClain, Mr. Justin Cannon and Mr. Armando Hamid, managed to access Blackwater’s Internet and make a Skype Internet telephone call to Dan Callahan of Callahan & Blaine, the attorney who represents the four Blackwater contractors murdered in Fallujah on March 31, 2004 and is actively involved in litigation against Blackwater.
The group has informed Mr. Callahan that the Letter of Authorization issued by the Department of Defense to Blackwater specifically provided that the Blackwater personnel would not be armed in Afghanistan. This limitation presumably arose out of concern emanating from the September 16, 2007 shootings in Iraq which resulted in the deaths of 17 Iraqi citizens. Blackwater in knowing violation of the limited authorization issued AK47s to each of the four men. Blackwater acquired these AK47s from a cache of weapons taken from Afghan insurgents. The fact that these men had weapons probably saved their lives but also puts Blackwater’s future involvement in Afghanistan at risk.
On May 5, 2009, Messrs. Drotleff, McClain, Cannon and Hamid were in the second vehicle of a two vehicle convoy going through Kabul when an insurgent vehicle passed the second of the two Blackwater vehicles and crashed into the first vehicle. The second vehicle, containing these four men, stopped, and two of the men exited their vehicle to attend to the injuries of the occupants of the first vehicle. The insurgent vehicle suddenly made a u-turn and attempted to run down these Blackwater contractors. At that point, all four Blackwater contractors opened fire on the insurgent vehicle. The driver of the insurgent vehicle was killed and a pedestrian located approximately 200 meters away was wounded and is last known to be in a coma. There were two other occupants in the insurgent vehicle. The men are not sure of those individuals’ medical status.
The United States Army Criminal Investigation Command ("CID") has investigated this shooting and has freed the men for return to the United States. Blackwater has discharged them and likewise has discharged their team leader, Carl Newman, and project manager, Johnnie Walker. Carl Newman and Johnnie Walker were allowed to leave Afghanistan and have returned to the United States.
Although the four men have been cleared to leave Afghanistan, Blackwater has detained them in a safe house in a mosque in Kabul against their will and contrary to their clearance to leave Afghanistan. It is believed that Blackwater has already paid the families of the individuals that were injured or killed and is attempting to negotiate with Afghan authorities to allow Blackwater to remain in Afghanistan despite its breach of the Letter of Authorization in exchange for turning over these four Americans to the Afghanistan authorities, despite their being cleared for release.
The individuals presently holding the men in an 8’ x 8’ room in a safe house contained within a mosque in Kabul are Tom Adams and Mike Bush, the head of Blackwater’s Afghanistan operation.
The four men told Dan Callahan that special agent Rodriguez of the CID had cleared them for release on May 12, 2009. The men were terminated on May 13, 2009 and told they could leave and since that time have been detained.
The men managed to access Blackwater’s Internet and make Skype Internet telephone calls to Dan Callahan in a request to gain their release.
The men are presently calling Dan Callahan on the hour and will continue to do so until Blackwater discovers that they have acquired this ability to place telephone calls, at which time it is expected that telephone access will be terminated.