While the Bush Administration calls for the immediate disbanding of
what it has labeled "private" and "illegal" militias in
Lebanon and Iraq, it is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into its own
global private mercenary army tasked with protecting US officials and institutions
overseas. The secretive program, which spans at least twenty-seven
countries, has been an incredible jackpot for one heavily Republican-connected
firm in particular: Blackwater USA. Government records recently obtained by
The Nation reveal that the Bush Administration has paid Blackwater more than
$320 million since June 2004 to provide "diplomatic security" services
globally. The massive contract is the largest known to have been awarded to
Blackwater to date and reveals how the Administration has elevated a once-fledgling
security firm into a major profiteer in the "war on terror."
Blackwater's highly lucrative "diplomatic security" contract was
officially awarded under the State Department's little-known Worldwide Personal
Protective Service (WPPS) program, described in State Department documents as
a government initiative to protect US officials as well as "certain foreign
government high level officials whenever the need arises."
A heavily redacted 2005 government audit of Blackwater's WPPS contract proposal,
obtained by The Nation, reveals that Blackwater included profit in its overhead
and its total costs, which would result "not only in a duplication of profit
but a pyramiding of profit since in effect Blackwater is applying profit to
profit." The audit also found that the company tried to inflate its profits
by representing different Blackwater divisions as wholly separate companies.
The WPPS contract awarded in 2004 was divided among a handful of companies, among
them DynCorp and Triple Canopy. Blackwater was originally slated to be paid $229.5
million for five years, according to a State Department contract list. Yet as
of June 30, just two years into the program, it had been paid a total of $321,715,794.
When confronted with this apparent $100 million discrepancy, the State Department
could not readily explain it. Blackwater's two years of WPPS earnings exceed many
estimates of the company's total government contracts, which the Virginian-Pilot
recently put at $290 million combined since 2000. Six years ago the government
paid Blackwater less than $250,000.
"This underscores the need for Congress to exercise real oversight on
the runaway use of secret companies that have strong connections to the Bush
Administration, for clandestine services all over the world," says Illinois
Democrat Jan Schakowsky, a leading Congressional critic of private military
"This whole business of security is just insidious," says former Assistant
Defense Secretary Philip Coyle, who worked at the Pentagon from 1994 to 2001.
"The costs keep going up, and there is no end in sight to what you can
spend. What happens is you keep raising the threat levels to require more actions
and more contracts to overcome these imaginary threats. It's an endless spiral."
In soliciting bids for the 2004 global contract, the State Department cited
a need born of "the continual turmoil in the Mid East, and the post-war
stabilization efforts by the United States Government in Bosnia, Afghanistan
and Iraq." It said the government "is unable to provide protective
services on a long-term basis from its pool of special agents, thus, outside
contractual support is required." Coyle, now with the Center for Defense
Information, believes the privatization of security duties historically fulfilled
by US Marines and other active-duty military is directly related to the Iraq
occupation. "Obviously the military could do it, but indeed the Administration
is looking for places to get more troops for Iraq," Coyle says.
While the WPPS program and the broader use of private security contractors
is not new, it has escalated dramatically under the Bush Administration. According
to the most recent Government Accountability Office report, some 48,000 private
soldiers, working for 181 private military firms, are deployed in Iraq alone.
Blackwater, now one of the most prominent and successful companies providing
soldiers in Iraq, was relatively unknown until March 31, 2004, when four of
its contractors were ambushed and killed in Falluja [see Scahill, "Blood
Is Thicker Than Blackwater," May 8]. In the days and weeks that followed,
company executives hired ultra-connected lobbyists and were welcomed by powerful
government officials as heroes, allowing the firm to solidify its role in the
Bush Administration's foreign policy apparatus.
Since 2003 Blackwater has held the high-profile job of guarding senior US officials
in Iraq, including all three occupation-era ambassadors. The vaunted WPPS contract
was awarded at the end of Paul Bremer's tenure in Baghdad. Blackwater, which
did not respond to repeated requests for comment, refuses to divulge where its
forces are deployed under the program. WPPS documents say contractors may be
dispatched almost anywhere, including on US soil. The State Department says
explicitly that there is a "long-term" need for these "protective
services." Schakowsky says she will request a formal explanation from the
department of the WPPS contract: "We need to know why the Bush Administration
keeps writing blank checks to Blackwater and others, while it keeps Congress
and the American people in the dark."
Read from Looking Glass News
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Me, Corporatize Me, Blackwaterize Me...
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Parts 1 and 2
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May Replace Cops in St. Bernard Parish
and Halliburton Sex Slave Scandal Won't Go Away