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DeepModem Mom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-27-07 08:43 PM
Original message
House Oversight Committee Report: Blackwater 'impeded' probe into contractor deaths
Source: CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Private military contractor Blackwater USA "delayed and impeded" a congressional probe into the 2004 killings of four of its employees in Falluja, Iraq, the House Oversight Committee said Thursday in a report.

Blackwater contractors Jerry Zovko, Scott Helvenston, Mike Teague and Wesley Batalona were ambushed, dragged from their vehicles and killed on March 31, 2004. The burned and mutilated remains of two of the men were hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River, an image that fueled American outrage and triggered the first of two attempts to retake the city from Sunni Arab insurgents.

The company stalled the committee's investigation into the incident by "erroneously claiming" documents related to the incident were classified, trying to get the Defense Department to make previously unclassified documents classified and "asserting questionable legal privileges," according to a report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Democratic staff.

According to Blackwater's reports on the killings, the men killed in Falluja had been sent into the area without proper crew, equipment or even maps. One company document found a "complete lack of support" for its Baghdad, Iraq, office from executives at the company's headquarters in North Carolina, the committee report states.

"According to these documents, Blackwater took on the Falluja mission before its contract officially began, and after being warned by its predecessor that it was too dangerous. It sent its team on the mission without properly armored vehicles and machine guns. And it cut the standard mission team by two members, thus depriving them of rear gunners," the report states....

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seemslikeadream Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-27-07 08:47 PM
Response to Original message
1. State to Blackwater: You Don't Say Nothin' to No One, See? Warning graphic
Edited on Thu Sep-27-07 08:52 PM by seemslikeadream

State to Blackwater: You Don't Say Nothin' to No One, See?
Posted by babylonsister on Tue Sep-25-07 04:39 PM

State to Blackwater: You Don't Say Nothin' to No One, See?
By Spencer Ackerman - September 25, 2007, 5:05PM

Now this augurs well for a thorough inquiry into Blackwater's recent behavior in Iraq. Just three days after Rep. Henry Waxman announced his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee would hold hearings into the deaths of 11 Iraqi civilians, a State Department contracting official wrote to Blackwater with a simple message: you don't say anything we don't tell you to.

We've added the letter to our Document Collection. You can read it here:

The State Department official, Kiazan Moneypenny, wrote Blackwater VP Fred Roitz to "advise" him of Blackwater's obligations under the terms of State's contract. Among them: "all documents and records (including photographs) generated during the performance of work under this contract shall be for the sole use of and become the exclusive property of the U.S. government." These obligations, according to the contract, exist in perpetuity -- not just until the contract expires. As a result, Moneypenny told Roitz to make "no disclosure of documents or information generated under unless such disclosure has been authorized in writing by the Contract Officer."

In a letter today to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Waxman pointed out that State has no authority to compel Blackwater to obstruct a congressional investigation -- unless President Bush is prepared to say that the terms of Blackwater's contracts or its operational doctrine is covered under executive privilege. A State Department congressional liaison will "attempt to reverse" the department's position, but Waxman seems unconvinced.

A final curiosity: Moneypenny's letter indicates that State officials had already called Blackwater twice on September 19 and 20 to deliver the same message. Was Blackwater more willing to disclose information to the House oversight committee than the State Department?

Abuses in Private Security and Reconstruction Contracting in Iraq: Ensuring Accountability, Protecting Whistleblowers

Senate Democratic Policy Committee Hearing

Friday, September 21, 2007
10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
226 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Abuses in Private Security and Reconstruction Contracting in Iraq: Ensuring Accountability, Protecting Whistleblowers

Click here to see acomplete video recording of the hearing. (RealAudio)

Opening Statements

Senator Byron L. Dorgan
Chairman, Democratic Policy Committee

Opening Statement
Senator Byron L. Dorgan
Chairman, Democratic Policy Committee
Abuses in Private Security and Reconstruction Contracting in Iraq:
Ensuring Accountability, Protecting Whistleblowers
Friday, September 21, 2007
10:30 a.m. 12:30 p.m.
226 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Today the Democratic Policy Committee is holding a hearing to examine the continuing lack of accountability in private security and reconstruction contracting in Iraq. There are now nearly as many private contractors in Iraq as there are American soldiers. And when contractors operate without accountability, and come to believe that there will not be any consequence for wrongdoing, our mission in Iraq is compromised and our troops are undermined.
One of the largest sectors in which private contractors are active in Iraq is the area of security. Last year the GAO estimated that there are as many as 48,000 private security contractors in Iraq, though no one knows the precise
number. And these security contractors have operated in a climate of impunity.
On Sunday, there was a firefight in Iraq involving private security contractor Blackwater that left at least 11 Iraqis dead. The incident is being investigated, and I certainly do not want to prejudge the results of the investigation. But we cannot ignore the fact that the Iraqi government has said that it believes that Blackwater overreacted and caused the loss of innocent life. Prime Minister Maliki said that this was the seventh such incident involving Blackwater, and he urged that Blackwater be replaced. Nearly a year ago, the Congress passed a law requiring that private security contractors be bound by the same code of conduct as U.S. military personnel but the Bush Administration has yet to provide any guidance on how military lawyers should enforce those rules. And just yesterday, the Director of Logistics at the Army Corps of Engineers was quoted as saying that there is no oversight or coordination of Blackwater by the U.S. military.
Whats more, under a provision established by the Coalition Provisional Authority, military contractors are exempt from prosecution by the Iraqi government for crimes committed in their country. This, combined with a lack of supervision or accountability, has bred tremendous resentment in Iraq, and is making it that much harder to win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. The Washington Post quoted an Interior Ministry official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety, as sayiny that "They are part of the reason for all the hatred that is directed at Americans, because people don't know them as Blackwater, they know them
only as Americans." I hasten to add that Blackwater is by no means the only security contractor that has been involved in controversy. For instance, in
2005, sixteen private security contractors employed by a firm called Zapata Engineering were arrested and jailed by U.S. Marines after they allegedly fired on a Marine observation post, a combat patrol and civilians, about 40 miles west of Baghdad. They were held for three days, but then released. No one has been prosecuted. In a separate incident, a supervisor for a company called Triple Canopy was overheard by employees announcing that he was going to kill somebody today. The employees say they witnessed the supervisor shoot at Iraqi civilians for amusement, possibly killing one. What came of this? The company fired the supervisor, but no one was ever prosecuted. And the two employees who blew the whistle were fired as well. The lack of accountability has pervaded not only the area of security, but also of reconstruction-related contracting in Iraq. The Democratic Policy Committee held ten hearings on this issue in the 109th Congress, and obtained testimony from a wide range of whistleblowers ranging from the highest-ranking contracting officer in the Army Corps of Engineers, to contract employees who had worked in Iraq. One of the common threads that ran through these whistleblowers testimony was the climate of impunity that these contracts operated under. Whistleblowers were fired, demoted, detained, and otherwise vilified. Just last month, the Associated Press had an article describing widespread retaliation against whistleblowers who spoke up about Iraq contracting abuses. Corruption has long plagued Iraq reconstruction. Hundreds of projects may never be finished, including repairs to the countrys oil pipelines and electricity system. Congress gave more than $30 billion to rebuild Iraq, and at least $8.8 billion of it has disappeared, according to a government reconstruction audit . . . Despite this staggering mess, there are no noble outcomes for those who have blown the whistle, according to a review of such cases by The Associated Press . . . They have been fired or demoted, shunned by colleagues, and denied government support in whistleblower lawsuits filed against contracting firms."

This Committee has a special duty to demand that whistleblowers rights be protected, in view of the invaluable contribution they have made in coming forward at the ten oversight hearings on contracting abuses that weve conducted since the start of the war in Iraq in 2003. Today, we will hear from witness who will speak to the lack of accountability in private security and reconstruction contracts in Iraq. Witnesses on the first panel will examine
the role private security contractors are playing in Iraq, with a particular focus on Blackwater, the security company that was suspended from working in Iraq earlier this week by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior. Panel two will consist of witnesses who have been demoted, fired, threatened, and even detained for speaking the truth about Iraq contracting practices. This panel will also include expert witnesses who will recommend reforms to address whistleblower mistreatment and strengthen protections in current law.

Panel One

Kathryn Helvenston-Wettengel is the mother of Scott Helvenston, a former Blackwater employee and Special Operations soldier who was killed in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004 while escorting a convoy of three empty trucks to pick up kitchen equipment for a food service company. She has filed a lawsuit against Blackwater alleging that the company sent Mr. Helvenston on a job with inadequate equipment and protection.

Jeremy Scahil is an investigative journalist and the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Blackwater: The Rise of the Worlds Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

Nick Bicanic co-wrote and co-directed the award-winning Shadow Company, a
documentary film about private security companies operating in Iraq.

Donald Vance is a Navy veteran and former employee of Shield Group Security
Company, who blew the whistle about illegal gun sales in Iraq, including sales of weapons to Iraqi insurgents.

Panel Two
Bunnatine Greenhouse is the former highest-ranking civilian contracting official at the Army Corps of Engineers, and spoke up about contracting abuses involving Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, and Root.

Robert Isakson was a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit against contractor Custer Battles, and won the first civil verdict for Iraq reconstruction fraud. The verdict was later overturned by the trial court judge on a technicality.
Stephen Kohn is the Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center, and is an expert on whistleblower protection law.

Alan Grayson represents whistleblowers in a number of lawsuits involving contracting fraud.

Senator Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader

Senator Jeff Bingaman

Senator Robert Casey

Senator Barack Obama


Panel 1
Kathryn Helvenston-Wettengel
Mother of Former Blackwater USA Employee

First I would like to thank the committee for inviting me to testify. My name is Katy Helvenston-Wettengel. Im the mother of Scott Helvenston who was literally slaughtered on March 31, 2004 in Fallujah while working for Blackwater security. Scotty was one of four members of the Blackwater security team that was ambushed while driving empty trucks to pick up kitchen equipment from the 82nd Airborne. The day Scotty died was his first day ever in Iraq. Scotty and the others that died with him were promised so many thingsnot one of those promises were kept. For example, it is undisputed that they did not have armored vehicles. They did not have heavy machine guns. They did not have a team of six. They did not have three people in each vehicle. They did not have a rear gunner that would have allowed them to see people approaching from the rear. They were not able to conduct a risk assessment of the mission. They did not have a chance to learn the routes before going on the mission. They were not even given a map. In fact, when Scotty asked for a map of the route, he was told: Its a little too late for a map now. Once the men signed on with Blackwater and were flown to the Middle East, Blackwater treated them as a fungible commodity. For example, when Scott said he was not well enough to leave the following morning on a mission, Scotty was physically and verbally attached by a Blackwater program manager. Despite two other Blackwater
operators offering to go in Scotts place, the Blackwater manager burst into Scotts room and told Scott that if he personally did not go on the mission the following day, he would be fired and left to find his own way home. It was under this threat of being fired and abandoned in a war zone that forced Scott to leave for Baghdad the following morning. The treatment of the security operators was so bad that after working for Blackwater for just 11 days, Scott felt compelled to write an email to the owner and president of the company that began: It is with deep regret and remorse that I send you this email.
During my short tenure here with Blackwater I have witnessed and endured some extreme unprofessionalism. In this lengthy email, Scotty detailed all of the problems with the entire program and the treatment of the operators. There was no response from Blackwater management to this call for help. Instead, our men were dead four days later. To this date, there is no accountability for the tens of thousands of contractors working in Iraq. To my knowledge the Iraqi law does not apply to these contractors, U.S. law does not apply, nor does military law apply. Consequently, these contractors continue to get away with murder. In Blackwaters case, time and time again they shoot first and ask questions later. Following the horrific incident on March 31, 2004, I tried many times to get Blackwater to send me a copy of the incident report and a copy of the contract Scotty signed with Blackwater. Eventually, I was told that I would have to sue them to get that information. So, in an effort to learn the cause, circumstances and reasons for the death of my son Scotty, as well as the brave men he served with, Wesley Batalona, Jerry Zovko and
Michael Teague, the families filed a lawsuit against Blackwater in January of 2005. In the 2 1/2 years since that lawsuit was filed, Blackwater has consistently asserted that it could not be held accountable for its actions in any state or federal court. Despite numerous requests, Blackwater has never provided even one document, letter or e-mail that would explain what took place on the day of our loved ones deaths. The only document that we have ever seen that shows what actually went on prior to Scottys death was produced by Congressman Waxman on February 7, 2007. That document is a March 30, 2004 e-mail from Blackwaters own Tom Powell in Baghdad to Blackwaters corporate office, sent the day before our loved ones deaths. Mr. Powell
complained that his men did not have the body armor, hard cars, weapons, and ammo that they needed. He stated that: the guys are in the field with borrowed stuff and in harms way, that the decision to go with Suburbans instead of hard cars was a Bad Idea and that Blackwater was engaged in a smoke and mirrors show doing just enough to sustain the appearance of operational capability, while at the same time making representations that were false and did not reflect the appalling truth on the ground. Mr. Powell was correct that Blackwaters false promises were appalling and did place my son and others in harms way leading to their death. We hope that in your
search for truth and information, you will share this information with us and the public concerning the cause, circumstances, and reasons for our sons deaths so that we will finally have answers and hopefully so that others will not suffer a fate similar to our loved ones at the hand of Blackwater. We must have laws that apply to these contractors. Please, I implore you; do not allow them to continue to get away with murder. You have the power to hold these people accountable. I beg that you do.

Jeremy Scahill
Investigative Reporter

My name is Jeremy Scahill. I am an investigative reporter for The Nation
magazine and the author of the book Blackwater: The Rise of the Worlds Most
Powerful Mercenary Army. I have spent the better part of the past two and a half years researching the phenomenon of privatized warfare and the increasing involvement of the private sector in the support and waging of US wars. During the course of my investigations, I have interviewed scores of sources, filed many Freedom of Information Act requests, obtained government contracts and private company documents of firms operating in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. When asked, I have attempted to share the results of my investigations, including documents obtained through FOIA and other processes, with members of Congress and other journalists. I would like to thank this committee for the opportunity to be here today and for taking on this very serious issue. Over the past six days, we have all been following very closely the developments out of Baghdad in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of as many as 20 Iraqis by operatives working for the private military company Blackwater USA. The Iraqi government is alleging that among the dead are a small child and her parents and the prime minister has labeled Blackwater's conduct as criminal and spoke of the killing of our citizens in cold blood. While details remain murky and subject to conflicting versions of what exactly happened, this situation cuts much deeper than this horrifying incident. The stakes are very high for the Bush administration because the company involved, Blackwater USA, is not just any company. It is the premiere firm protecting senior State Department officials in Iraq, including Ambassador Ryan Crocker. This company has been active in Iraq since the early days of the occupation when it was awarded an initial $27 million no-bid contract to guard Ambassador Paul Bremer. Duringits time in Iraq, Blackwater has regularly engaged in firefights and other deadly incidents. About 30 of its operatives have been killed in Iraq and these deaths are not included in the official American death toll. While the companys operatives are indeed soldiers of fortune, their salaries are paid through hundreds of millions of dollars in US taxpayer funds allocated to Blackwater. What they do in Iraq is done in the name of the American people and yet there has been no effective oversight of Blackwater's activities and actions. And there has been absolutely no prosecution of its forces for any crimes committed against Iraqis. If indeed Iraqi civilians were killed by Blackwater USA last Sunday, as appears to be the case, culpability for these actions does not only lie with the individuals who committed the killings or with Blackwater as a company, but also with the entity that hired them and allowed them to operate heavily-armed inside Iraq--in this case, the US State Department. While the headlines of the past week have been focused on the fatal shootings last
Sunday, this was by no means an isolated incident. Nor is this is simply about a rogue company or rogue operators. This is about a system of unaccountable and out of control private forces that have turned Iraq into a wild west from the very beginning of the occupation, often with the stamp of legitimacy of the US government. What happened Sunday is part of a deadly pattern, not just of Blackwater USAs conduct, but of the army of mercenaries that have descended on Iraq over the past four years. They have acted like cowboys, running Iraqis off the road, firing indiscriminately at vehicles and, in some cases, private forces have appeared on tape seemingly using Iraqis for target practice. They have shown little regard for Iraqi lives and have fueled
the violence in that country, not just against the people of Iraq but also against the official soldiers of the United States military in the form of blowback and revenge attacks stemming from contractor misconduct. These private forces have operated in a climate where impunity and immunity have gone hand in hand. Active duty soldiers who commit crimes or acts of misconduct are prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the court martial system. There have been scores of prosecutions of soldiers-- some 64 courts martial on murder-related charges in Iraq alone. That has not been the case with these private forces. Despite many reports-- some from US military commanders--of private contractors firing indiscriminately at Iraqis and vehicles and killing civilians, not a single armed contractor has been charged with any crime. They have not been prosecuted under US civilian law, US military law and the Bush administration banned the Iraqi government from prosecuting them in Iraqi courts beginning with the passage of Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17 in 2004. The message this sends to the Iraqi people is that these hired guns are above any law. US contractors in Iraq reportedly have their own motto: What happens here today, stays here today. That should be chilling to everyone who believes in transparency and accountability of US operations and tax payer funded activities not to mention the human rights of the Iraqis who have fallen victim to these incidents and have been robbed of any semblance of justice. The Iraqi government says it has evidence of seven deadly incidents involving Blackwater. It is essential that the Congress request information on these incidents from the Iraqi authorities. What we do know is that in just the past nine months, Blackwater forces have been involved with several fatal actions. Last Christmas Eve, as Katy mentioned, an off-duty Blackwater contractor allegedly killed a bodyguard for the Iraqi Vice President. Blackwater whisked that individual out of the country. Iraqi officials labeled the killing a murder" and have questioned privately as to why there has apparently been no consequences for that individual. Blackwater says it fired the individual and is cooperating with the US Justice Department. To my knowledge no charges have yet been brought in that case. This past May, Blackwater operatives engaged in a gun battle in Baghdad, lasting an hour, that drew in both US military and Iraqi forces, in which at least four Iraqis are said to have died. The very next day in almost the same neighborhood, the company's operatives reportedly shot and killed an Iraqi driver near the Interior Ministry. In the ensuing chaos, the Blackwater guards reportedly refused to give their names or details of the incident to Iraqi officials, sparking a tense standoff between American and Iraqi forces, both of which were armed with assault rifles. The actions of this one company, perhaps more than any other private actor in the occupation, have consistently resulted in escalated tension and more death and destruction in Iraq--from the siege of Fallujah, sparked by the ambush of its men there in March of 2004, to Blackwater forces shooting at Iraqis in Najaf with one Blackwater operative filmed on tape saying it was like a "turkey shoot" to the deadly events of the past week. Col. Thomas Hammes, the US military official once overseeing the creation of a new Iraqi military has described driving around Iraq with Iraqis and encountering Blackwater operatives. were running me off the road. We were threatened and intimidated, Hammes said. But, he added, "they were doing their job, exactly what they were paid to do in the way they were paid to do it, and they were making enemies on every single pass out of town. Hammes concluded the contractors were hurting our counterinsurgency effort. Brig. Gen. Karl Horst, deputy commander of the 3rd Infantry Division said of private security contractors, These guys run loose in this country and do stupid stuff. Theres no authority over them, so you can't come down on them hard when they escalate forceThey shoot people, and someone else has to deal with the aftermath. It happens all over the place. Horst tracked contractor conduct for a two month period in Baghdad and documented at least a dozen shootings of Iraqi civilians by contractors, resulting in six Iraqi deaths and the wounding of three others. That is just one General in one area of Iraq in just 60 days. The conduct of these private forces sends a clear message to the Iraqi people: American lives are worth infinitely more than theirs, even if their only crime is driving their vehicle in the wrong place at the wrong time. One could say that Blackwater has been very successful at fulfilling its mission--to keep alive senior US officials. But at what price? It is long past due for the actions of Blackwater USA and the other private military firms operating in Iraq--actions carried out in the names of the American people and with US tax dollars--to be carefully and thoroughly investigated by the US Congress. For the Iraqi people, this is a matter of life, and far too often, death. In the bigger picture, this body should seriously question whether the linking of corporate profits to war making is in the best interests of this nation and the world. I would humbly submit that the chairs of relevant committees in both the House and Senate use their power of subpoena to compel the heads of the major war contracting companies operating on the US payroll in Iraq to appear publicly before the American people and answer for the actions of their forces. I am prepared to answer any questions.

Nick Bicanic
Documentary Filmmaker

Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the Committee. Thank you for having me here. I have approached the honor of being here this morning in the same way as I approached making my documentary film; with an eye on giving a balanced perspective to the subject. It has always been important to me to keep in mind that all groups are comprised of individuals and the ideal way of analyzing policies and protocol is to ensure that we allow for fair and equal assessment in every situation. The rules of war have changed. The tragic incident on Sept 16th highlights the extent to which they have changed as Blackwater security contractors who are, in effect, armed civilians were protecting
Department of State officials in a war zone a task one would usually expect to be performed by the US Army. By some accounts there are now upwards of 100,000 security contractors working in Iraq, which makes the private sector a vital part of the military force present in that region. The issue of Private Military Companies (PMCs) What they are doing ? What they should be doing? And how they should be monitored? goes far beyond Blackwater and outside
the borders of Iraq; the use of mercenary forces or proxy armies goes back to medieval times and will have to be considered in how we look towards the future. I believe that the most important aspect of this particular issue is that it highlights the need for education and awareness of how the roles and requirements of PMCs are being defined and, once they are defined, how they can be monitored and held accountable. It is commonly stated that PMCs in Iraq operate in an entirely lawless environment. While it is true that CPA Order 17 (which since the departure of Paul Bremer has been written into Iraqi law) prohibit any prosecution of security contractors in local Iraqi courts, there
are some laws that do apply to security contractors within Iraq. Some of you are familiar with Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Failing the applications of these laws, there is also international human rights law. Unfortunately, there is a fundamental difference between the existence of a law and the existence
of the political will to prosecute under that law. If we do not even know the exact number of contractors currently working in Iraq (the range is sometimes quoted as between 20,000 and 150,000), how can we hope to effectively
prosecute transgression of ill defined laws. The local population in Iraq doesnt appear to differentiate between armed security contractors or US soldiers, so security contractors effectively act as ambassadors of the US,
without being held to same accountability as soldiers themselves. This sounds like it might be automatically incriminating, but its important to note that these kinds of statements can as often vilify as they can excuse those involved. It should not be our goal to assume any one thing about any one situation but to find a just and fair way to assess actions and reactions in an inherently turbulent environment. The foundation of this assessment is critical: the line between a civilian and an insurgent has grown as complicated as the issue of ethical accountability, not only between individual
PMC outfits but between individual contractors working for those companies. We need to learn everything we can to draft and implement the correct policies.
The immediate response of the Iraqi government to the incident this past Sunday was indicative of the sort of response that I believe we need to avoid. They proposed revoking the license for Blackwater to operate in Iraq and the media ran with this story, despite the fact that Blackwater has no valid license to operate in Iraq and under the terms of the WPPS (worldwide personal protection services) contract for protecting State Department employees, they dont even need one. Moreover, even if Blackwater is removed from Iraq, this is not the root of the issue. The overwhelming majority of Private Security Contractors working for Blackwater are exactly that Contractors. If Blackwater is banned from Iraq they will simply leave and work for another
company. In the making of my film Shadow Company I have met both those who are adamant about working for a company they believe to be ethically founded and those who talk primarily about the financial benefits of their work. We have to remember that stereotyping of any kind, whether directed towards the Iraqi people or these private soldiers, does not benefit any one of us
in finding a system of justly responding to their situation. I believe that the most important element in all of these discussions is our own education and empowering ourselves to make clear and informed decisions based on access to all the aspects of the story. I know, from my own experience as a filmmaker, that it is incredibly easy to base every conversation about PMCs on whether or not the U.S should be in Iraq in the first place. But, if we are to move forward as a country and truly address this need for accountability, we must allow ourselves to acknowledge the long past and focus on the likely future of managing the existence or Private Military Companies. To honor our own intelligence and our own sense of truth, it is behooves us to look at every position and allow for the existence of both sides of an argument. Education has to be the first step to defining what accountability means and I cannot stress enough that our understanding of this issue will rely on our ability to explore every detail to allow us to make a fair judgment. Thank you again for granting me the opportunity to present information to the committee.

Donald Vance
Former Private Security Contractor

Good morning. I would like to thank the distinguished members of this committee for the opportunity to testify before you today. I am a 30 year-old Navy veteran. In 2005, I chose to go to Iraq as a civilian to help with
the American efforts to rebuild the country. While in Iraq, I worked for a couple of private military contractors. Among the jobs I am most proud of, I helped secure aid workers and assisted in the first free elections in Iraq.
Despite those positive experiences, there was much that the private contractors did that appeared, at the very least, to be suspicious. This was particularly the case when I worked at Shield Group Security (SGS). SGS was a private military contractor that derived its profits, in part, from the United States government through subcontracts with Iraqi government agencies and other corporations. SGS is currently operating in Iraq, albeit under a different name. Because of the suspicious activity I witnessed at SGS, when I was home in Chicago in October 2005, I contacted my local FBI agency and met with FBI agent Travis Carlisle. After meeting with Agent Carlisle, upon my return to Iraq, I began voluntarily providing the FBI with information on the corruption that I observed. I would provide the FBI with real-time reporting
of any incident that I witnessed that I thought appeared suspicious, including forwarding emails, capturing documents on memory sticks and taking photographs, whenever possible. I later also began reporting to United States government officials in Iraq. The incidents of corruption that I witnessed and reported on were alarming. I observed SGS bribing Iraqi officials to secure weapons for SGS. I observed another American, who was also working for SGS, provide liquor to United States soldiers in exchange for United States weapons and ammunition. I observed United States State Department officials buy weapons from and meet in secret with SGS and local sheikhs. And I observed SGS amassing an unnecessarily large quantity of weapons. One incident of corruption that I particularly remember was when a large, well-known defense contractor purchased two anti-aircraft guns from SGS. This sale raised concern and suspicion because United States military forces have complete air control over Iraq. It is still a mystery what these weapons were being used for and where they ultimately went. Because of the information that I possessed, and because of my unwillingness to condone the corruption in the company, I became a target within SGS. SGS officials took measures to ensure that I could not leave the compound in the Red Zone on which SGS was located. When I called the United States government for help, they came to the compound to rescue me. But what started as a rescue, ended up a nightmare. That night I was taken to the United States Embassy and debriefed. I told the agent that questioned me everything that I had witnessed. I also told him that I was informing for the FBI.

Instead of contacting the FBI to verify the information that I provided, these government officials blindfolded and handcuffed me and took me into detention. According to a Department of Defense spokesperson, they did not bother to contact the FBI until three weeks into my detention. To this day, even through Freedom of Information Act requests, no government official has explained what was asked of the FBI regarding myself and what the FBI said in response. I spent the next 97 days in hell at Camp Cropper. I was placed in isolation. I was denied food and water. I was denied sleep. I was also denied requested, and much needed, medication. There was intolerably-loud heavy metal and country music blaring into the cells. The lights in the cells were always on. The guards would threaten me and physically assault me. For example, the guards would walk me into walls while I was blindfolded and handcuffed, Ashakedown@ my cell for contraband and threaten to use excessive force if I did not obey all of their orders. Finally, for the first few weeks I was at Camp Cropper I was denied a phone call. No one in my family knew where I was, if I was alive or if I was dead. During the time that I was at Camp Cropper, I was interrogated constantly. Before each session, I would ask for an attorney. This request was invariably denied. Instead, I was interrogated by a host of United States government personnel, including FBI agents, Navy Criminal Investigative Service officers, as well as possibly CIA and DIA agents. The interrogations shared no consistent focus but covered a broad range of topics, including the corruption I had witnessed and the U.S. officials on whom I had reported. According to the government, I was being held as a security internee because of my affiliation with SGS, certain members of which the government believed were selling weapons to insurgents. To the best of my knowledge, none of those high-level SGS officials on whom I was reporting were ever interrogated by the United States military. The only opportunity I had to Achallenge@ my designation as a security internee was at a Detainee Status Board. But at that Status Board, I had no attorney, I was not allowed to see the majority of the evidence concerning me, to present witnesses or physical evidence that I had requested or to cross-examine adverse witnesses. It was an entirely empty proceeding. Three months after I was initially detained, and after alleged subsequent Are-examination@ of my case, the government decided to release me. Before I was released, however, I had one final interrogation. The main focus of that interrogation was what I was going to do when I got home: Was I going to write a book? Was I going to tell the press? Was I going to get an attorney? The final insult came when the government actually released me: Rather than secure my safe return home, the government gave me a twenty dollar bill and dumped me at the Baghdad Airport to fend for myself, without the documentation I needed to return to the United States. I had to dodge several threats before I could leave Iraq and return to the United States.

I started reporting to the FBI because I wanted to help the United States ferret out corruption in Iraq. But I have learned that if you Ainform on the bull, you will get the horns.@ I only hope that by bringing this experience to the attention of the public, no one will have to endure the nightmare that I have experienced. Thank you for inviting me to testify before this committee and I welcome any questions that you may have.

Panel 2
Bunnatine Greenhouse
Former Top-Ranking Civilian Contracting Officer
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Robert Isakson
Former Coalition Provisional Authority Contractor

Stephen Kohn
Executive Director
National Whistleblower Center

Alan Grayson
Grayson & Kubli

Additional Materials

Witness Biographies

Oversight Committee Releases Report on Blackwater Incident in Fallujah

On February 7, 2007, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing to on 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. The Committee has since pursued a thorough investigation, and has just released its findings based on eye-witness accounts, unclassified investigative reports, and other evidence much of it obtained and discovered despite fierce resistance from Blackwater. The findings include:

At the time of the Fallujah incident, Blackwater was taking over operations from a British security company, Control Risks Group. The project manager for the British company states that Blackwater did not use the opportunity to learn from the experience gained by CRG on this operation, leading to inadequate preparation for taking on this task. The companys incident report states that Blackwater was informed that Control Risks Group twice rejected the mission because of unacceptable security risks, reporting: Blackwater were informed that we had turned this task down and the reasons why were given.

Prior to the Blackwater teams departure, two of the six members of the team were cut from the mission, depriving both security vehicles of a rear gunner. These personnel were removed from the mission to perform administrative duties at the Blackwater operations center.

Blackwater had a contract dispute with a Kuwaiti company, Regency Hotel & Hospitality, over the acquisition of armored vehicles for the Blackwater team. Blackwater officials instructed its employees to string these guys along and run this thing into the ground because if we stalled long enough they (Regency) would have no choice but to buy us armored cars, or they would default on the contract, in which case the contractor who hired Regency might go directly to Blackwater for security. According to a Blackwater employee, Blackwaters contract paid for armor vehicles, but management in North Carolina made the decision to go with soft skin due to the cost.

One day before the Fallujah attack, Blackwaters operations manager in Baghdad sent an urgent e-mail to Blackwater headquarters in North Carolina with the subject line Ground Truth. The e-mail stated: I need new vehicles. I need new COMs, I need ammo, I need Glocks and M4s. Ive requested hard cars from the beginning. Ground truth is appalling.

Because they were without maps and the mission had not been sufficiently planned, the Blackwater personnel arrived at the wrong military base the day before the attack, where they were forced to spend the night. A witness at the military base assessed that the mission that they were on was hurriedly put together and that they were not prepared.

Read the Full Report: Private Military Contractors in Iraq - An Examination of Blackwaters Actions in Fallujah (pdf) at link~

"Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre"

U.S. Broadcast Exclusive - "Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre" on the U.S. Use of Napalm-Like White Phosphorus Bombs

White phosphorus: weapon on the edge
By Paul Reynolds
World Affairs correspondent, BBC News website

The Pentagon's admission - despite earlier denials - that US troops used white phosphorus as a weapon in Falluja last year is more than a public relations issue - it has opened up a debate about the use of this weapon in modern warfare.

The admission contradicted a statement this week from the new and clearly under-briefed US ambassador in London Robert Holmes Tuttle that US forces "do not use napalm or white phosphorus as weapons".

The official line to that point had been that WP, or Willie Pete to use its old name from Vietnam, was used only to illuminate the battlefield and to provide smoke for camouflage.

'Shake 'n Bake'

This line however crumbled when bloggers (whose influence must not be under-estimated these days) ferreted out an article published by the US Army's Field Artillery Magazine in its issue of March/April this year.

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Jackpine Radical Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-27-07 08:52 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. Jesus. How do you get a response like this together so fast?
I can't even read it that fast.
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seemslikeadream Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-27-07 09:43 PM
Response to Reply #3
5. It's been on my mind for a couple of days now
Edited on Thu Sep-27-07 09:45 PM by seemslikeadream
It's kinda been building up and I had just posted it here, so I guess I cheated a bit ;) :hi: /

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burrowowl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-27-07 11:45 PM
Response to Reply #1
8. Thanks!
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Jackpine Radical Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-27-07 08:50 PM
Response to Original message
2. But war is so much more efficient if you privatize it.
Just like health care, education and bridge maintenance.
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Kagemusha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-27-07 08:54 PM
Response to Original message
4. That's what you get when you let the executive branch leave footprints on you.
Soon you have anyone and everyone treating you like a mat.
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robinlynne Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-27-07 10:20 PM
Response to Original message
6. yes we know that, now what are we going to DO about it?
sarcasm is not intended for the poster, I'm just fed up in general. It's as if congress is just considering waking up to what has been obvious from the get go.
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burrowowl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-27-07 11:37 PM
Response to Original message
7. K&R
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