Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Blackwater (aka Xe) exposed by Scahill... again!

Jeremy Scahill has a new article in the Nation about Blackwater. He's the journalist that first exposed Blackwater and has written the book on the subject, "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army".

[UPDATE - NOV 24: Jeremy Scahill appeared this morning on Democracy Now for his first interview on the subject. (I've added the video below.) As of this morning no MSM news source is reporting on this story - not even to deny it. They are just quietly ignoring it. Meanwhile, the blogosphere has exploded with this news. Of course the MSM has always tried to pretend that Blackwater doesn't exist, so at least they are consistent. As President Obama gets ready to announce ~34,000 new troops to Afghanistan on December 1 following the corrupt "elections" there, the MSM doesn't want to spoil the party. Will General McChrystal be questioned about Scahill's Blackwater allegations in upcoming congressional hearings about the new troop request?]

[UPDATE - NOV 25: The chattering idiots on MSNBC's Morning Joe show have Jeremy Scahill on to discuss his article. How did they manage to spin this into a story on anti-Latino Lou Dobbs running for President? Pathetic! What a bunch of morons.]

In his latest article Scahill reports that Blackwater is running a secret operation for the US military in Pakistan. You should read the whole story in the Nation titled "Blackwater's Secret War in Pakistan". Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite.
At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help run a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.
"This is a parallel operation to the CIA," said the source. "They are two separate beasts." The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the United States has not declared war--knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan.
One thing you should know about this article - it's full of anonymous sources. If it was anyone other than Jeremy Scahill reporting this stuff, I would be quite leary. But given Scahill's track record, I am accepting as truth everything he says until someone proves it to be false.

And you should also know that Scahill reports that the US Defense Dept. and Blackwater are denying everything he is saying. He includes quotes to this effect in the article.
A defense official, on background, specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. "We don't have any contracts to do that work for us. We don't contract that kind of work out, period," the official said. "There has not been, and is not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services."
Blackwater, which recently changed its name to Xe Services and US Training Center, denies the company is operating in Pakistan. "Xe Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction oversight for the U.S. Government," Blackwater spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement to The Nation, adding that the company has "no other operations of any kind in Pakistan."
So someone is not giving us the true story. As I said before, my money is on Scahill. Which means that Blackwater (aka Xe) and the US Defense Department have got a lot of 'splaining to do.

Scahill strongly suggests that the Blackwater operation is being run in such a way to deliberately mislead Congress and public opinion in both the US and Pakistan. He even suggests that the whole operation has been hidden from the Obama administration. The whole structure of the operation seems to be designed for maximum deniability.
The source said that the program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be aware of its existence.
While JSOC technically runs the operations in Karachi, he said, it is largely staffed by former US special operations soldiers working for a division of Blackwater, once known as Blackwater SELECT, and intelligence analysts working for a Blackwater affiliate, Total Intelligence Solutions (TIS), which is owned by Blackwater's founder, Erik Prince. The military source said that the name Blackwater SELECT may have been changed recently. Total Intelligence, which is run out of an office on the ninth floor of a building in the Ballston area of Arlington, Virginia, is staffed by former analysts and operatives from the CIA, DIA, FBI and other agencies. It is modeled after the CIA's counterterrorism center. In Karachi, TIS runs a "media-scouring/open-source network," according to the source. Until recently, Total Intelligence was run by two former top CIA officials, Cofer Black and Robert Richer, both of whom have left the company. In Pakistan, Blackwater is not using either its original name or its new moniker, Xe Services, according to the former Blackwater executive. "They are running most of their work through TIS because the other two [names] have such a stain on them," he said.
Another thing you need to know in order to fully appreciate this story is just what exactly the JSOC is. Scahill does get into it in the article, but its a bit buried and he doesn't get into great detail. So here's some supplementary information from the ever reliable Wikipedia. (You should give them a donation if you haven't already.)
The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) also commands and controls the Special Mission Units (SMU) of United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). These units perform highly classified activities. So far, only three SMUs have been publicly disclosed: The Army's 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment - Delta (Delta Force), the Navy's SEAL Team 6 or Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), and the Air Force's 24th Special Tactics Squadron. Intelligence Support Activity (ISA) which often operates under various cover names such as Royal Cape, Granite Rock and Powder Keg were some, Centra Spike and Torn Victor. However, its most recent known cover name was Gray Fox. The army once maintained the Activity, but after September 11 attacks the Pentagon shifted direct control to Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) at Fort Bragg, NC. If needed, Army Rangers and Night Stalkers can be transferred under the JSOC command. JSOC’s primary mission is believed to be identifying and destroying terrorists and terror cells worldwide.

USSOCOM/JSOC cannot conduct covert action operations, as the CIA is the only organization that has the authority to conduct these actions. However, USSOCOM has an excellent relationship with the CIA's elite Special Activities Division and the two forces often operate together with exceptional results. The CIA's Special Activities Division's Special Operations Group often selects their recruits from JSOC.
The way I interpret this information is that the JSOC is in charge of all Special Forces within the military. These are elite units that are trained to do clandestine operations among other things. The relationship with the CIA is a little fuzzy - probably intentionally so. What does it mean that the JSOC cannot perform "covert action operations"? It seems to me like a large part of their mission is based on doing covert operations.

As I said, I think there is an intent to keep secret from the public the full extent of JSOC operations. As for example, the information that Jeremy Scahill reveals in his article. For me, this was the first I'd ever heard of the JSOC and I suspect this will be true for most of the American public.

Another thing you should know about the JSOC. General Stanley A. McChrystal, the current commander of US forces in Afghanistan, was the man in charge of JSOC from 2003 to 2008. (Yes that's the same General McChrystal that has been so adamant about the need to increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan by up to 80,000.)

You can read more about McChrystal's term as commander of JSOC here. If your in favor of torture and death squads, then you will be a huge fan of the JSOC. The whole Abu Ghraib thing keeps coming up.
McChrystal's Zarqawi unit, Task Force 6-26, became well-known for its interrogation methods, particularly at Camp Nama, where it was accused of abusing detainees. After the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal became public in April 2004, 34 members of the task force were disciplined.
But apparently the disciplining never went up as far as Gen. McChrystal. In fact he got promoted on May 1, 2004 from a one star general to a two star general. And not long after that, on February 16, 2006, he got promoted to a three star general. So the whole Abu Ghraib "scandal" didn't seem to have any bad effects on McChrystal's career - in fact it seems to have earned him his promotions.

His final promotion (this one under the Obama administration) was to a full four star general which occurred on June 15, 2009 as a result of his assignment to take command of US forces in Afghanistan.

McChrystal also appears to be tightly connected through JSOC to the policy of drone attacks in Pakistan. Scahill talks about the connection between JSOC and the drone attacks in his article.
The military intelligence source also confirmed that Blackwater continues to work for the CIA on its drone bombing program in Pakistan, as previously reported in the New York Times, but added that Blackwater is working on JSOC's drone bombings as well. "It's Blackwater running the program for both CIA and JSOC," said the source. When civilians are killed, "people go, 'Oh, it's the CIA doing crazy shit again unchecked.' Well, at least 50 percent of the time, that's JSOC [hitting] somebody they've identified through HUMINT [human intelligence] or they've culled the intelligence themselves or it's been shared with them and they take that person out and that's how it works."
Scahill is saying that there are two separate (but no doubt related) targeted assassination drone programs - one run by the CIA and the other by the JSOC - and that one of the common links is Blackwater. But again, I can't do justice to all the information in Jeremy's article. I just wanted to provide some useful background.

I do want to highlight what appears to be a similarity between the logo of JSOC and that of Xe/Blackwater which is the X pattern. Notice the X pattern in the JSOC logo formed by the crossed swords. I'm guessing that these swords are intended to represent a gladius - a type of relatively short sword used by the Roman Legions. Isn't it appropriate that the American Empire uses symbols from the Roman Empire? The bad news is that the Romans never conquered Afghanistan, and even Alexander the Great was unable to win a decisive victory there. On the other hand Alexander did fall in love with a local beauty - Roxane.

It shouldn't be that surprising that there would be similarities in the logos of the two organizations given that Blackwater was founded by a Navy SEAL - Erik Prince. Remember that the Navy SEALs are one component of the JSOC. And one of the sources of recruitment for Blackwater is former Special Forces operative.

Finally I would like to point out that Scahill's revelations about Blackwater in Pakistan may have significant repercussions on the local politics there. For one thing the Taliban have been claiming that some of the bombings that have been going on in Pakistan are the work of Blackwater.
Attacks that have continued across Pakistani towns and cities are being blamed on Tehreek e-Taliban, Pakistan's Taliban.

However, the group has issued its first video statement denying involvement in targeting civilians and has blamed external forces for at least two recent blasts.

Azam Tariq, a spokesman of the Tehreek e-Taliban, posted the video statement on YouTube on Monday.

The message refers to a bombing at the Islamic University in Islamabad, which the spokesman said was orchestrated to prepare the ground for a military operation in South Waziristan, a stronghold for Pakistan's Taliban fighters.

He also said his group had no role in the bomb blast in a Peshawar market that killed at least 100 people as well as an attack in Charsada, a town located in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.

Tariq said Taliban attacks never aimed to target civilians, but that the explosions were linked to Blackwater activities in the country.
If Scahill is correct in his assertion that Blackwater and the JSOC are waging a secret war in Pakistan, then these claims by the Taliban need to be fully investigated.

The other story related to this is the promise of a Pakistani Minister to resign if it is found that Blackwater has been operating in Pakistan.
Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik has made it clear he will resign from his slot if US security company Blackwater is found in Pakistan, saying there is no Blackwater in Pakistan and we will not hide anything from the public.

Talking to the media on Saturday, he said the DynCorp is working in Pakistan for assistance and transit to Afghanistan-based allied forces since 2003 but it is not working for Blackwater.
So there is a lot riding on the Scahill story of a Blackwater presence in Pakistan. This is not a story that can be ignored, and you can be sure that Jeremy Scahill will be out publicizing this story in the days to come. It will be interesting to see the response not only from the US Defense Department and Blackwater, but from the Pakistani government and the Taliban as well.


Joe said...

Scahill - the very best of investigative journalism! I commend him and yourself on keeping everyone up to date on blackwater/Xe the U.S. version of Hamas or whatever you would like to call it. His explosive story on Blackwater using 'bullets' (in Iraq) that explode once entering the human body was when I was first introduced to him. In every interview he seems to have a level head and great sense about him. Blackwater and other private contract military operations have been growing in Afghanistan over the past year - the spill over into Pakistanis no suprise to me since it is the tribal areas of Pakistan that are widely independant and support the Taliban.

It seems to me the effort to kill off leaders is just a revolving door for the more young ambitious blood thirsty. Things might be bad but they look like they are going to continue to get worse.

Thanks again! Great Blog - I have you on my RSS fead and we talk on Max Keiser occasionally

Frank Hope said...

HI Joe. Thanks for your comments. When I first read the Scahill article, I thought it would be all over the news the next day. Well it is all over the alternative news in the blogosphere, but the MSM is trying to pretend this story doesn't exist. Their reaction is "la la la, I can't hear you," while covering their ears. "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil." Never has the 3 monkey imagery been more appropriate than when it comes to the MSM's attitude towards Blackwater, and contractors in the military in general.

I've been doing a search in Google News everyday for 'Blackwater' to see what the latest reaction is from the MSM. So far... nada. The most blatant example of snubbing this article is from the the AfPak Daily Brief at ForeignPolicy.com. There is no conceivable reason why they should choose not to mention this article, and yet that is exactly what they have done. This smacks of a deliberate coordinated coverup being centrally orchestrated by the US military. You wouldn't think this kind of Propaganda campaign would be possible in the Age of the Internet.

As I mentioned in my article, a big part of this story is the role of the JSOP as an alternative CIA. This seems to be an attempt to deceive Congress. And of course Congress is more than happy to play along.

There is also the whole issue of the role of private contractors in the military. This seems to be part of Rumsfeld's strategy. Comparing troop numbers in Afghanistan vs. Vietnam is deceiving. If we include all the support roles that were performed by troops in Vietnam, my guess is that the numbers for Afghanistan would double. Along with this use of contractors comes some fuzzy ethics about US responsibility not only for their actions, but also for the injuries and casualties among contractors.

The MSM continues to pretend that the contractors don't even exist. Blackwater is just the tip of the iceberg. And along with all those contractors, go military contracts to private firms like Halliburton and Dyncorp. And we've all seen the price gouging, sex scandals and shoddy work that has come along with that.

Virginia Hoge said...

Its really scary that the MSM is protecting Blackwater (oh, sorry, "Xe"). They are well-known thugs and criminals,

ummm, does that mean the MSM is also??