blackwater31

Just a few noteworthy odds and ends today that have some relevance to Africa and the US Africa Command, the first is distinctly odd:

US Government Takeover of Human Terrain System,
HTS Program Managers Spared, Laugh On Way to Bank

On February 9, 2009, Human Terrain System (HTS) program manager Steve Fondacaro informed HTS employees that they were being converted to Term Government Employees. The catalyst for the drastic change was, according to Fondacaro, the new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Iraqi Government. Yet, sources believe there is something fishy about the SOFA cover, particularly since their treatment by HTS program management (Steve Fondacaro, Steve Rotkoff-Deputy Program Manager, and Montgomery McFate-Sapone-Senior Social Scientist) over the past year has been anything but stellar. Further, BAE SYSTEMS was not notified by HTS program management but, according to sources, by HTS employees who had gotten word of the changes afoot through the HTS grapevine.

BAE SYSTEMS and the primes are scrambling right now to get to the bottom of what this is about since they were clueless until employees starting burning up the phone lines and email. Most of the employees are worried because if they are forced to covert (alternative is to quit) so really no choice, that they are not tied to their contractor but at the mercy of the TRADOC and they essentially become non-permanent government army employees.

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KBR has been convicted of bribing officials in Nigeria:

Kellogg Brown & Root LLC Pleads Guilty to Foreign Bribery Charges and Agrees to Pay $402 Million Criminal Fine
Enforcement Actions by DOJ and SEC Result in Penalties of $579 Million for KBR’s Participation in a Scheme to Bribe Nigerian Government Officials to Obtain Contracts

WASHINGTON – Kellogg Brown & Root LLC (KBR), a global engineering, construction and services company based in Houston, pleaded guilty today to charges related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for its participation in a decade-long scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials to obtain engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts, Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin of the Criminal Division announced. The EPC contracts to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria, were valued at more than $6 billion.

KBR entered guilty pleas to a five-count criminal information in federal court in Houston before U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison. As part of the plea agreement, KBR agreed to pay a $402 million criminal fine.

According to court documents, KBR was part of a four-company joint venture that was awarded four EPC contracts by Nigeria LNG Ltd. (NLNG) between 1995 and 2004 to build LNG facilities on Bonny Island. The government-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was the largest shareholder of NLNG, owning 49 percent of the company.

KBR pleaded guilty to conspiring with its joint-venture partners and others to violate the FCPA by authorizing, promising and paying bribes to a range of Nigerian government officials, including officials of the executive branch of the Nigerian government, NNPC officials, and NLNG officials, to obtain the EPC contracts. KBR also pleaded guilty to four counts of violating the FCPA related to the joint venture’s payment of tens of millions of dollars in “consulting fees” to two agents for use in bribing Nigerian government officials.

KBR admitted that, at crucial junctures before the award of the EPC contracts, KBR’s former CEO, Albert “Jack” Stanley, and others met with three successive former holders of a top-level office in the executive branch of the Nigerian government to ask the office holder to designate a representative with whom the joint venture should negotiate bribes to Nigerian government officials. Stanley and others negotiated bribe amounts with the office holders’ representatives and agreed to hire the two agents to pay the bribes. According to court documents, the joint venture paid approximately $132 million to the first agent, a consulting company incorporated in Gibraltar, and more than $50 million to the second agent, a global trading company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, during the course of the bribery scheme. KBR admitted that it had intended for these agents’ fees to be used, in part, for bribes to Nigerian government officials.

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Possibly following advice from Wired’s Danger Room, Blackwater is rebranding, now calling itself Xe, pronounced zee.

They never picked up on our Hello Kitty-style logos. But finally, after a godawful year and a half, the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide is taking Danger Room’s advice, and changing its name to something opaque and hard-to-pronounce.

So, goodbye Blackwater. Hello, Xe. No, seriously. Xe — “pronounced like the letter ‘z,'” the Associated Press reports. …

For the last year or so, lackwater Xe has been moving away from its core business of diplomat protection, and into — well, just about everything else, it seems. Firm CEO Erik Prince has put together teams of spies-for-hire. The company is pushing ahead with plans to protect commercial ships, traveling through pirate-packed seas. And in case that doesn’t work out, the company is making custom rifles, marketing spy blimps, assembling a fleet of light attack aicraft, and billing itself as experts in everything from cargo handling to dog training to construction management. It’s even training pro athletes.

Firm president Gary Jackson says in a memo to employees that the new name (and the renaming of its firing range as “U.S. Training Center Inc.”) are just reflections of that diversification. (graphic h/t Danger Room)

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And especially noteworthy, WikiLeaks has published an archive of CRS, Congressional Research Service documents (h/t Koranteng) including the January 2009 report:

PDF: Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa

Most of the issues covered in the report have been discussed in this blog. It is interesting to see a number of my assumptions confirmed in this way. I’ll copy just a couple of quotes.

… five factors that have shaped increased U.S. interest in Africa in the past decade: oil, global trade [China], armed conflicts, terror, and HIV/AIDS. …

A senior DOD official reportedly commented in 2003 that “a key mission for U.S. forces (in Africa) would be to ensure that Nigeria’s oil fields… are secure.” In spite of conflict in the Niger Delta and other oil producing areas, the potential for deep water drilling in the Gulf of Guinea is high, and analysts estimate that Africa may supply as much as 25% of all U.S. oil imports by 2015.

1999 demonstration in Port Harcourt welcoming home Owens Wiwa, the brother of Ken Saro-Wiwa (faces intentionally blurred by the photographer)

1999 demonstration in Port Harcourt welcoming home Owens Wiwa, the brother of Ken Saro-Wiwa (faces intentionally blurred by the photographer)

The people of the Niger Delta are a principal target of AFRICOM and the Human Terrain System, HTS. The people in the picture above are targets. We know this because in the same month AFRICOM was announced, contractors for the US Marines were looking for academics to “study” ethnic groups in the Niger Delta. The Delta is considered a prime candidate for “stability operations” because of the social unrest generated by 50 years of ruthless exploitation by oil companies complicit with successive Nigerian governments. People in the Delta want a share of their own wealth. It is not just Nigeria that is a target. Most of the countries in Africa are targets for “stability operations”, “nation building”, and “humanitarian” assistance because of their enormous natural resources, especially oil. Somalia is a case in point. This week I read:

in ecoterra int’l’s jan 25th update : Major oil companies who declared force majeure on their Somali assets in the 1990s are reviving their claims to blocks in the unrecognized but relatively peaceful Republic of Somaliland.

Roberto González wrote the book American Counterinsurgency: Human Science and the Human Terrain, and was interviewed by David Price for CounterPunch.

González is a founding member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists and has been at the forefront of debates on Human Terrain within the American Anthropological Association (AAA).

González: … For more than two years, a group of military planners has been involved in a scheme to whitewash counterinsurgency-to clean up the image of anti-revolutionary warfare, which is always a dirty business. Even though the US military has more than a century of experience in counterinsurgency warfare (going back to the “Indian Wars” of the 1800s and the cruel campaign against Filipino revolutionaries in the early 1900s), General David Petraeus and other battlefield technicians have portrayed the method as a “gentler” means of fighting, while recruiting political scientists, anthropologists, and other social scientists to create the tools to do this. The Human Terrain System, which embeds social scientists in combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan, is among the most visible new counterinsurgency programs, and this became the focus of my work.

HTS personnel tend to use outdated anthropological concepts, theories, and methods, mostly from the 1930s and 1940s. For example, Montgomery McFate (the Pentagon’s senior social science advisor for HTS) has recently published articles and given presentations in which she relies heavily upon the concept of “tribalism,” functionalist theory, and data collection methods developed for the Human Relations Area Files. Others have sought to incorporate social network analysis as a research method. Each of these elements was either created or elaborated at a time when many anthropologists were employed by colonial governments to more effectively control indigenous populations. It’s no accident that these are precisely the tools advocated by HTS’s architects.

In the past, when military planners and colonial administrators sought the counsel of anthropologists, they looked for a social science stripped of ambiguity, meaning, and context. They wanted simple analytical tools that might help them accomplish short-term objectives: to put down an uprising, to manufacture propaganda, to conduct psychological warfare, to divide one ethnic group or religious sect against another. Today, anthropologists commissioned by the Pentagon as counterinsurgency consultants use the same tools as instruments for manipulation and social control-not as a means of humanizing other people. Some of this work is published in army journals with titles like, “The Military Utility of Understanding Adversary Culture” and “Operational Culture for the Warfighter.” These kinds of articles tell us a great deal about a principal aim of militarized social science: transforming culture into a weapon.

Recently, a military contract firm called Archimedes Global posted a recruitment ad for “socio-cultural cell” members within the newly-established AFRICOM (US African Command). The ad calls for specialists with “human terrain” expertise, among others. It’s a clear example of how human terrain has become a much broader phenomenon, now embraced by the military, industries, and research universities. Beyond the army’s HTS program, human terrain has become a growth industry.

After Robert Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary, there was a boom in funding for projects focused on human terrain research and “culture-centric” warfare, and this attracted dozens of companies from the military-industrial complex-BAE Systems, Aptima Corporation, MITRE, the RAND Corporation, Wexford Group, MTC Technologies, NEK Advanced Securities Group, and Alpha Ten to name a few. Unfortunately, President Obama has asked Gates-a staunch supporter of HTS-to continue serving as Defense Secretary

Despite this overwhelming evidence pointing to a program run amok, the US Congress has not shown much interest in investigating HTS. … It will be left to citizens of conscience to demand the abolition of human terrain teams-and the imperial wars that employ them.

Montgomery McFate - lead scientist for the US Army Human Terrain System
Montgomery McFate – lead social scientist for the US Army Human Terrain System

The Human Terrain system is supposed to provide information to the military on local people and local culture. I have written about it in relation to AFRICOM previously here: Human Terrain mired in a swamp.

HTS seems to be mired deeper than ever.

John Stanton describes:

Led by a wildly unpopular program manager (Steve Fondacaro) and a detached social science advisor (Mrs. Montgomery McFate Sapone), the HTS program continues to unravel. Program morale is at its lowest point in the short and controversial life of the program. Sources predict that more civilian HTT team members and soldiers will be killed/wounded because of lousy management practices and zero program oversight by upper echelon commanders/civilians. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and General David Patreaus are also responsible for this dark state of affairs. In placing a recycled concept miles ahead of proper foundation and structure, they have compromised warfighters-in-theater, destroyed lives, and created a get-rich program for the most mercenary of HTS personnel and private contractors looking for lucrative employment.

… Mrs. McFate-Sapone reportedly nixes any dissent or critique of the HTS program. She has been described by HTS personnel as “a poisonous individual,” “the crazy aunt in the room”, and a “hustler”. One said “you’ve got to watch your six with her.”

Here are some quotes from people involved in the Human Terrain project:

“The HTS program is a ridiculous waste of tax payer money, and in the midst of a recession. Millions have been wasted. And the moronic management of the HTS program seems to have absolutely no problem placing poorly trained individuals in harm’s way, going so far as to falsifying training documents.”

“The amount of cash flying around the HTS program with very little oversight or accountability is disgusting. I continue to work for the HTS program out of obligation because I finish what I start, but trust me, I am counting down the days.”

“I feel for the people whose careers are being ground up in this HTS program mess.”

“It never ceases to amaze me how many egotistical individuals are involved with this HTS program.”

The article points out:

It isn’t really necessary to bring in academics to try to understand psychology, except perhaps for rare pathologies that are not likely to be encountered in everyday life [evolutionary psychology can speak to that]. Where HTS could have helped a lot is in understanding cultural norms and they did try to do that. But it seems to me that HTS over-promised when they claimed that they could help front-line tactical troops with specific situational awareness problems. The key thing to remember is that the differences between any two humans’ behaviors will be greater than the differences in behaviors between cultures.”

As someone who has moved between cultures a certain amount, I heartily endorse this last sentence.

Montgomery McFate, pictured above, is a major player in the fraud and failure. There is a great version of the picture of her here. And more about her domestic spying at Mother Jones.

More from journalist John Stanton on HTS:

Many academics/social scientists, according to one source, treat NCO’s with disdain. Military personnel complain — legitimately — that they end up putting their lives at risk for non-combatant social scientists who offer human terrain system data that is rarely useful.

It is high time that civilian and military personnel in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the US Army fix what in the minds of many has become a get-rich scheme for retired military contractors and their friends.

Sources indicate that HTS management has hired a consultant on Africa to sell the HTS program to AFRICOM (AFRICOM’s new headquarters will apparently be in Botswana). And yet, according to a source, the program basics are not even settled. HTS program manager Steve Fondacaro “has spent $175,000 to procure 50 computers that remain unused.” Another indicated that “No one is working! You can watch all the HTS personnel hanging out in the parking lot of the local hotel day after day waiting for something to do. And they get paid for that.”

Interesting about AFRICOM HQ being located in Botswana. I have wondered about this. I have read other speculation on Botswana as the location. The current President of Botswana seems amiably disposed towards western militarism. So far I have seen nothing official.

Gharamatu women occupying a Chevron oil flow station in Makarava in the Niger Delta July 21, 2002.

Gharamatu women occupying a Chevron oil flow station in Makarava in the Niger Delta July 21, 2002.

Back in February of 2007 Sokari Ekine wrote about being contacted by a contractor working with the US Marines. They wrote:

Delex Systems Inc is writing a cultural study of behalf of the US Marine Corp on ethnic groups in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. … and we were interested in soliciting a bid from you for an academic review. The cultural study is on the Ijo [Ijaw]

In researching further, Sokari Ekine concluded this was an early effort related to AFRICOM. From the Center for International Policy:

[The] U.S. Department of Defense just announced the establishment of an African military command—AFRICOM—to spearhead an “oil and terrorism” policy, which will oversee the deployment of U.S. forces in the area and supervise distribution of money, materiel and military training to regional militaries and proxies. Pentagon analysts and generals claim that vast “uncontrolled spaces” in Saharan and Sahelian Africa, which are said to include large portions of northern Nigeria, are rife with terrorists seeking to damage the United States, even though the evidence for such claims is woefully thin.

… the United States is relying on increased oil production from the African Oil Triangle [Gulf of Guinea] to reduce its dependence on Middle East petroleum, but could replace one set of insecurities with another.

In fact, militarization by the United States will exacerbate an already tense situation in Nigeria and other parts of the Oil Triangle without having any effect on terrorists. Only a concerted effort to support Nigeria’s democratic forces and legislative oversight of the country’s presidency can ensure American and the region’s security, and quell wholesale theft of oil revenues as well as the insurgencies, criminality and social banditry now rampant in oil-producing areas.

In the Niger Delta the US is trying to label as terrorists the indigenous people who are battling for some control over their land and their own resources. HTS, Human Terrain System personnel have already been deployed in Iraq. And the HTS project is very much on the agenda of the DoD, and the contractors that are targeting AFRICOM for their next paychecks and opportunities.

As described by the American Anthropological Association:

The U.S. military’s HTS project places anthropologists, as contractors with the U.S. military, in settings of war, for the purpose of collecting cultural and social data for use by the U.S. military.

The AAA has described participation in HTS as a violation of the AAA code of ethics, a danger to the anthropologists, and to the people they study.

Now there are serious problems with the HTS program:

According to sources, United States Army brigade commanders privately believe that the US Army Training and Doctrine Command’s (TRADOC) Human Terrain System (HTS) program is a joke and completely unnecessary. The HTS program is publicly supported by brigade military commanders, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, only because it is a pet project of the currently politically popular US Army General David Petraeus.

BAE Systems, the prime contractor on the project, has repeatedly been pressured by the HTS program manager and his staff to hire individuals who are not field-experienced ethnographers/anthropologists, but rather Google-fed political and social scientists.

These HTS people are not qualified, not properly trained and prepared, and can therefore pose a danger to the soldiers they are assigned to work with.

Key questions remain open. What’s the role of a civilian ethnographer/anthropologist working with the military in a combat zone? Is a civilian trained to respond to a threat without threatening the life of the team? Should they carry weapons and wear military gear? Are they there to enhance the kill chain, organize and facilitate sporting events, or examine trash dumps for behavioral patterns? What kind of data do war-fighters and negotiators really want?

War-fighters in the battlespace should not have to spend their time babysitting those who have an itch to play Army or engage in a proof-of-concept program that has, in one form or another, been behind every US attempt to colonize and/or subdue an intransigent population since the nation’s founding.

The lead social scientist on the project went on a 7 month sabatical just as the project initiated.

multiple sources say that the HTS program is in the crash and burn phase.

Exceptionally qualified individuals were forced out of the HTS program for questioning management’s approach, ethics and decision making.

Another source, commenting on the HTS leadership said, “As usual, the FOBBITs [Forward Operating Base personnel who never leave the base] and REMFs [rear echelon mother f*%#@$’*] are in charge and the guys on the line are ignored. Who needs a combat veteran when you’ve got Google.

Program oversight, discipline and accountability have been virtually non-existent from the beginning, according to multiple sources. … Other sources said some HTS program personnel describe management as “war profiteers” who simply want to see the program continue no matter what the cost in lives or money.

As of this writing, sources indicate that HTS program management has lobbied hard to gain a foothold in AFRICOM where poorly trained HTT’s would be deployed

HTS looks like more “work” for Bush’s war profiteers, with the Bush trademark disregard for competence and results. But if the program were supported by the anthropological community, and if it was executed competently and efficiently, it still intends to “colonize and/or subdue an intransigent population”. And it involves invading and occupying sovereign countries. This is not a moral approach, and even if the morality does not bother the planners, the results should. For the US it will replace one set of insecurities with another, deplete and erase good will around the world, and damage the chances to acquire desired resources.

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