90% of the revenue of Xe, formerly Blackwater, comes from the United States Government, which means it comes from United States taxpayers. What are taxpayers getting for their money?

Prince proposed that the US government deploy armed private contractors to fight “terrorists” in Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia.

Is this the work of Blackwater/Xe? This is from the aftermath of a mosque bombed in Mogadishu May 1, 2010, bombed while people were at worship. I do not usually include pictures of horrors, I do not like to disrespect those people caught in the chaos. But we need to ask: Are US taxpayers paying for this? If we are, what are we getting for our money?

The Nation magazine has obtained an audio recording of a recent, private speech delivered by Prince to a friendly audience .  The speech, which Prince attempted to keep from public consumption, provides a stunning glimpse into his views and future plans and reveals details of previously undisclosed activities of Blackwater. The people of the United States have a right to media coverage of events featuring the owner of a company that generates 90% of its revenue from the United States government.

Prince appears both clueless and contemptuous of Afghani and Pakistani opposition, calling them “barbarians” who “crawled out of the sewer.” This kind of COIN partnering will bring the US many more enemies. It is also unlikely to bring any victories, just more violent interludes. It seems unlikely that Prince and his company have any greater respect or concern for the people of Somalia than they do for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Prince claims he has been operating under US contract in Pakistan. Although the US and Pakistani governments officially deny this.

“You know, people ask me that all the time, ‘Aren’t you concerned that you folks aren’t covered under the Geneva Convention in [operating] in the likes of Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan? And I say, ‘Absolutely not,’ because these people, they crawled out of the sewer and they have a 1200 AD mentality. They’re barbarians. They don’t know where Geneva is, let alone that there was a convention there.”

This kind of arrogance makes people blind. Blackwater/Xe was in charge of security at “the deadly suicide bombing on December 30 at the CIA station at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan.” Did arrogance cause them to miss important clues, or skip security protocols?

Regarding the bombing of the mosque in Somalia:

A senior official of Somalia’s radical Islamist group Al-Shabaab, who was target of Mogadishu mosque blast that killed several people have accused American security companies of the attacks.

Sheikh Fu’ad Muhammad Khalaf aka Shongolo accused the Xe, formerly of Black Water, whom he alleges to based at Mogadishu airport of being behind the blast …

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, which attracted condemnation from all quarters of the war-torn Somalia. (Garowe Online)

Generally some group claims credit for bomb attacks. Bombing a mosque with no claim for credit makes it appear more likely that foreign fighters are involved, foreigners who are not allied with the various Somali Islamist movements. The largest group of foreign fighters in Somalia are those sponsored by the donor countries, chiefly the US and EU, trying to prop up the TFG, Transitional Federal Government, the government installed primarily by the US, which is neither federal nor a government. It limps along under constant propping and pressure from the US.

Garowe Online: Somali warring sides condemn Mogadishu Mosque blasts

A twin bomb explosion that killed scores of people inside a mosque in Somalia ’s restive capital Mogadishu on Saturday has been strongly condemned by all warring sides involved in Somali conflict.

The attack took place inside a packed mosque in the main Bakara market, an area controlled by insurgent group Al-Shabaab.

The leader of Somalia’s Hizbul Islam Islamist militant Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys said targets on worships are unheard off in Somalia but now seems to be getting its way into the country thanks to ‘foreign enemies’.

The fragile UN-backed [read: foreign-backed] Somali government termed the incident as ‘new foreign barbaric phenomena’ that totally dints the historic Islamic culture of Somalis.

Sheikh Abdullahi Abdirahman Abu Yusuf Al-Qadi, a spokesman for pro-government Ahlu-sunna Wal-jamaa group, which is involved in bloody war with insurgents groups Al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam described the act as a foreign terror campaign that is finding its way into the Somali society.

Al Shabaab movement blamed the attacks on foreign security firms operating in Mogadishu. The group is waging war against the UN-backed Somali government and its backer African Union troops.

We know mercenary corporations are working for the US Government in Somalia. Dyncorp has its own offices in Mogadishu. Employing mercenaries, especially to commit acts of terrorism, will accomplish nothing, and earn the United States quite a few more enemies.

Prince and Blackwater/Xe also want to go into Nigeria where they could make even more enemies for the US. In his speech Prince spoke about this.

Prince also proposed using private armed contractors in the oil-rich African nation of Nigeria. Prince said that guerilla groups in the country are dramatically slowing oil production and extraction and stealing oil. “There’s more than a half million barrels a day stolen there, which is stolen and organized by very large criminal syndicates. There’s even some evidence it’s going to fund terrorist organizations,” Prince alleged. “These guerilla groups attack the pipeline, attack the pump house to knock it offline, which makes the pressure of the pipeline go soft. they cut that pipeline and they weld in their own patch with their own valves and they back a barge up into it. Ten thousand barrels at a time, take that oil, drive that 10,000 barrels out to sea and at $80 a barrel, that’s $800,000. That’s not a bad take for organized crime.” Prince made no mention of the nonviolent indigenous opposition to oil extraction and pollution, nor did he mention the notorious human rights abuses connected to multinational oil corporations in Nigeria that have sparked much of the resistance.

Prince fails to note that many members of Nigeria’s government are reputed to be involved in the illegal oil bunkering. And that the neglect and exploitation by both the oil companies and the Nigerian government, is responsible for much unrest and dissatisfaction in the Niger Delta. The only help Blackwater/Xe might provide is assisting in some temporary financial gain by the exploiters, and quite likely for itself as well. Of course with Prince’s contempt for local populations, he may see this as a plus.

Regardless of the income that comes from their employers, PMCs and their employees are ideally placed to deal in contraband, especially weapons, drugs, and slaves. All of these are traded and for sale in a war zone. Five Blackwater employees are currently under indictment for weapons charges.

Poppy production continues strong in Afghanistan. Much of the product is currently being marketed in Iran and Russia. A PMC operating in Afghanistan is perfectly placed to take advantage of this trade without any US stigma that might attach to dealing drugs to the United States. They might even regard themselves as engaging in a patriotic activity or carrying out the wishes of their employers, at the same time making a huge profit.  This is especially the case for Prince who characterizes Iran as the source of evil in his speech.

Prince claims:

“The overall defense budget is going to have to be cut and they’re going to look for ways, they’re going to have to have ways to become more efficient,” he said. “And there’s a lot of ways that the private sector can operate with a much smaller, much lighter footprint.”

The private sector also operates as a private sector, and can engage in additional enterprises including the trade in contraband to enhance and supplement their income. That is one way to be more efficient.

If Blackwater is engaged in acts of terror, such as bombing mosques or other places where people are gathered, it hurts the United States. If taxpayers are paying for it, they need to know what they are getting. And the US taxpayers have a right and responsibility to monitor the words and deeds of Prince and his companies wherever they operate at taxpayer expense, and wherever their actions threaten the security and reputation of the United States.

Artist's impression

Graphic h/t to Ado on The Darkest of Liquids

Photo credit from the bombing wardheernews.com PDF

h/t africa comments where there is more information on ongoing events in Somalia

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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.