Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Cost Risk of Privatizing War

By Dan Kenney

Co-coordinator of

No Private Armies

March 5, 2011

The Bipartisan Congressional commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan came out with their second Interim Report to Congress on February 24th. This report dispels any doubts about whether privatization is costing taxpayers too much. The Federal reliance on contractors is not only costing too much but billions are being lost to fraud and waste. The report proves that the unprecedented outsourcing that has occurred in these wars needs to be stopped. The “Commission believes the United States has come to over-rely on contractors.”

The Commission’s conservative estimate is that since October 2001 at least $177 billion has been spent on private contracts and grants to support U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is equivalent to $407,000,000 per Congressional district or $1,505 per U.S. household. Of that misspent amounts run in the tens of billions.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) warned the Commission in January of this year that the entire $11.4 billion for contracts to build nearly 900 facilities for the Afghan National Security Forces is at risk due to inadequate planning. This estimate does not include the waste that has resulted from Afghanistan‘s inability to sustain projects.

In addition to waste there is also the issue of fraud. According to the Association of Fraud Examiners an estimated 7% of revenue is lost to fraud, or $12 billion. Many observers also believe that waste accounts for substantially greater sums than the fraud and abuse.

The Commission conducted more than 900 meetings and briefings, along with a series of trips to Afghanistan and Iraq, and over 19 Commission hearings. After their research they have developed over 30 recommendations for congress and the Obama Administration.

The Obama Administration has been just as silent as the previous administration on this issue privatization. In March of 2009 Obama issued a memo on government contracting in which he stated:

“The Federal Government must have sufficient capacity

to manage and oversee the contracting process from start

to finish, so as to ensure that taxpayer funds are spent wisely

and are not subject to excessive risk.”

The Obama administration failure to act on this memo however is made evident in a statement made by the Special Inspector General of Afghanistan Reconstruction. Major General Arnold Fields told the Commission in a hearing entitled “Recurring Problems in Afghan Construction” January 24th 2011, “We don’t have enough trained folks within the federal establishment to provide the oversight of the very contractors we are brining on board.” When government agencies lack experienced and qualified workers to provide oversight, the potential for waste, fraud, and abuse in contract performances increases exponentially. In some cases contractors are hired to perform the oversight of other contractors for the federal agencies. To this fact the Commission stated, “The Commission firmly believes that contractors need to be managed by military and government civilian personnel. Anything less is unacceptable.”

During the same January 2011 hearing Secretary of Defense Gates expressed his own concern for the government’s “level of dependency” on contractors.

“Although there is historical precedent for contracted support to our military forces, I am concerned about the risks introduced by our current level of dependency, our future total force mix, and the need to better plan for { operational contract support} in the future. . . The time is now-while the lessons learned from recent operations are fresh- to institutionalize the changes necessary to influence a cultural shift.”

The issue of accountability is also covered in the report. The report states, “A serious concern with relying on armed security contractors is a potential gap in legal accountability.” This “legal gray zone” in which these private military contractors operate can lead to diplomatic conflicts with the host nations. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan governments have all demanded private military companies to leave their countries. But this demand has not been met for the very dependency we have touched on earlier. As a nation the U.S. can not operate in Central Asia or any where else without the support of private companies. These present wars have become the most privatized wars in America’s history. We have moved into new territory and the Commission’s report makes it clear that this has been done haphazardly with great consequence to human life and taxpayer money.

Whether Congress listens to the Commission’s findings is yet to be seen. The report was ignored, coming out during the budget battle, although the connection between the Nation’s deficit and a war that is costing $700 million per week and nearly 50% of that amount going into contracts with over 600 companies operating in these war zones. And now we have the evidence to show that tens of billions of that money is being wasted or stolen. Also at this time of growing attacks on unions, workers, and the middle class in this country under the guise of budget deficits, it seems to be the most responsible choice to draw parallels between this wasting and thievery of public funds by private war profiteers and mercenaries.

In its conclusion the Commission said, “If, on the other hand, the federal government cannot muster the resources and the will to strategically employ, manage, and oversee mission-critical contractors effectively, then it should reconsider using contractors, or reconsider the scope of its mission with a view to trimming them.”

Now that we have a majority in Congress that is dedicated to the Market solving all problems, and seemingly bent on breaking government down to a postage stamp size capabilities of real oversight, than it seems time for the citizens to call for the passing of the S.O.S. Act. The S.O.S. Act is the Stop Outsourcing Security Act, H.R. 4650, introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky D-IL and into the Senate by Mr. Sanders, I-VT.

The S.O.S. Act calls for the U.S. to phase out use of private military contractors. It seems that given the lack of will in Congress and in this administration to take oversight of these contractors seriously, we should end our use of them. This will be a difficult task given the present climate; it will require a great outpouring of citizen support to make such a cultural change within the Department of Defense, the State Department, and within the intelligence community. (75% of the intelligence agencies activities are performed by private contractors.)

If the resolve and will of the government is missing than this policy change must come from the people. It is after all, our money, the lives of our loved ones, and the future of our nation at risk.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pakistan arrests US security contractor as rift with CIA deepens

ISI tells American agency to unmask all its covert operatives after arrest of Aaron DeHaven in Peshawar, over visa expiry

Pakistani authorities have arrested a US government security contractor amid a worsening spy agency row between the countries, with Pakistani intelligence calling on the Americans to "come clean" about its network of covert operatives in the country.

The arrest came at the start of the murder trial of another American held in Pakistan, the CIA agent Raymond Davis.

Peshawar police arrested Aaron DeHaven, a contractor who recently worked for the US embassy in Islamabad, saying that his visa had expired.

Little was known about DeHaven except that his firm, which also has offices in Afghanistan and Dubai, is staffed by retired US military and defence personnel who boast of direct experience in the "global war on terror".

It was unclear whether his arrest was linked to escalating tensions between the Inter-Services Intelligence and the CIA, triggered by the trial of Davis, who appeared in handcuffs at a brief court hearing in a Lahore jail.

The 36-year-old former special forces soldier, whose status as a spy was revealed by the Guardian, refused to sign a chargesheet presented to him by the prosecution, which says he murdered two men at a traffic junction on January 27.

Davis instead repeated his claim of diplomatic immunity – a claim supported by President Barack Obama, who called him "our diplomat".

The press and public were excluded from the hearing in Kot Lakhpat jail, where Pakistani officials have taken unusual measures to ensure Davis's security amid a public clamour for his execution.

The furore has also triggered the most serious crisis between the ISI and the CIA since the 9/11 attacks. A senior ISI official told the Guardian that the CIA must "ensure there are no more Raymond Davises or his ilk" if it is to repair the tattered relationship of trust.

"They need to come clean, tell us who they are and what they are doing. They need to stop doing things behind our back," he said. There are "two or three score" covert US operatives roaming Pakistan, "if not more", he said.

CIA spokesman George Little said that agency ties to the ISI "have been strong over the years, and when there are issues to sort out, we work through them. That's the sign of a healthy partnership".

Pakistani civilian officials warned that the ISI was amplifying fallout from the Davis crisis through selective media leaks to win concessions from the US.

"They're playing the media; in private they're much more deferential to the Americans," said a senior government official, who added that the two agencies had weathered previous disagreements in private.

The crisis has sucked in the military top brass from both countries. On Tuesday, a Pakistani delegation led by General Ashfaq Kayani met US generals, led by Admiral Mike Mullen, at a luxury resort in Oman to hammer out the issues.

The US stressed that it "did not want the US-Pakistan relationship to go into a freefall under media and domestic pressures", according to an account of the meeting obtained by Foreign Policy magazine.

The ISI official agreed that future co-operation was vital. "They need us; we need them," he said. "But we need to move forward in the right direction, based on equality and respect."

The media furore over Davis has fuelled scrutiny of other American security officials in Pakistan and their visa arrangements, and may have led police to Aaron DeHaven in Peshawar on Friday.

DeHaven runs a company named Catalyst Services which, according to its website, is staffed by retired military and defence department personnel who have "played some role in major world events" including the collapse of the Soviet Union, the military mission to Somalia and the "global war on terror". Services offered include "full-service secure residences", protective surveillance and armed security.

One prospective customer who met DeHaven last year described him as a small, slightly-built man, who wore glasses and had broad knowledge of Pakistani politics. DeHaven said he had lived in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for one year, had married a Pakistani woman along the border with Afghanistan, and spoke Pashto fluently.

He said he moved his base from Peshawar to Islamabad last year over suspicions that he worked for Blackwater, the controversial US military contracting firm.

His business partner is listed on company documents as Hunter Obrikat with an address in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Guardian was unable to contact either men at listed numbers in Pakistan, Afghanistan, the US and Dubai.

US embassy spokeswoman Courtney Beale said DeHaven was "not a direct employee of the US government" but added that details could not be confirmed until a consular officer had met him. The arrest is another sign of brittle relations between the two countries.

US officials in Washington argue that Davis is a registered diplomat who should be immediately released under the provisions of the Vienna convention. But that plea has fallen on deaf ears in Pakistan, where the papers have been filled with lurid accounts of the spy's alleged activities, including unlikely accounts of him working with the Taliban and al-Qaida.

The US has also struck some blows in the covert public relations war. After a lull of three weeks, the CIA restarted its drone campaign in the tribal belt last Monday, with near-daily attacks on militant targets since then. "It's their way of showing who's in charge," said a senior Pakistani official.

And at the Oman meeting, Mullen warned Kayani he would apply "other levers" to the Pakistanis if a solution to the case was not found, the official added.

Since Davis's CIA status was revealed, US officials have told Pakistani officials that their best hope is in offering compensation to the families of the two men Davis shot in Lahore. Religious parties, however, have pressured relatives not to accept money.

Meanwhile, the Zardari government says it will settle the issue of Davis's diplomatic status at a court hearing scheduled for 14 March.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pakistan Trial of CIA Operative Adjourns

A Pakistani court has adjourned the murder trial of a CIA agent and former Blackwater operative accused in the shooting deaths of two men last month. The Obama administration had insisted Raymond Davis was a diplomat until acknowledging his work for the CIA this week. The United States has called for Davis’s repatriation as a diplomat entitled to diplomatic immunity, but Pakistani authorities are challenging his diplomatic status in court. Davis’s murder trial will continue next week. According to Reuters, two U.S. citizens were quietly withdrawn from Pakistan last month after causing a fatal car accident as they came to Davis’s aid. A police report says the pair struck a Pakistani motorist, only to flee the scene. The Davis case has strained U.S.-Pakistani ties. On Thursday, Pakistan’s main spy agency, the ISI, announced it’s scaling back cooperation with the CIA.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gadhafi getting help from mercenaries

TRIPOLI, Libya, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was getting the help of African mercenaries and militiamen to maintain his 40-year rule, witnesses said Wednesday.

The New York Times said thousands of mercenaries and militia were on roads headed for Tripoli, the capital and Gadhafi's stronghold, where Gadhafi appears to be strengthening his forces in anticipation of a decisive stage in the struggle for control of the country.

Opponents in Tripoli said they were making plans for their first organized protest Friday, the Times said.
GALLERY: Protesting Moammar Gadhafi

A growing number of military officers and officials Wednesday said they had broken with Gadhafi over his intentions to bomb and kill Libyan civilians, the report said.
Armed militiamen strafing crowds from the back of pickup trucks killed scores in Tripoli, residents told the Times, and bursts of gunfire extended the reign of terror Wednesday.

Human rights groups say they have confirmed about 300 deaths, though witnesses suggested the number was far larger. Franco Frattini, the foreign minister of Italy said there were probably more than 1,000 dead across the country.

Italy is the former colonial power in Libya.

CNN, citing Libya's Quryna newspaper, reported the crew of a Libyan military aircraft Wednesday refused to bomb Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, and let the warplane crash in an uninhabited area southwest of the city.

The newspaper said the pilot parachuted out of the Russian-built Sukhoi-22.

CNN said Quryna has switched from reporting regime propaganda to reporting on the protests and casualties.

Al-Jazeera, the Arab cable news channel, said its correspondent reported protesters claiming control of the western city of Misurata. In an Internet statement, army officers in the city vowed "total support for the protesters," the report said.

News outlets reported Benghazi had been taken over by the opposition.

Meanwhile, Italian warplanes were said to be keeping an eye on a stalled Libyan naval vessel off the coast of Malta. Al-Jazeera reported its correspondent in Malta said tensions were rising in Italy over the civil unrest in Libya.

There were rumors in Malta that the vessel had lowered its flags, suggesting its crew was defecting.

Much of the country's east region appeared to be in the hands of protesters, al-Jazeera said.

Meanwhile, the Swedish tabloid Expressen said Libya's recently resigned justice minister, Mustapha Abdeljalil, claims Gadhafi personally ordered the Lockerbie airliner bombing that killed 270 people in 1988.

An al-Jazeera correspondent said there were no officials manning the border when the broadcaster's team crossed into Libya near Tobruk.

Maj. Gen. Suleiman Mahmoud, commander of the armed forces in Tobruk, told al-Jazeera his troops had switched sides: "We are on the side of the people."

Earlier, Libyan government officials said the country's former interior minister, who resigned to support anti-government protesters, had been kidnapped.

Abdul Fattah Younis al Abidi told CNN Wednesday he resigned earlier in the week after hearing unarmed civilians were killed in Benghazi, while Libyan state media reported that "gangs" in Benghazi had kidnapped the minister.

Libyan security forces have warned that the people responsible for Abidi's kidnapping "will be chased in their hiding places." Earlier Wednesday, Abidi said he had resigned his post to back protesters who want Gadhafi to end his rule.

"Gadhafi told me he was planning on using airplanes against the people in Benghazi, and I told him that he will have thousands of people killed if he does that," Abidi told CNN in a telephone interview.

He called Gadhafi "a stubborn man" who won't concede.

"He will either commit suicide or he will get killed," the former minister said.

Abidi urged security forces to defect and join the anti-government protesters. A number of security personnel have switched sides, and a growing number of Libyan government and diplomatic officials reportedly have resigned since the protests started Feb.15.

After Gadhafi's second televised speech in two days -- in which he vowed to kill protesters "house by house" -- thousands of his supporters went to the Tripoli's central Green Square, wearing green bandannas and carrying machetes, witnesses said.

"It looks like they have been given a green light to kill these people," one witness said.

Tripoli remained under an information blackout, with no Internet access and intermittent phone service, making independent confirmation of events difficult.

In Tobruk, on Libya's eastern Mediterranean coast near the Egyptian border, Libya's historic red, black and green flag -- barred during Gadhafi's reign -- flew over many buildings, The Wall Street Journal said.

Gadhafi, meanwhile, vowed to remain in the country "until the end."

"I am not going to leave this land. I will die here as a martyr," he said, calling the protesters "cockroaches" and "greasy rats," and blaming the unrest on foreigners, including the United States and al-Qaida.

Condemnations of the crackdown mounted, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton describing the violence as "completely unacceptable."

The U.N. Security Council condemned Libya's use of anti-civilian violence, which it said was a "crime," and called for those responsible to be held accountable.

The League of Arab States condemned what it also called crimes against civilians and suspended Libya as a member until it responded to the people's demands.

In Brussels, the European Union suspended a framework agreement it had been negotiating with Libya.

Governments worked to get tens of thousands of foreigners out of Libya Wednesday, whether by sea or air. At least two oil companies said they were suspending some operations and evacuating workers.

Libya holds Africa's greatest oil reserves, normally exporting 1.2 million barrels a day, mostly to Europe, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

How many Davis-type agents are in Pakistan?

By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani authorities are trying to figure out the exact number and locations of other Raymond Davis type CIA and Blackwater agents whose main focus, it is feared, is Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

The cold blooded killings in Lahore by Davis has alarmed the Pakistani security agencies, which, according to sources, have started collecting details of all the likes of Raymond Davis, their local moles and their activities in Pakistan.

However, as indicated by the former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi that the issue of the Raymond Davis has been mishandled, the sources said that there are certain elements within the government who are found to be too supportive of Washington than Pakistan.

Sources believe that the number of Davis like CIA and Blackwater agents is high and may be around one hundred. However, there is no exact number available with the authorities. It was General Musharraf who, after 9/11 for perpetuating his dictatorial rule, opened the country’s gates for American agents at the cost of Pakistan’s own security.

In 2009, three Americans along with a Pakistani had tried to trespass into the restricted area of Kahuta but the official security agency deployed at the check post got alerted and intercepted them when they crossed the check post. The Pakistani accompanying these Americans was a retired assistant director of the FIA, who while introducing himself as an FIA officer had managed to free the Americans and returned.

Through this trespassing, according to an official report, the Americans had tried to check the security arrangements for the Kahuta Research Laboratories, one of the leading nuclear sites of Pakistan. “This one incident had a vital role in moving out DynCorp men from the Sihala Police College facility where they were allowed to train the police officials but were found in spying on the country’s nuclear facility,” a source said.

DynCorp, which is a Blackwater like private security agency that works for American CIA outside the United States, was also allowed to operate in sensitive areas, including the Sihala Police College by Musharraf but was pampered by the Interior Ministry of the present government.

Despite alarming intelligence reports about the DynCorp’s activities under the cover of Anti-Terrorism Assistance Programme (ATAP), the Interior Ministry, vide its letter number 1/41/2003-Police dated 29 June 2009, had granted an NoC for import of explosive material by the office of ATAP at the Sihala Police College.

“The NoC was issued without security clearance from intelligence agencies under the US pressure,” a security agency report submitted to the government said, adding that prior to approaching the Interior Ministry, the US Embassy in Islamabad had approached the Ministry of Industries to issue the NoC but the Industries Ministry’s authorities decided that it would be issued subject to the clearance by the ISI and IB.

“The IB sought some clarifications about quantity and type of explosives and detail of courses. Resultantly administration of Police College Sihala requested the Americans running the ATAP camp to provide the required details. However, instead of providing the details, Mr Robert A Clark and Mr Bob of ATAP Camp contacted the US Embassy, which used its influence and managed to get the NoC while bypassing the rules.”

In a similar fashion and following the request of the US Embassy as already reported by The News, the Interior Ministry had issued prohibited bore licenses to DynCorp’s local partner Inter-Risk which, after the media reported the matter, had become a major controversy but no one in the Interior Ministry was touched.

Even now some key elements in the Interior Ministry are said to be favouring Washington in Davis case. The same elements, it is said, are using their influence on the families of the deceased, killed by Davis, to accept dollars from Americans to ensure early release of the American killer.

The role of the Pakistani Embassy in the US is also under scrutiny after the reported issuance of about 400 visas to US citizens in the first two days of the implementation of the controversial visa policy under which the embassy was empowered to issue visas to US officials upto one year without referring the cases to Pakistan.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Growing Anger in Pakistan Over US CIA/Blackwater Killings

LAHORE, Pakistan - – New revelations about a CIA contractor in custody for shooting two men dead heaped pressure on Pakistan's fragile government Tuesday and exposed burning public mistrust of Washington.

Activists of Pakistan's outlawed religious party Jamaat-ud Dawa shout slogans during a protest against arrested US national Raymond Davis in Lahore on February 18. The unpopular government in Pakistan is under huge pressure from the political opposition not to cave in to US demands to release Davis, with analysts even warning that the case could bring down the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP). (Photo/Arif Ali) Officials in Washington cited by US media reports confirmed the account of a Pakistani intelligence official, who told AFP that Raymond Davis, the American being held in a prison in Lahore city, was working undercover for the CIA.

Washington is pushing hard for Pakistan's authorities to free Davis, arguing that he has diplomatic immunity and backing his claim to have acted in self-defence when he shot the men in a busy city street nearly four weeks ago.

The foreign ministry has so far refused to define Davis's diplomatic status and a Lahore court last week gave the government another three weeks to do so.

The opposition and relatives of the dead men said it was time for the government to come clean with what it knows of Davis and to address suspicions that he also worked for Xe, a US security firm formerly known as Blackwater.

"Davis deserves no pardon... We knew from day one that he was working for the CIA and Blackwater," said Mohammad Waseem, the brother of the deceased Mohammad Faheem.

"People like Davis have a role in terrorist activities in Pakistan. He should be tried and given the death sentence."

The New York Times on Monday reported that Davis was part of a CIA operation tracking Islamist extremists in eastern Pakistan such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, the virulently anti-Indian group blamed for the bloody 2008 siege of Mumbai.

The newspaper said he "worked for years as a CIA contractor, including time at Blackwater Worldwide". It noted that the company has long been seen by Pakistanis "as symbolizing a culture of American gun-slinging overseas".

"Whether he is a Blackwater or CIA agent the facts should be exposed by the federal government because it is their responsibility," said Pervez Rashid, spokesman for the opposition-controlled Punjab government.

Pakistani police say that after the shooting on January 27, they recovered a Glock pistol, four loaded magazines, a GPS navigation system and a small telescope from Davis's car.

A third Pakistani was struck down and killed by a US diplomatic vehicle that came to his assistance. US officials denied Pakistan access to the vehicle and the occupants are widely believed to have left the country.

Right-wing religious group Jamat-e-Islami, which wants Davis to be hanged for murder, said the courts should be left to adjudicate, but that he should also be now tried for espionage.

A lawyer for the three families of the men killed, Asad Manzoor Butt, raised the possibility of fresh espionage charges but said the claims should not affect an ongoing murder case in the courts.

The Wall Street Journal quoted US officials as denying that Davis was directly involved in CIA espionage or drone operations, which have killed hundreds of alleged militants in Pakistan's northwest on the Afghan border.

The case complicates relations with the United States, which have already been strained by mistrust over the US-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday told parliamentarians that the two governments would not allow the Davis case to undermine their "mutually beneficial partnership".

But while he said Pakistan was mindful of its international obligations, he insisted the government "will not compromise on Pakistan's sovereignty and dignity".

US Senator John Kerry visited Pakistan last week to express regret and say Davis would face a criminal investigation at home.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Raymond Davis Is CIA Contractor, U.S. Officials Say

Feb. 21, 2011
According to a current senior U.S. official and a senior intelligence consultant who worked with Davis, the 36-year-old American is a former Blackwater contractor who was posted to Lahore as part of the CIA's Global Response Staff, or GRS, a unit of security and bodyguards assigned to war zones and troubled countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Members of the GRS most often accompany CIA case officers, who meet with clandestine sources.

Davis and a group of fellow security officers lived in a safehouse in Lahore. The CIA keeps safehouses for security personnel in an effort to limit the ability for militants to track their movements, the intelligence contractor said.

ABC News was asked by the U.S. government to withhold publication of Davis's affiliation with the CIA, citing fears that disclosure would jeopardize his safety. After several foreign media organizations published parts of his background, the U.S. government rescinded its request to ABC News to embargo the information.

On Jan. 27, Davis left the safehouse and conducted an "area familiarization route," according to the senior U.S. official. He drove through various Lahore neighborhoods for several hours. It was during his route, two U.S. officials say, that Davis stopped at an A.T.M. and possibly drew the attention of two Pakistani men on a motorcycle.

Davis has told the police in Lahore that the two men were attempting to rob him when he fired several rounds from his Glock handgun, hitting them both. The police report says that Davis claimed one of the men had a gun cocked at him. Davis fired multiple rounds from inside his car, killing one man in the street, while the second died later from his injuries.

Davis then called for help from several other CIA security officers who shared his Lahore safehouse, according to a U.S. official and the intelligence consultant. As they arrived near the intersection, they accidentally hit a Pakistani motorcyclist. The motorcyclist later died of his injuries. Davis' colleagues were unable to get to Davis before the police arrested him. They left the scene and returned to their safehouse.

Within hours, they had destroyed all government documents at the safehouse, abandoned it, and retreated to the U.S. consulate for safety. Both have since returned to the U.S., according to a senior U.S. official briefed on the case.