Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Xe, formerly Blackwater, in the Running for $1 Billion Government Contract

Just after the turn of the year, it was reported that two men who work for the private contracting firm "Xe" (pronounced "zee" and formerly known as "Blackwater") would be charged with murder in the death of two Afghan civilians:

Christopher Drotleff and Justin Cannon are charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of attempted murder each in connection with the May shootings in Kabul. The 12-count, 19-page indictment returned by a federal grand jury in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia also includes weapons charges against the two men.


The incident spotlights the issue of the role and conduct of U.S. security contractors in Afghanistan. A similar issue arose in Iraq after a September 2007 confrontation involving then-Blackwater contractors that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead.

Blackwater lost its contract there after Iraq's government refused to renew its operating license. The company then changed its name to Xe, and it continues to receive multimillion-dollar contracts in Afghanistan.

This was not the first incident that has drawn attention to this troubled mercenary firm. You may remember the infamous Nissour Square Massacre in Iraq in 2007 during which it was reported that 17 Iraqi civilians were shot and killed by Blackwater guards. From a 2008 New York Times:

The Sept. 16 shooting in Nisour Square is considered by the F.B.I., the Pentagon and the Iraqi government to be among the most egregious examples of unprovoked violence by private security contractors. It ignited such outrage that the Iraqi government threatened to ban Blackwater from the country.

Since this massacre, former employees of the organization have come forward to tell tales of weapons smuggling by the firm into Iraq and allegations that implicate the founder of the organization, in murder. From an August 2009 piece by Jeremy Scahill:

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company.


In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting "illegal" or "unlawful" weapons into the country on Prince's private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities o
f the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.

In the midst of all of these serious allegations that surround this organization, one would think that it may make the United States Government a little wary of continuing to hire Xe to operate within war-stricken countries, but then there comes this news highlighted by the Huffington Post (emphasis mine):

Now called Xe Services, the company is in the running for a Pentagon contract potentially worth $1 billion to train Afghanistan's troubled national police force. Xe has been shifting to training, aviation and logistics work after its security guards were accused of killing unarmed Iraqi civilians more than two years ago.

Here is a video that was created by ReThink Afghanistan that also outlines how this security firm is still in the running for lucrative government contracts even as there continue to be unsolved questions that surround various legal and moral issues:

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