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Inteligencia y Seguridad  
 
21/08/2009 | Blackwater's dark heart - New revelations about an American private-security contractor

The Economist Staff

The “war on terror” has left many blots on America’s reputation—weapons of mass destruction, Abu Ghraib prison, Guantánamo Bay—and one stain continues to darken with time. This week the New York Times reported that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had once hired Blackwater, a private-security contractor, to plot assassinations of al-Qaeda operatives. It was the latest in a string of controversial news. This month Erik Prince, Blackwater’s founder and chairman, was accused of facilitating or committing murder; he denies the allegations.

 

Blackwater is not the only security contractor in the Middle East. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that America spent between $6 billion and $10 billion on the services of these firms from 2003 to 2007. But Blackwater is the most prominent. In 2004 insurgents in Fallujah killed four of its employees, burned them and hung two them from a bridge over the Euphrates. The sight of charred American bodies caused uproar at home. Marines stormed Fallujah days later. By 2007 Blackwater was accused of being a perpetrator. The company’s employees opened fire on a busy square in Baghdad, killing 17 Iraqis. The incident strained America’s relations with Iraq. Blackwater exemplified an American effort gone terribly wrong.

The latest revelation is that the CIA hired Blackwater in 2004 for a multimillion-dollar plan to locate and kill members of al-Qaeda. In June a horrified Leon Panetta, the new director of the CIA, called an emergency meeting to brief Congress on the programme, which had been kept secret. According to the New York Times, Blackwater helped with training, planning and surveillance. It is unclear whether the CIA intended to use Blackwater to carry out the assassinations—no suspected terrorists were killed under the auspices of the programme. But the scheme adds to doubts over the role of private-security firms in the war and efforts to hold contractors accountable.

A case in court in Washington, DC, may eventually shed some light on the way the company works. In December 2008 federal prosecutors charged five Blackwater employees with manslaughter for the Baghdad shootings in 2007. A sixth employee has already pleaded guilty.

In the meantime, Blackwater faces some of the most serious allegations yet. A group of Iraqis, aided by the Centre for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based human-rights pressure group, is suing Blackwater for war crimes, wrongful death and more. In sworn statements submitted for the case on August 3rd, two former employees allege that Mr Prince may have helped to murder at least one person who had divulged, or was about to divulge, damning information to the government. He denies the claims. The affidavits also claim that Mr Prince smuggled weapons into Iraq and that he “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe”.

With these cases plodding through America’s courts, security contractors continue to work abroad. Blackwater no longer has an operating licence in Iraq—local officials refused to renew it—and the firm has lost a big contract to defend diplomats. But many former employees of Blackwater are now working for the new holder of that contract, Triple Canopy. And Blackwater has rebranded itself as Xe Services.

As the number of contractors in Afghanistan grows, the mistakes of Iraq may be repeated. Training for Afghanistan’s security contractors is weak and efforts to monitor them are disjointed, according to a report released in June by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, a bipartisan group set up by Congress. Four Xe employees are under investigation for the death of an Afghan man in May. Critics may be gladdened to learn that there is at least some semblance of oversight. The main body charged with supervising contractors in Afghanistan is also a contractor.

The Economist (Reino Unido)

 


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19/08/2009|
19/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
15/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
11/08/2009|
19/07/2009|
19/07/2009|
18/07/2009|
18/07/2009|
27/03/2009|
22/03/2009|
22/03/2009|
27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
11/01/2009|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
23/11/2008|
23/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
22/08/2008|
22/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
24/05/2008|
24/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
29/04/2008|
11/02/2008|
05/01/2008|
09/12/2007|
18/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/09/2007|
26/08/2007|
25/08/2007|
11/07/2007|
16/06/2007|
16/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
24/04/2007|
24/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
28/02/2007|
28/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
17/11/2006|
30/09/2006|
28/07/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
06/03/2006|
21/02/2006|
17/02/2006|
31/01/2006|
10/01/2006|
28/12/2005|
31/10/2005|
26/09/2005|
29/08/2005|
11/08/2005|
08/08/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|

ver + notas
 
Center for the Study of the Presidency
Freedom House