Saturday, January 2, 2010
In the extremely lethal overseas environment post 9/11, the role of private security contractors has expanded from guard forces to services outside the perimeter, such as Personal Security Details (PSDs) for diplomats, etc. It is this security function that has generated controversy.
Amongst the general public there is a great deal of confusion regarding the practice of the US Department of Defense (DoD) contracting out logistics and security services. Although largely viewed as a phenomena of the post-9/11 conflicts in the Middle East, the practice is not new.
Traditionally providing supplies and materiel, private contractors have been involved with the US military since the Revolution. Following the end of the first Gulf War, the DoD contracted Halliburton subsidiary Kellog, Brown & Root Services (KBR) to study the use of private military forces with American soldiers in combat zones. The rationale was to free up military personnel for the pure military mission by contracting out services such as running mess halls, service functions such as garbage collection, etc, and base security.
Modern security professionals have been referred to in the media as "mercenaries". This is a derogatory reference, and is innacurate; a mercenary sells his services to the highest bidder - a purely mercantile relationship - and their activities may cover the entire operational spectrum, outside of legal constraints. In serving the US DoD overseas, independent contractors are limited to a defensive role, and - contrary to commonly-held belief - are fully accountable under US and international law.
There is an unwritten code of ethics amongst security professionals; we are not criminals or "soldiers of fortune". Amongst my colleagues, an operator who conducts himself as some kind of flamboyant gunslinger is regarded as a potential loose cannon, to be avoided.
We possess a unique skill set and we perform a vital service. Like professional athletes, we are paid exactly what we are worth and it is never enough - for example: try to get a life insurance policy in this line of work.
Currently the largest of the US State Department's three private security contractors, Xe Services LLC is a privately owned security services firm founded as Blackwater USA in 1997 by Erik Prince and Al Clark. Erik Prince previously served as a Navy SEAL officer on deployments to Haiti, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean, including Bosnia.
In Iraq, Blackwater became poster boys for excess. A "photo cartoon" circulating in Baghdad among security contractors and some U.S. soldiers – and the laughter it generated – speaks for itself:
"Blackwater has become a symbol of testosterone-fueled excess," one security contractor stated, who like most remains unnamed because the industry is under such scrutiny.
In February 2009 Blackwater USA, was renamed "Xe", reflecting a change in company focus away from the business of providing private security. A company spokesman stated that it was felt the Blackwater name was too closely associated with the company's work in the occupation of Iraq.
Based in North Carolina, Xe operates a tactical training facility which the company claims is the world's largest, and at which it trains more than 40,000 people a year, mostly from US and other military and police services. The training consists of military offensive and defensive operations, as well as smaller scale personal security.
Of the 987 contractors Xe provides, 744 are US citizens. Xe has provided security services in Iraq to the United States federal government, particularly the Central Intelligence Agency on a contractual basis. They no longer have a license to operate in Iraq: the new Iraqi government made multiple attempts to expel them from their country, and denied their application for an operating license in January 2009.
Based in Alexandria, Virginia, MPRI is a private military contractor that provides a wide range of services to both public and private customers, most notably the US DoD. MPRI specializes in various professions such as law enforcement, security, military training, logistics, etc. By its own account MPRI operates in over 40 countries.
A member of International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), MPRI was founded in 1987 by eight retired officers of the US Army. In June of 2000 MPRI was acquired by L-3 Communications.
Triple Canopy is a private military contracting company headquartered in Herndon, Virginia that provides global security and risk management services in North America, South America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa, and the Middle East. The company's website claims that it delivers "a broad range of security and risk management services including assessments, training, crisis management, protective, and support services."
Triple Canopy was founded in 2003, and it is best known for its work in the Iraq War. Since April of 2009 the Obama administration signed contracts for Triple Canopy to work in the Middle East.
The name Triple Canopy was initially chosen to refer to the layered canopy jungle of Southeast Asia and Central America, where some of the key founding members received their military training and operational experience; it also refers to the distinction among U.S. Army personnel of wearing the Airborne, Ranger, and Special Forces tabs, if authorized, when assigned to Special Forces units.
Under the tab “Careers” the Triple Canopy website proclaims, “Quiet Professionals Wanted”. Quiet Professionals is a military buzzword that specifically implies US Army Special Forces soldiers (Green Berets). It is rumored that leadership at Triple Canopy has roots from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment - Delta (commonly referred to as Delta Force).
CACI International Inc founded in 1962, is a professional services and information technology (IT) company headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. A member of the Fortune 1000 Largest Companies, CACI has approximately 12,700 employees in over 120 offices in the U.S. and Europe.
Abu Ghraib Controversy
In 2004, CACI was linked to the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse along with another US Government contractor, Titan Corp (now owned by L-3 Communications). 2 CACI employees were investigated in the Taguba inquiry. The US Army found that "contractors were involved in 36 percent of the (Abu Ghraib) proven incidents" and identified 6 employees as "individually culpable", although none have faced prosecution.
According to CACI’s website, "the company provided a range of Information Technology (IT) and intelligence services in Iraq. These services included intelligence analysis, background investigations, screenings, interrogation, property management and recordkeeping, and installation of computer systems, software and hardware. Only a small portion of these employees worked as interrogators. The company states that "no CACI employee or former employee has been indicted for any misconduct in connection with this work, and no CACI employee or former employee appears in any of the photos released from Abu Ghraib".
CACI interrogation services in Iraq concluded in the early fall of 2005 upon the conclusion of a contract with the Department of the Army.
In 2007 CACI acquired Wexford Group International:
Operating from offices in the southeastern and midwestern US, Wexford offers management consulting services to the federal government (including the US Department of Homeland Security, US Army, and various other US Department of Defense agencies), as well as clients in the private sector. Its services cover acquisition management, organizational and performance management, risk mitigation, strategic communications, and tactical training.