Thursday, July 17, 2008

Iraq Case Sheds Light On Secret Contractors

It is a disturbing pattern: the Bush government has outsourced governmental functions to private contractors who make scads of money and are not accountable to Congress or the people in any way.

Overall, the U.S. has about the same number of contractors as military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are about 30,000 US troops in Afghanistan, and about 150,000 in Iraq, adding up to 180,000 troops. Thus 180,000 contractors. What are the costs? And the implications?

... a fast-growing type of government contracting largely escapes such scrutiny: secret programs, or "black" contracts, assisting intelligence agents as they operate in war zones. These contractors have carried out some of the government's most sensitive work – conducting interrogations, manning secret prisons and guarding spy-agency personnel. The programs' existence, size and scope are classified, and so are the details of their troubles.

Private contractors, which, or who, could also be labeled private soldiers, interrogating, manning secret prisons? This is ludicrous, and dangerous. And it is classified?

The House of Representatives Wednesday passed a broad bill tackling a wide range of intelligence policy issues, including tightening oversight of such contractors. It would force intelligence agencies to keep Congress better informed about their use as well as any formal probes into wrongdoing. But the legislation faces serious headwinds: The White House threatened a veto Wednesday, arguing that some of the provisions would hamper its spying operations.

That is the crux of what the Bush government has been: secretive, arrogant, disdainful of oversight.

MVM Inc. is one of these contractors; its website describe the firm as providing Physical Security, Detention Services, Personal Security Details, Prisoner Escort/Transportation, Training, Language Services, and related services to US Government clients. Further, it has 3,000 employees and $200 million in revenue. Those are two hundred million US tax dollars.

Our highly cleared personnel protect federal property and information all over the world says its website; shouldn't that be done by government personnel?

Another of those contractors is Blackwater Worldwide. Its website states:
We are guided by integrity, innovation, and a desire for a safer world. That is quite a reach.

Security contractors in Iraq have been in an intense spotlight since employees of another firm, Blackwater Worldwide, were involved in a shooting incident last fall that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead, leading to a Justice Department investigation and efforts by the Iraqi government to clamp down on their actions.

How did it come about that private contractors are half of the US effort in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Mr. Boone's little-known employer, MVM Inc., before 2001 mainly provided school and courthouse guards in U.S. cities. As the U.S. sought to supplant its own overstretched forces, MVM quickly grew to become one of the top few providers of secret security in Iraq and Afghanistan, alongside companies including Blackwater. MVM has handled much of the Central Intelligence Agency's and National Security Agency's personal security in war zones.

From school guards to Bagram Prison; quite a success story. It was in place to get business as he U.S. sought to supplant its own overstretched forces. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

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