Blackwater has spent heavily on Democratic lobbyists in 2010 and clearly it has paid off. Despite the investigations, the indictments, the trail of dead bodies, George W Bush’s favorite mercenary company is thriving under the Obama Administration. After its original sugar daddy left town, Blackwater has happily remarried. Over the past two weeks, the Administration has awarded nearly a quarter billion dollars in new US government contracts to Blackwater to work for the State Department and CIA in Afghanistan and other hot zones globally.
In an interview Sunday on ABC’s "This Week," CIA Director Leon Panetta made it clear that the Agency is dependent upon private security companies to operate globally. But, not just any private security companies. Specifically, Panetta said, the CIA needs Blackwater.
"I have to tell you that in the war zone, we continue to have needs for security. You’ve got a lot of forward bases. We’ve got a lot of attacks on some of these bases. We’ve got to have security. Unfortunately, there are a few companies that provide that kind of security," Panetta told Jake Tapper. "So we bid out some of those contracts. [Blackwater] provided a bid that was underbid everyone else by about $26 million. And a panel that we had said that they can do the job, that they have shaped up their act. So there really was not much choice but to accept that contract." While Tapper specifically asked Panetta about Blackwater’s work in Afghanistan, the CIA contract is not limited to Afghanistan–it is a global contract.
PolitiFact didn’t review the accuracy of Panetta’s statements about Blackwater (which, these days, tries to pass itself off under the new names Xe Services and the US Training Center), but it should have. Blackwater is still Blackwater. Yes, the company changed its name and yes they hired some new figureheads and yes Erik Prince says he is selling the company and leaving the government services business. But let’s be clear: this is a company that remains under serious investigation by multiple US agencies and Congress for a range of alleged crimes and violations. Among these are weapons charges, murder, manslaughter, conspiracy, making false statements and using shell companies to win contracts that may not have been awarded to Blackwater if the company’s true identity was clear. Most recently, McClatchy revealed that "the U.S. government and the private military contractor are negotiating a multimillion-dollar fine to settle allegations that Blackwater violated U.S. export control regulations in Sudan, Iraq and elsewhere."
In April, five of Prince’s top deputies were hit with a fifteen-count indictment by a federal grand jury on conspiracy, weapons and obstruction of justice charges. Among those indicted were Prince’s longtime number-two man, former Blackwater president Gary Jackson, former vice presidents William Matthews and Ana Bundy and Prince’s former legal counsel Andrew Howell. Meanwhile, US prosecutors are still pursuing the Blackwater operatives alleged to be responsible for the single greatest massacre of Iraqi civilians by a private US force, the infamous Nisour Square massacre. Earlier this year, Senator Carl Levin, chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee formally called on the Justice Department and Defense Department to investigate what he called "the reckless use of weapons by Blackwater personnel and a failure by the company to adequately supervise its personnel" in Afghanistan.