Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Blackwater - Xe Services Updates

(If you're looking for Israel/Palestine or Torture/Rendition-related items, plz scroll below)

GAO blocks contract to firm formerly known as Blackwater to train Afghan police

By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 16, 2010; A05

Federal auditors on Monday put a stop to Army plans to award a $1 billion training program for Afghan police officers to the company formerly known as Blackwater, concluding that other companies were unfairly excluded from bidding on the job.

The decision by the Government Accountability Office leaves unclear who will oversee training of the struggling Afghan National Police, a poorly equipped, 90,000-strong paramilitary force that will inherit the task of preserving order in the country after NATO troops depart.

GAO officials upheld a protest by DynCorp International Inc., which currently conducts training for Afghan police under a State Department contract. DynCorp lawyers argued that the company should have been allowed to submit bids when management of the training program passed from State to the Army. Instead, Pentagon officials allowed the training program to be attached to an existing Defense contract that supports counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan.

Xe Services, the new name of Blackwater, was poised to win one portion of a much larger group of contracts, shared among five corporations, that could earn the companies more than $15 billion over five years.

GAO officials said the decision will allow a new round of bidding by DynCorp and other firms, including Xe Services.

"We recognize the Army's position that it needs to swiftly award a contract for these services," said Ralph O. White, an attorney with the GAO's procurement oversight division. But he said the Army must conduct a "full and open competition," or explain in writing why DynCorp had been excluded.

The Pentagon's decision to allow Xe to run the training program drew a strong protest last week from Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Levin cited a history of allegedly abusive behavior by the contractor's employees, including misappropriation of government weapons and hiring of workers with criminal records that included assault and drug offenses. He also accused managers of the private security company of lying to win lucrative jobs in Afghanistan.

Levin, responding to Monday's GAO decision, said government contracting practices had too often been unfairly exclusive, though he acknowledged that Xe may ultimately end up as the winner in competitive bidding.

"If this contract is re-bid and Blackwater is among the bidders, I hope that the Defense Department will take a close look at the company to determine if it is a suitable contracting partner for the U.S. government," he said.

A spokesman for Xe declined to comment.

DynCorp President Bill Ballhaus welcomed the decision.

"We are performing this crucial training mission now, and will continue to meet all objectives of the commanders on the ground while a full and transparent bidding process can ensure the best outcome for the taxpayer, our mission and the Afghan people," he said.

Blackwater Requests a Correction
By Spencer Ackerman 3/16/10 4:14 PM
The private security company, renamed Xe Services, objects to my use of the verb “stole” to refer to the guns it got from the U.S. military in Afghanistan in 2008. A letter from its general counsel reads, in part:

Xe Services LLC disagrees with several statements and opinions in the on-line article by Spencer Ackerman yesterday (”DynCorp Wins Its Bid to Stop Blackwater’s Next Afghanistan contract — For Now”), but the statement that the company “stole guns intended for the Afghan police from a U.S. military depot near Kabul” is factually wrong and warrants correction. No guns were stolen. As documents released by the Senate Armed Services Committee (”SASC”) demonstrate, the company obtained weapons from “Bunker 22,” which is an Afghan National Police weapons and ammunition storage facility (including weapons coalition forces seized from insurgents or discovered in caches often dating back to the Soviet occupation) whose operation is managed by U.S. military personnel. The company obtained these weapons with the knowledge and assistance of U.S. military personnel managing the facility. Therefore, these weapons could not have been stolen.

What Blackwater’s attorney neglects to point out is that the company’s employees obtained weapons from Bunker 22 from the U.S. military under false pretenses. Gen. David Petraeus affirmed to the committee that Blackwater was never authorized to carry guns kept at Bunker 22 (”there is no current or past written policy, order, directive, or instruction that allows U.S. Military contractors or subcontractors in Afghanistan to use weapons stored at 22 Bunkers”), commensurate with the broader fact that Blackwater employees in Afghanistan under Army subcontract were never allowed to carry weapons for their personal use. On at least one occasion, a person identifying himself as a Blackwater employee signed for hundreds of guns using the name “Eric Cartman,” apparently after the sassy “South Park” character who, appropriately, does what he wants without regard for authoritah. What’s more, according to committee chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) at the February hearing, Blackwater is still in possession of 53 guns from the U.S. military command in Afghanistan that it was never authorized to possess in the first place.

If Blackwater would prefer I write that it “took weapons from the U.S. military in Afghanistan under false pretenses” to writing that it “stole” those weapons, I am happy to oblige the company.

Xe gets 5-year permit renewal
By Toby Tate
Staff writer
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
CURRITUCK — The private security firm formerly known as Blackwater has received approval to operate its firing ranges and other training facilities in Currituck County for another five years.

Currituck commissioners unanimously agreed Monday to renew Xe’s special use permit until 2015 — three years more than the company had asked for and four years longer than its current arrangement with the county.

Planning Director Ben Woody said that when commissioners agreed to the special use permit with Blackwater — Xe’s former name — last year, they placed a one-year time limit on it.

Xe needed the permit, Woody said, because it mistakenly constructed its training facility, at the south end of Puddin Ridge Road, in both Camden and Currituck counties. A surveying error had led to the mistake, he said.

“Blackwater was under the impression that their driving track and their firing ranges were located in Camden County and we found out they weren’t, so we asked Blackwater to come in and get (a special use permit), which they were more than willing to do,” Woody said.

Woody said Xe had returned this year asking for a two-year permit. He said his office didn’t have any complaint with the request because the company had complied with all of the terms of its original permit.

“From staff perspective, we did not receive any complaints regarding the operations of their facilities in Currituck County,” he said.

Commissioner John Rorer asked Woody whether time limits are normally placed on special use permits.

“It depends on the type of use,” Woody said. “Generally for more sensitive uses or uses that may have compliance issues, the board has established time limits to force the applicant to come back in and make sure they follow the terms.”

Woody said that even without a time limit, however, commissioners can revoke a permit if conditions have been violated.

Kate McKenzie, associate general counsel for Xe Services, said the company was not asking for any changes to the conditions of its permit. All it was asking, she said, was that the permit be extended for greater than one year.

“We would just like, for administrative purposes for us and your staff, to have a two-year renewal so we don’t have to come back again next year,” she said.

Danielle Esposito, Xe’s chief operating officer, and Jim Sierawski, the company’s vice president of domestic training Jim Sierawski, and Rob Baugh, Xe director of Navy training, also attended Monday’s meeting.

Commissioner Janet Taylor asked McKenzie whether the property now owned by Xe was still known as Blackwater.

“Actually, the property owner is E & J Holdings, and Xe owns E & J Holdings,” McKenzie replied.

Woody said he would modify the new permit to reflect the property owner’s name.

Taylor made a motion to keep the conditions of the permit and also to extend the period for five years.

“I think the five years is more than reasonable,” Commissioner Barry Nelms said. “Xe has been a partner in Currituck County and there hasn’t been one complaint that I have known of.”

Rorer agreed, but said he saw no reason to have any time limit on Xe’s permit.

“We have the ability to revoke (the special use permit) if they violate the conditions,” he said. “I would just treat it like any other SUP.”

The board unanimously approved Taylor’s motion for the five-year renewal.

Contact Toby Tate at

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