Tag Archives: Blackwater

Xe and the Private Security Re-Branding Hustle

Today in CREDO’s Bracket of Evil, Blackwater squares off against Karl Rove for the title of “Worst for America.” Compelling cases can be made for both, that’s for sure. But it’s a bit ironic that it comes at a time when both are finding it increasingly difficult to find a role in the post-Bush era. Rove hasn’t been able yet to figure out whether he’s trying to be credible media (presumably not), a GOP strategist (increasingly problematic as historians begin to see him as all tactics, no strategy), or just famous-name-for-hire (more difficult as the brand dies).

Blackwater though is going through an even more dramatic collapse and re-invention largely outside the public spotlight. In the past three weeks, four lawsuits have been filed against the company (recently rebranded “Xe”) over the conduct of employees in Iraq. On March 19th, the family of a slain Iraqi vice presidential guard filed suit against Blackwater and former employees, accusing Andrew Moonen of drunkenly murdering Raheem Khalaf Sa’adoon in December of 2006 and other Blackwater employees of attempting to cover up the incident and reneging on a deal to compensate the family for the death. “Xe – Blackwater also is accused of spiriting Mr. Moonen out of Iraq, bribing an Iraqi government official, and destroying documents and other evidence relating to the Moonen shooting and other Xe – Blackwater shootings.”

On March 26 and 27, two more lawsuits were filed against Blackwater related to shootings in September 2007 including the now-infamous Nusoor Square massacre in which Blackwater employees killed 17 civilians. Finally (for now), a lawsuit was filed on April 1st accusing Blackwater personnel in the shooting of three Iraqi security guards in February 2007 and subsequent attempts to cover up evidence and otherwise frustrate the investigation of the incident. All of this, of course, on top of a federal investigation into Xe/Blackwater’s role in the Nusoor Square Massacre which has targeted six former employees with gun and manslaughter charges. One has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter, the other five are scheduled to go to trial early in 2010.

But does it ultimately matter?

All this going on somewhat outside the public spotlight is exactly the idea. After more than a year in preparation, Blackwater has rebranded itself as Xe, founder Erik Prince has stepped down from his role as CEO and president Gary Jackson has retired. All because these brands had become so tainted that it seriously infringed on Blackwater/Xe’s ability to do business. As Prince said as he stepped down “Me [sic] not being part of the equation reduces the ‘X’ on the thing.”

But it hasn’t stopped there. In what one Xe/Blackwater employee termed “[t]he implosion in the swamp”, nearly every executive has departed in the past several months as the company has sought to reinvent itself in both image and purpose. Largely absent is the contracting and security operations that have drawn headlines around the world for violence and a consistent lack of oversight. In their place is a re-commitment to training and tactical instruction in facilities like the one opened last year near the U.S./Mexico border in San Diego.

Much of this shift in focus is indeed driven by concerns about public perception. Rumblings of exactly such a change began last summer when it was determined that Iraq would refuse to renew Xe/Blackwater’s license to operate in the country. But last week, on top of changes to name and leadership, it was announced that Chicago-based security firm Triple Canopy would be taking over Blackwater’s Baghdad security contract. As many- including Blackwater expert Jeremy Scahill- have long maintained, the size and structure of government security forces have been so dramatically transformed by the privatization model that contractors are simply required based on sheer size of the security needed, but Xe/Blackwater found it increasingly difficult to stay in the private security game, having become the international symbol of everything wrong with a poorly-overseen system of contractors.

So where is Xe heading now? Clearly the company has been working on international contracts for quite some time. Last summer, they began working to expand their surveillance air fleet (now at over 80 aircraft) and the successful opening of facilities in San Diego and Illinois have significantly increased their capacity to offer training to military and law enforcement personnel. Additionally, in the wake of growing piracy concerns in the Indian Ocean, the company has explored private maritime security and last year was exploring training and support contracts for Latin American countries. But how will this actually change things?

Small-scale local pushback has continued around the country. Efforts by Xe/Blackwater to expand the hours of its San Diego shooting range were recently thwarted by local residents, and a partnership with Southwestern College sparked pushback from Congressman Filner, faculty and local activists, inspired anti-Xe/Blackwater teach-in sessions at the school and prompted the college to rework its contract with the company. Life so far isn’t much easier for a rebranded Blackwater.

The prospect of being hired by other countries though, especially for combat purposes, raises all sorts of jurisdictional and legal concerns. Would employees working under foreign contracts be bound by U.S. law or foreign laws? What if those contracts ultimately included direct action against American companies, government agents or military forces? Involvement in foreign countries outside the aegis of the U.S. government has even more sinister possibilities. Accusations have today been leveled against “Blackwater gone underground” for recruiting ex-combatants from Liberia’s civil war to fight in Iraq. While the author has sources confirming the Blackwater connection, the broader concern doesn’t hinge on this particular accusation being true (awful though it is/would be). Whose responsibility is it to police U.S.-based private contractors who engage in this sort of behavior in foreign countries?

And despite losing its security contracts in Iraq, it’s expected that “many if not most of its private security guards will be back on the job in Iraq” working for other security firms in short order. And as Scahill notes, “Triple Canopy has its own bloody history in Iraq and a record of hiring mercenaries from countries with atrocious human rights records.”

Which ultimately leaves us with simply this: A bunch of new and less-familiar names for exactly the same problems that have plagued the Iraq debacle and U.S. military and security operations as a whole for a decade or more. Poorly-controlled private contractors with frightening records of violence and disrespect for human rights continue to be responsible for security throughout the world (Scahill notes Triple Canopy will also be operating out of Jerusalem as a private security force in Israel-Palestine) with no indication that anything but toxic brand names have been changed.

The whack-a-mole continues.

Not So Strange Bedfellows: Blackwater and Yes on 8

Andrew Sullivan notes today that one of the biggest financial supporters of the Yes on 8 campaign is Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, who has pumped $450,000 into the campaign. Broekhuizen is the mother of Blackwater founder and owner Erik Prince and Bush Pioneer Betsy DeVos. She’s also quite the patron of the religious right.

At first blush, the two groups don’t have a whole lot in common besides neighboring real estate in the political spectrum. But as Blackwater continues its unwanted presence in San Diego (spawning aspirants to the throne in Hemet), Michigan resident Broekhuizen is just a big fish in the flood of out-of-state money trying to buy their way into a change to California’s constitution.

This particularly hits San Diego as the repeated recipient of unwanted outside attention. San Diego was targeted by the national GOP as a test case for turning urban areas Republican which led to the destruction of an entire progressive generation in San Diego. We’ve been battling against Blackwater’s presence and a disinterested city government for two years. And in concert with the, erm, disconcerting video on the right, The Call will be welcoming to to 100,000 peopleto Qualcomm Stadium on Saturday for “[c]orporate prayer and fasting for the protection of traditional marriage and the soul of our nation.” I’ll be there so you don’t have to be.

Look, Dave is right: This is about harming same-sex couples. But the other long-term implications are starting to show themselves. The Republican Party musters its national resources to turn San Diego red and succeeds for a full generation.

Blackwater decides to take your tax dollars- laundered through the Bush Administration, the Iraq War and the privatization of the military- and force its way into California while expanding and diversifying its portfolio to include a private navy and security contracts for Latin American governments.

And now the same national big money forces of the religious right- whether it’s the Mormon Church or Erik Prince’s mother, this has the potential to turn into a disturbing trend. That the extreme right wing of this country can nationalize an issue and force its will on California. If this keeps working, I don’t want to contemplate what’ll come next.

There’s one week to go. You can contribute to the No on 8 campaign through Equality For All at the Calitics ActBlue page and help push Equality For All past $1 million raised on ActBlue. And you can get involved through the No on Prop 8 website. For example, I know during Saturday’s “The Call” event, there are plans for doing real calling in San Diego and throughout the state.

full disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign

Update: SteveAudio hit this point last night as well

Blackwater Gets The Letter

I work for the Courage Campaign

After months of simmering, reports last week sounded rather certain that negotiations between the U.S. and Iraq to continue the American presence in Iraq would include the elimination of immunity for security contractors. Talk of a timetable for withdrawal- phased or complete- has been one sticking point, the Washington Post reported “Iraq’s insistence that its laws should prevail stems largely from the excesses of private U.S. security contractors, whom negotiators have agreed would be subject to Iraqi law.” Specifically the Nisoor Square massacre in which Blackwater agents killed 17 unarmed civilians without provocation.

The road towards some sort of justice for that massacre has been a long and torturous one (see here for a brief rundown of the attempted coverup). Despite a U.S. military investigation finding no evidence that Blackwater was fired upon, blanket immunity was immediately offered and counter-theories popped up all over the place. But after fighting through the courts for almost a year, there’s encouraging progress towards justice. Over the weekend, the Washington Post reported six Blackwater agents received target letters from federal prosecutors, suggesting that indictments for at least some of them will be forthcoming.

It’s vital that the framework be established to govern security contractors in Iraq because there are simply so many of them. For the first time in U.S. history, the ratio of contractors to servicemembers is 1:1. And so far, there’s absolutely no mechanism to hold those 190,000 contractors accountable under any laws anywhere. Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch reminds us “[t]his [Nisoor Square] is definitely the most high-profile case of contractor abuse in Iraq, but it’s certainly not the only one.”

With movement in both Iraq and the U.S. to start holding these folks accountable, it only bolsters the argument that Blackwater is not a good neighbor in San Diego or anywhere else. They simply don’t serve the community or the country and- no matter how much Don Rumsfeld wanted to completely outsource the military- have no business undermining the servicemen and women who actually perform these jobs with skill and honor. Once Blackwater is forced to accept the consequences for reckless barbarism, it’ll bolster the case of grassroots activists that have never given up the fight against Blackwater. One more step in the right direction.

DEA Can’t Do Its Own Job – Calls in Blackwater to Raid Medical Marijuana Providers

(I work for Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group.)

Yesterday, the DEA raided a medical marijuana dispensary in Culver City, spending hours on site detaining employees and ultimately leaving the facility in disarray. This is unfortunately not an unusal story. Since 2005, the DEA has raided dozens of state-sanctioned dispensaries in California.

But this time was different. We're used to the DEA calling in help from various federal agencies and local law enforcement. But I guess none of their usual buddies were available yesterday because from the picture below, which appeared in the LA Times today, it looks like they had to resort to calling in Blackwater:

 Blackwater DEA Medical Marijuana Raid

The DEA often likes to say that medical marijuana is not their top priority (though at the height of the raids last year, they were raiding an average of one dispensary per week). They like to argue that medical marijuana raids do not take resources away from other drug interdiction. Yet this photo makes me wonder – if they have sufficient resources to shut down meth labs and to bust medical marijuana providers, why do they need the help of Blackwater, a private agency?

Yet another reason we need Congress to hold oversight hearings on DEA medical marijuana activities. Good to know that House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers is concerned about this issue and has already begun to question the DEA on its actions.

And the Waste Goes On…

So, apparently there’s another contracting company to add to the list of tax dollar abusers. They’re called the Parsons construction group. They were supposed to do improvements on a prison in the flatlands north of Baghdad, but Parsons continually fell behind schedule, causing the Pentagon to cancel the project.

The big problem? The prison was part of an almost $1 billion contract to build border posts, courts, police training centers and fire stations, all in hopes of restoring Iraq’s infrastructure. Yet Parsons only completed 18 out of the 53 project stipulated in its contract, and although they were paid for the minimal work they did on the prison, the structure is now empty and useless, due to structural weaknesses Parsons did not fix. In the end, Parsons made out with a barrel full of cash, and the much blood-stained region of Diyala never got its infrastructure.

“In the pecking order of corruption in Iraq, the dead-end prison project at Khan Bani Saad is nowhere near the biggest or most tangled. Bowen estimated up to 20 percent ‘waste’ or more than $4 billion from the $21 billion spent so far in the U.S.-bankrolled Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund.”

So reported Brian Murphy and Pauline Jelinek in the Huffington Post. I read this right after I read a headline about how President Bush will have compiled the largest federal deficit in U.S. history — $482 billion to be exact. So I have to wonder: how much of our tax dollars have been wasted in this same careless manner?

The Bush administration has taken outsourcing of essential government services to new extremes, especially in Iraq. Yet the record is so riddled with waste, corruption and other abuses that you have to wonder: Are these people really that incompetent? Or was the point along to enrich their friends and cronies?

Along those lines, the Wall Street Journal reports that Iraq war architect Richard Perle is part of a group negotiating a deal to invest in oil fields in . . . wait for it . . . Iraq! This, despite the fact that the Bush administration has argued against any oil deals until Iraq passes a new oil law governing the distribution of resources among Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions.

You can find out how much you paid for the Iraq war last year with Progressive Future’s Invest in US Calculator. And while you ponder how much of that money went to enrich KBR, Blackwater, Parsons and the like, you can also see what that money would buy in terms of health care, clean energy and better care for our troops. And when you do, please consider signing our Invest in US petition. We’re planning on  distributing this petition far and wide, from Congress to the Party Platform Committees to the media. It’s time for a new direction for America, where all citizens can be proud of how their tax dollars are spent.

Is Blackwater Reconsidering Things?

Full disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign

Blackwater may be on shaky ground. Despite official protestations to the contrary, it’s starting to look as though Blackwater’s course might be shifting. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is starting to ask why the government is using so many private contractors, asking “Why have we come to rely on private contractors to provide combat or combat-related security training for our forces?” and going on to wonder “are we comfortable with this practice, and do we fully understand the implications in terms of quality, responsiveness and sustainability?”

These are questions that a competent government would have been asking in 2001 when Donald Rumsfeld declared that privatizing national security would be a good idea because…I don’t know why…his friends would make money? It was Rumsfeld shift away from publicly-guaranteed and provided security that brought about the rise of Blackwater and a litany of other, slightly less infamous private security firms. But in light of the continuing legal proceedings probing Blackwater’s Nusoor Square (17 civilians dead for no reason), Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s insistence on eliminating immunity for security contractors in any new Iraq-U.S. security negotiations, and now Gates’ expressed concerns, Blackwater executives have been saying they’ll shift away from private security because it’s causing them too much grief. Blackwater will supposedly “survive with a focus on international training, aviation and construction.”

This has a number of potential implications for the new Blackwater facility in San Diego. If the above list is correct, then Blackwater would be getting out of not only the private security business but also the domestic training business. Which would make their San Diego facility superfluous. They’ve assured the public repeatedly (perhaps protesting too much) that this facility would not be a staging area for aviation surveillance of the border, but we know they’re expanding their fleet of surveillance aircraft and are apparently heading in that direction. We know they’ve received new government contracts to provide training in Latin America and have recently provided security for Sen. John McCain in Mexico. Blackwater officials have sworn up and down that setting up just three blocks from the Mexican border has nothing to do with these other plans to operate multi-million dollar contracts in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, but it remains convenient.

Now maybe the public denials are accurate, but if Blackwater is getting out of domestic security training and moving away from the sorts of contracts that send them to Iraq, (aside from being a welcome development) it means they don’t have any use for their San Diego “vocational school.” I look forward to seeing the thread of logic play out for them.

Blackwater Doesn’t Like Its Victory

Full disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign

As of yesterday, Blackwater is back to desperately trying to play pariah.  They’re accusing San Diego of disobeying a court order by…closely adhering to the court order. Blackwater’s complaint is that the city is improperly delaying the final permit needed for the Otay Mesa training facility because of a recent letter from San Diego’s chief building official that “placed 64 conditions on the final permit for a ship simulator, including wheelchair access.”

The Blackwater argument- sad, desperate, and incoherent as it is- is that because a judge’s decision pre-empted the City Council from reviewing Blackwater’s permits and restricted the permits to ministerial review, a ministerial review from the relevant city department is improper. City Attorney Mike Aguirre clarified that these decisions “are being made by the professional staff using their own good-faith judgment.” Just what Blackwater asked for and received.

Basically, how dare you give me what I want and have it turn out to be undesirable. Blackwater is apparently unfamiliar with The Monkey Paw, but will soon hopefully learn that getting what you ask for isn’t always the same as getting what you want.

But for a company that’s so desperate to adhere to local laws, Blackwater seems mighty resistant to adhering to relevant state and local regulations. Maybe it’s because they won’t be able to violate federal laws if they can’t first violate state and local laws.

Either way, Blackwater’s blatant disregard for local regulation was bound to cause them trouble eventually. They managed for now (there’s an appeal pending) to avoid allowing the public to decide if they’d like accused murderers and arms smugglers in their community. They’ve managed to dance around countless laws and basic morals from Iraq to Afghanistan to New Orleans. But it doesn’t get them everywhere, and now people are paying attention. Blackwater admitted up front and city officials confirmed that the misleading shell companies used to apply for city permits were used to fly under the radar of city employees and local activists, but the cat is out of the bag and now people will notice if the city fudges on any letter of the law. Too bad for Blackwater if they can’t operate within the law.

Blackwater Busted: ATF Raid and Seizure at North Carolina Base

San Diego pay attention! ATF raided Blackwater’s North Carolina mercenary base and seized 34 machine guns. The backstory is involves yet another example of Blackwater using third parties to get around regulations they don’t think they need to follow. In this case, they paid for 34 automatic weapons via having them registered to the Camden County Sheriff’s Department to skirt federal law. Interestingly, there are only 19 deputies to which Blackwater CEO Gary Jackson answered, “They are very well equipped.”

The weapons in question are 17 Romanian AK-47s and 17 Bushmasters. I’ve been unable to find info on which model of Bushmasters are involved, only that they automatic. This should be of particular interest for Californians as Blackwater’s website notes their San Diego base offers a “Bushmasters Weapons Course” that is open to the public ($450 for two days, includes lunch). As for the AK-47’s which have zero law enforcement value, Blackwater justifies the purchase by claiming:

Jackson and Erik Prince, Blackwater’s owner, said Blackwater used the AK-47s in training to familiarize police officers or members of the military with a foreign weapon that they might come across while making an arrest or on a battlefield.

On the “battlefield” known as Camden County, the last decade has seen two murders and three robberies.

Ben Hueso Happened

Disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign which has worked on the Blackwater issue, but these opinions are my own.

Earlier this week, I asked What the Hell happened in San Diego in the June 3 election. I explored a particularly underwhelming electoral performance and noted that there was a massive failure of leadership from the city’s elected Democrats (active and retired). Councilmember Donna Frye supported GOP mayoral challenger Steve Francis and Council President Scott Peters ran against the Democratic incumbent City Attorney Mike Aguirre. Incidentally, both Francis and Peters failed to make it to the November runoff.

Then yesterday it happened again. Councilmember Ben Hueso, who in May was rallying to Block Blackwater in his council district, announced his endorsement of Republican city attorney candidate Jan Goldsmith. This is particularly notable because Goldsmith’s opponent is incumbent Mike Aguirre. Aguirre has been a champion for the city in the fight to force Blackwater’s permits into public hearing at a time when a number of other city leaders have…attended a rally and then thrown up their hands.

If Jan Goldsmith as City Attorney would go to bat over Blackwater or any other number of issues that might be uncomfortable for the Mayor or inconvenient for the City Council, I would be absolutely flabbergasted. The campaign, like every other challenge to Aguirre this year, has been centered around a promise to sit down and shut up. The last thing this city needs is another elected official who doesn’t have the necessary combination of power and motivation to force important issues.

As the UT newsblog notes, Hueso and Aguirre have never exactly been close. And Aguirre has taken a lot of flack throughout his term as City Attorney for his rabid pursuit of Mayor Jerry Sanders for all manner of scandal- real or imagined. But as Councilmember Hueso well knows because he’s at the meetings, the City Council hasn’t exactly put on a clinic when it comes to keeping mayoral power checked by the legislative branch. Fighting the good fight has consistently taken a back seat over the past two and a half years to misguided “pragmatism” that largely allowed Mayor Sanders to get anything he wanted.

So what we’re left with is Ben Hueso surveying this scene- Mayor Sanders re-elected to a second term with what CW will term a convincing mandate (it’s not, the turnout was too low to carry a mandate) and a City Council that will likely go from a narrow Democratic advantage to an even split, further neutering a body that had given itself over to the inevitability of the Strong Mayor government- and deciding that the best thing for the city is that the single dissonant voice of any weight in the city government should be replaced by, as the UT put it,

Hueso said the city attorney’s political persuasion is less important to him than getting “the best legal advice.”

If the Democratic Party in San Diego is ever going to be able to capitalize on the tremendous infrastructure building being done at the precinct and street-corner level, leading Democrats need to stop undercutting both their party and basic points of fundamental governance at every opportunity.

What happened in San Diego? Ben Hueso and destructive politics like this happened.

Down the Blackwater Wormhole

Disclosure: I work for the Courage Campaign

There’s a protest from 3-5pm today at Blackwater’s new Otay Mesa facility, and tomorrow Jeremy Scahill will be doing a special Courage Campaign Conversation tomorrow afternoon at 4pm.

In a little noticed vote yesterday, the Merida Initiative passed easily through the House of Representatives 311-106. It provides $1.6 billion with an emphasis on training and equipment to fight drug cartels in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America, because as Rep. Brian Bilbray explained:

“Either we can go after these cartels in Ensenada, or we can fight them in Escondido,” said Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Carlsbad), who voted for the plan. “I’d prefer that we move now and take care of this problem south of the border. The drug wars in Mexico and in other regions have grown horrendously violent, and their destructive ways must be quashed.”

It’s tough to directly take issue with any of that, but where does it lead? Potentially to some unpleasant places. In September, the Defense Department opened up five year contracts in support of counter-narcoterrorism efforts to five private companies, including Blackwater USA. “The indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract could be worth up to $15 billion for the awardees.” The Army Times analyzed the content of the contracts, describing:

a series of task orders covering a wide range of products and services. These could include anti-drug technologies and equipment, special vehicles and aircraft, communications, security training, pilot training, geographic information systems, and in-field support.

Now back up for a second and compare that to the State Department description of the Merida Initiative:

   *  Non-intrusive inspection equipment, ion scanners and canine units for Mexico and Central America to interdict trafficked drugs, arms, cash and persons.

   * Technologies to improve and secure communications systems that collect criminal information in Mexico.

   * Technical advice and training to strengthen the institutions of justice – vetting for the new police force, case management software to track investigations through the system, new offices of citizen complaints and professional responsibility, and witness protection programs to Mexico.

   * Helicopters and surveillance aircraft to support interdiction activities and rapid response of law enforcement agencies to Mexico.

   * Equipment, training and community action programs in Central American countries to implement anti-gang measures and expand the reach of these measures.

Quite a bit of overlap. However, in a May 22 press release from Blackwater, it asserted

What it isn’t. Critics of the project have used blatant fabrications —       claiming that the facility will be used for border security or immigration purposes — to build support for their opposition of the facility. The proposed facility will be used for training alone…

This might be comforting if there was any reason at all actually trust Blackwater’s integrity. As just one example, Post-Katrina investigations by expert Jeremy Scahill discovered that Blackwater deployed to New Orleans without a government contract. They just showed up, fully armed, and went to work of their own accord. Leaving aside local San Diego concerns (where private firefighters are already being used to combat wildfires), Blackwater’s contempt for law and oversight in New Orleans is hardly an isolated incident. When Blackwater mercenaries killed 17 civilians in Baghdad’s Nusoor Square,

the first U.S. soldiers to arrive on the scene have told military investigators that they found no evidence the contractors were fired upon, a source familiar with a preliminary U.S. military report told CNN.

The soldiers found evidence suggesting the guards fired on cars that were trying to leave, and found that weapon casings on the scene matched only those used by U.S. military and contractors.

Yet there have been no successful prosecutions and Blackwater’s contracts with the U.S. government continue to grow and it’s existing Iraq contracts renewed. Why? Because every time a government function is outsourced, the capacity (at least short term) for the government to retake that responsibility is lost. Which means that without dramatic top-down action (the Stop Outsourcing Security Act would be a good start), every step forward by Blackwater is one that’s exceptionally difficult to take back.

Which circles back to San Diego in a number of ways. If Blackwater establishes itself locally, it’s exceptionally difficult to push them out again. With a local base of operations, not only are they positioned for “narcoterrorism” contracting and unauthorized deployments on the streets of downtown San Diego, but it’s a base of marketing operations for what Blackwater itself describes as a private CIA offering “surveillance and countersurveillance, deployed intelligence collection, and rapid safeguarding of employees or other key assets.”  In a land of Minutemen and giant contracts for virtual border fences that “failed to perform as expected,” outside-the-law private intelligence organizations are unlikely to help anything.

Activists are keeping up the fight in San Diego, but this is not a local issue. The Bush Administration and its allies have been trying to sell off the entire government without any concern for functionality or accountability, and the front lines of resistance have extended to San Diego. There’s a protest from 3-5pm today at Blackwater’s new Otay Mesa facility, and tomorrow Jeremy Scahill will be doing a special Courage Campaign Conversation tomorrow afternoon at 4pm.

Two small but important steps to avoid the Blackwater wormhole.