State Department Cancels Iraq Contract With Blackwater
The State Department will not renew Blackwater Worldwide's contract for securities services in Iraq, according to media reports today, ending one of the most controversial government deals in recent memory.
Blackwater and its affiliates have received about $1.3 billion this decade -- most of it through State Department contracts. The firm's revenue increased even as the company faced allegations that some employees murdered Iraqi civilians and overcharged the government.
The company rose extraordinarily fast, in part because of its reputation as a tough, no-nonsense operation that moved quickly, trained uncounted military and law enforcement officials and did what was necessary to protect clients, even though it was often accused of being heavy handed.
"They're the Cadillac of training services," one law enforcement authority said in the fall of 2007. "You've got the best of the best teaching close-quarter-combat tactics."
In a hearing about the firm that same year, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings gave voice to critics' concerns when he questioned whether Blackwater has "created a shadow military of mercenary forces that are not accountable to the United States government or to anyone else."
Some critics attribute Blackwater's success to the political connections of owner Erik Prince, a big contributor to conservative and Christian causes. As the Post reported, in 2007, Prince "was a White House intern under President George H.W. Bush. His political donations over the past two decades total almost $263,000 to Pat Buchanan, Oliver North, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and former senator Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican, among others. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is former chairwoman of the Republican party in Michigan."
State Department's latest move raises a host of questions: Why State kept ramping up spending on the contract, even in the face of serious questions about the company? Why they're bailing out now? Who will replace the firm's hired guns in Iraq? Can the government itself provide the same level of security in Iraq? Government Inc. suspects not, at least for now.
Also, does this change have any impact on the firm's other lucrative deals with the feds?
Here's what the AP had to say:
"The State Department will not renew Blackwater Worldwide's contract to protect American diplomats in Iraq when it expires in May, a senior U.S. official said Friday.
"The official told The Associated Press that the contract will expire because of the Iraqi government's decision to deny Blackwater a license to operate. The Iraqis informed the State Department last week of the cancellation, which was made amid lingering outrage over a September 2007 shooting in Baghdad's Nisoor Square that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead.
"The official said that renewing the contract was "basically a moot point because they were not going to be allowed to operate in Iraq anyway." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has yet to be announced.
"The State Department said that it was still considering options on how to protect U.S. diplomats in the wake of the Iraqi denial of Blackwater's operating license.
"Officials have said one possibility would be to replace Blackwater with one or a combination of guards from two other U.S.-based security contractors that work for the State Department in Iraq, DynCorp and Triple Canopy. Both have licenses to operate in Iraq."
"Blackwater has been fired by the State Department from its job protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq.
"Executives of the controversial U.S. security company were notified today by the State Department that its five-year, $1.2 billion contract for services in Iraq will not be renewed in May, U.S. officials tell ABC News. The contract provides yearly options for cancellations.
"In a statement, company spokesperson Anne Tyrrell said, 'The company has always said that the security services we provide in Iraq would be temporary.'"
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