Blackwater’s Participation in CIA Raids Raises Critical Questions
The news on Friday that Blackwater Worldwide (now known as Xe Services) participated in clandestine CIA operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that included targeted killings, kidnapping and “extraordinary renditions” raised more questions than it answered.
After all, we already knew that the U.S. government has relied more on private military contractors in its “war on terror” than in any war in the past. We also knew that private security outfits such as Blackwater were providing heavily armed guards for the U.S. war effort, not just protecting supply lines. The military’s reasoning has always been that hiring contractors provides a flexibility that the military doesn’t have, and compensates for the lack of full-fledged U.S. soldiers in our nation’s all-volunteer army.
But are there other reasons that Blackwater and other private security guards have been used for some of the CIA and military’s highest-risk operations? Maybe.
For one thing, private security companies operate in secrecy — a secrecy that’s guaranteed to the government in their contracts. What’s more, while the death of a U.S. soldier is publicly reported and investigated by the U.S. military, the death of a private contractor is not. The circumstances surrounding deaths of private contractors on the battlefield have remained largely secret. Unlike in the military, family members aren’t entitled to an investigation that reveals how they died. And when those family members have sued to get that information, their cases have usually been dismissed — contractors and the government argue that to let the families have their day in court would endanger national security and military secrets. In the best case scenario for the families, the families’ case was shunted off to private, confidential arbitration, as happened when four Blackwater guards were torched by Iraqi insurgents and hung from a bridge in Fallujah.
The deaths of private security guards also don’t get counted as “U.S. casualties”, the way the deaths of U.S. soldiers do.
That sort of secrecy is something that the contractors, and the government, in most cases require.
So is the U.S. military relying more heavily on private security guards to do its dirty work in this war because it knows that whatever happens in Afghanistan will stay in Afghanistan? Is it a way to keep secret its military operations, and to get around having to acknowledge any resulting U.S. casualties?
Those are the sorts of questions to be asking now.