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Senate Panel Announces Big Hearing on Blackwater’s Afghanistan Contract

All it took was a) shots fired at Afghan civilians on a Kabul road; b) bribes to foreign officials that amount to hush money; c) credible accounts of unlicensed weapons shipping; d) secret raids alongside the CIA on suspected insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan; and of course e) heavy collaboration with the Joint Special Operations Command to attract some real Senate scrutiny of Blackwater, the much-renamed private security firm that according to its founder is a CIA cutout. The Senate Armed Services Committee just announced a hearing on “contracting in a counterinsurgency: an examination of the Blackwater-Paravant contract and the need for oversight.” It gets underway next Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 9:30 a.m. (Paravant is a Blackwater subsidiary working for the Defense Department in Afghanistan.)

As far as I’m aware, this is the first Senate hearing exclusively devoted to Blackwater. The previous big Blackwater hearing came before the House oversight committee in 2007, and it mainly resulted in forcing the State Department’s conflict-of-interest-laden inspector-general, Cookie Krongard, to resign in disgrace after misrepresenting his ties to the company before the panel.

From the looks of the witness list, there may be some real disclosures: Paravant’s ex-program manager, John R. Walker, is slated to testify, as is its ex-vice president Brian C. McCracken. So are a host of retired military officials, including the former head of the effort to train Afghan security forces, retired Col. Bradley Wakefield. A former Blackwater vice president for contracts, Fred Roitz, has been invited, but it’s unclear whether he’ll appear.

It’s worth pointing out that to the best of my knowledge, there was no Senate hearing devoted to scrutinizing Blackwater’s multi-million dollar contracts with the government after its guards shot and killed 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians in September 2007.

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