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About R J Hillhouse

  • Dr. Hillhouse has run Cuban rum between East and West Berlin, smuggled jewels from the Soviet Union and slipped through some of the world’s tightest borders. From Uzbekistan to Romania, she's been followed, held at gunpoint and interrogated. Foreign governments and others have pitched her for recruitment as a spy. (They failed.)

    A former professor and Fulbright fellow, Dr. Hillhouse earned her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Michigan. Her latest novel, OUTSOURCED (Forge Books) is about the turf wars between the Pentagon and the CIA and the privatization of national security.

    Dr. Hillhouse is an expert on national security outsourcing. Her controversial work has twice elicited a formal response by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence--the only times that office has ever publicly responded to the writings of a private citizen.

    She is a regular media guest and available for interviews.

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  • "This gripping blog is filled with compelling posts on private intel corporations, mercenaries, the CIA, and the War on Terror."
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OUTSOURCED.

« Update: DNI Study on Outsourcing Scrubbed | Main | Tenet Mania »

April 26, 2007

Comments

Retired

Jackson raises a very interesting point on contracting out humanitarian services in dangerous areas requiring a high degree of self protection to a highly trained and motivated private organization. With our reduced military forces, it would be best to have them concentrate on warfighting without the distraction of training for and executing humanitarian operations. Use of well trained and disciplined private sector "peacefighting" organizations provides an interesting solution to the need for humanitarian services anywhere in the world. Given the logistics and project management capabilities of some of these firms, such services could be a significant economic development factor for certain countries.

fed up with the corruption in federal contracting

Sounds like they paid you to ask these softball questions. Bunch of lies (shocker) from the boob who heads BW. Yea, they're soooo legal. That's why everyone from ATF to FBI to Congress is investigating them right now for violations from arms trafficking to FAR violations. Oh and don't forget the 12 or so lawsuits they are fighting right now. Sounds like a bunch of patriotic "do-gooders". They have some true hero's working in the field. Too bad the "headshed" is a bunch of greedy, immoral war profiteers. Also - ever notice how no one ever leaves BW happy? Remember the woman who left BW a few months ago with allegations against management and then had a smear campaign launched against her? BW settled with her for over $800k in hush-money. The truth will escape eventually and when it does you will be seen as an accomplice in the BW propaganda machine....congrats.

R J Hillhouse

Read the blog, then you'll know how ridiculous your accusations are. And take a look at the update in the post on the outsourcing of intel just below this.

I follow the industry closely and I'm smart enough not to waste anyone's time with questions that can't be answered due to multiple constraints.

Any light that can be shed on this industry is a good thing.

Knee-jerk polemics don't further the discussion, but shut down. The last thing we need in this country right now is more polarization.

Bold Enigma

In a way, Blackwater has developed kind of an interesting solution to the considerable shrinking of the American military that resulted from the politically motivated and sadly misconceived "peace dividend" after the dissolution of the Soviet communist experiment. Anticipating the need for well trained people who could be deployed overseas in units of various sizes and capabilities, BW hired the graduates and alumni of some of the most costly and valuable training and experience in the world and built to its vision. Now they offer the U.S. and others a capability that government, with its bureaucratic restrictions, cannot stand up in anywhere near the timeframe needed. Historically, private military complementary/supplementary forces have been around for centuries. After a hiatus in the 1900s, Blackwater has evolved the art form to a contemporary application.

Tm

R J,
When did Blackwater AB-212/412s? I am assuming you are referring to these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_412

Thanks,
Tom

Gordon Wagner

Uh, you're buying into 9/11/01 being "Arab terrorists" that got the USAF to conveniently stand down and somehow got kerosene to bring two skyscrapers down at near free-fall speeds on their own footprints?

So how's that Kool-Aid, there, eh?

R J Hillhouse

Tim,

I only heard about them recently and those with whom I spoke were not helicopter guys, so they couldn't tell if they were AB-212s or AB-412s. They're tough to distinguish from one another.

I had always wondered how they got along without utility helos.

RJH

Ryan

Nice softball questions. Asking how business is doing and fawning over the A-Team's new van is creepy and makes for some disingenuous "journalism."

Also your counter to your own spin is to "read the blog" aka: "read more spin"? The mind boggles.

Also a pro-tip: a single-paragraph comment in a blog isn't a "polemic". Great weasel word though!

R J Hillhouse

I'm a blogger and a novelist, not a journalist or a political activist of any flavor. I'm also trained as a scholar.

My interest was to begin a dialog. You can't do that by attacking someone and giving him questions he can't answer--for whatever reasons. That would've shut things down immediately and to what end? I asked serious questions that I hoped, given his multiple constraints, that he could answer. You need to understand, they haven't done this before and from their perspective, I'm pretty far left.

And what I did get was a little glimpse into a world that we haven't been able to see into before.

I contacted BW about an interview because it was clear there needs to be more understanding of who these people are and what their company is about. They're not Bush's Praetorian Guard or a great threat to democracy like has been breathlessly claimed by a man with a very clear agenda-- and that agenda is not a commitment to figuring them out and presenting the truth. For example, Scahill has claimed the "leading executives are dedicated to a Christian-supremacist agenda." That's why I asked about hiring gays. We all know homosexuality is a hot-button issue for the right-wing Christian evangelicals and no executives with a "Christian- supremacist agenda" is going to say "To be frank, I really don’t care whether a given employee is gay. It doesn’t really have much to do with whether an individual can accomplish their job, and that’s our concern."

To write a novel about the outsourcing of military and intelligence and to bring to life characters in this world, I had to get to know their world as best possible. I've talked with men who worked for them on all levels. (Given their ethics of silence, the fact that I'm civilian and a female, that's no easy feat.) I've done the same with military and others who have interfaced with them. I've studied available secondary sources as well as their own writings and more. (And I'm sure to those in Moyock, this is starting to sound creepy!)

This doesn't mean I've slurped down Blackwater Kool-Aid, then rushed to the Pro-shop to buy more. All this means is I have some idea what they're about and nothing I knew fit with the conclusions being drawn by Scahill.

I indulged myself with the Grizzly question, strange as it sounds. That one was just for me, though I knew regular readers from the Pentagon, Iraq and Afghanistan would be interested.

For OUTSOURCED, I had to create a fictional private military corporation and equip it and I'm very meticulous. I work with an armorer as well as other experts on weapons, martial arts, explosives, aircraft, etc. And on this one piece of equipment I I made the call against my military advisor's advice when I decided to have my PMC use a Cougar, the non-BW branded Grizzly, a cutting-edge vehicle that uses South African technology to channel away and dissipate blasts. I was warned it would be too dangerous to have a signature vehicle like that would too much draw attention from the bad guys. And this decision was made before BW's Cougar order was announced and far before the BW deal with Force Protection to brand it as a Grizzly. I wasn't sure if it was in the field yet and I wanted to know their thinking on it and what their experience had been.

Ryan

So your defence, while truck drivers are burnt alive and mercs are held unaccountable for human rights violations, is that you were trying to make nice... Ingratiate yourself with the estabalishment?

Classy!

William Opakapaka

For some reason the old song "the freaks come out at night" keeps playing in my head!

With blog articles like that puff-piece about the cover-up on Intel-outsourcing it seems quite evident that you are just “backing the establishment.” ;)

I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for quite some time since you have actually looked into some of the incredible changes going on with the intelligence community and defense establishment.

By-the-way Ryan, please learn to spell. “Defence” is spelled “defense” and “estabalishment” is correctly spelled as “establishment.” Given how spell checkers are built into just about everything, it’s pretty sad to see how so many people can’t seem to perform basic tasks such as writing a sentence.

AndyC

Dr Hillhouse, thank you for posting an interesting interview.

Retired Too

I saw this as a link from Crooks and Liers. It was posted as a bunch of softball questions for BW.

What was the format for the interview? Was it a phone interview?

I did think some of the answers sounded like they came straight out of a company brochure. However, I still found the dialog to be very interesting.

R J Hillhouse

Retired,

The interview was conducted via email. I submitted written questions directly to Mr. Jackson and a few days later received the responses. They were published here unedited.

RJH

Tony Foresta

Intriguing interview. One thousand thanks.
Two issues stand out!

First is as Mr. Jackson points out, enforcement of existing laws would insure accountabilty, not only contractual in terms of completing, or succeeding in the specific missions, but also with regard to the wide and wild array of potential abuses.

Who or what exactly is responsible for enforcement of the existing laws, and why are they or that entity failing to act in accordance with those laws.

Why would PMC's operating in concert with our military in threat environments be held accounable to different standards
or laws?

Secondly, reading up on the Grizzly, it is astounding that a PMC is capable of organizing the design and delivering better armored vehicle than our own military, which brings up the issue of redundancy. Why are PMC's assuming the roles at tax payer expense that our military is doing, or formally did also at the tax payers expense? Why not eliminate the $600bn dollar defense industry completely in turn the entire operation over to PMC's. Or with regard to redundancy, and protecting the tax payers investments, - why is the government (seemingly behind our backs, or at least in the shadows) subbing these missions, operations, and duties off to PMC's at higher costs? What's the incentive or benefit to the tax payer?

Student

The readers should remember to diversify your sources. I certainly hope nobody takes Jackson on his word alone. Supplemental research from many sources should go without question.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I am under the assumption that oversight jurisdiction is divided by subject between a number of federal agencies. The ATF and FBI are responsible for making sure PMCs operations do not violate criminal law, etc. Whether that be weapons violations or other criminal acts, it falls to different agencies. This is where Jackson speaks of PMC violators being subject to Federal Law in Federal Courts.

Many have speculated on the privatization of the military and whether that is a good thing or not. It is of course possible to regulate a private military complex through the rule of law, however I would guess it to be more challenging that way. The argument tends to be that through demand, a private military would more effectively meet the needs of the market. This is possible, however it is also possible that a national military structure can achieve a similar effectiveness through flexibility. Ultimately the analysis of which way is most effective requires much more speculation and research than can be achieved here.

The last point in regards to the interview is that Jackson is ultimately correct in his statements. Whether you believe his statements reflect the actual policy that BW follows is irrelevant. If the stated purpose of BW is to support sanctioned US government projects, then we should accept that and ensure that our oversight confirms that purpose. It is indeed a well-known fact that the UN and other International Organizations are lacking for resources for enforcement actions. The UN has had numerous proposals of 3 divisions to be on standby for the operations of the United Nations discretion. If member states refuse to provide resources for these kinds of missions it is only logical for them to be outsourced to PMCs like BW.

If you don't want to critically analyze the issue of military privatization, I don't know why you are commenting on this blog. The actions of government and private corporations are meant to be scrutinized and the printed word should rarely be taken without question. But irrelevant criticisms of the way a question is asked doesn't further our understanding of the system and what its doing, it just slows everything down. I'm here to learn about PMCs and how they effect domestic and international politics and it is a pain in my ass having to wade through 10 meaningless comments just to get to the 4-5 that are interesting and stimulating questions.

But thanks RJ Hillhouse for the blog, it still provides me with some insight.

globalmusings

Why not ask about the inherent conflict between being a private corporation providing what used to be a public good? That conflict is at the heart of one of the pending lawsuits pending -- that Blackwater skimped on equipment and forced contractors to work under dangerous conditions. This is logical behavior from a corporate perspective -- keep costs down to raise the profit margin. Similar anecdotes about other PMCs are found in Peter Singer's book.

Erik Rader

Dr. Hillhouse, thank you for the insights into Blackwater. I look forward to reading future posts and your book.

In regards to Ryan's comments, history has shown us time and again that any fairly revolutionary business concept or operation will endure a significant period of growing pains, whether it's Microsoft, Chevrolet or Blackwater.

I'm of the mind that many of the alleged misdeeds attributed to Blackwater can be chalked up to this period of growing pains, and as laws/statutes become solidified and policies for use of PMC become standardized, that you will no longer see these lawsuits, investigations, etc.

In my eyes, they weren't operating in an oversight vacuum by choice, but because as is usual, the U.S. Government dropped the ball in regards to providing comprehensive policy up front.

Lastly, in response to Ryan's comment "notice how noone ever leaves BW happy", I'm pretty sure that statement applies to just about every company in the world. However, since BW is in the media spotlight moreso than most other companies, we hear about these individuals as an exception, not the rule.

R J Hillhouse

Erik,

I think you nailed it.

I've heard from people at several companies and many from BW who have described the early days of the contracts in Iraq. Everyone was doing the best they could to make do and pull things together to get the job done.

I know many who've left Blackwater and others who keep working for them contract after contract. I once heard one guy go on and on about how we would never work for them again. His issue was that Blackwater wouldn't let him trick out his weapon and was strict about enforcing its own rules.

Oliver

It seems very telling to me that he takes issues with being tried under the UCMJ, but apparently takes for granted not being tried under, say, Iraqi law. Given the recent stand-off with Iraqi authorities, I think this nonchalant attitude towards Iraqi sovereignty should be taken far more seriously. How is one to seriously suggest that there is a free and sovereign nation in Iraq when non-government personnel is completely and entirely exempt from Iraqi jurisdiction? It does everything to reinforce the impression that the Iraqi government is a puppet installed and controlled by the US which can get exasperated all it wants about problems but has no real power. And if the US and its agents does not respect it, how does one expect the locals to respect it? So all the finger-waggling and chiding the Iraqi government it should do more is really ridiculous while one is undermining its authority and clearly demonstrating that it is irrelevant.

rc

<>

In other words you actually interviewed Blackwater's well connected political-operative attorneys in washington rather than Jacksoon????

I wish you had disclosed that a little closer to the beginning of the article so I would have know to have not bothered reading any further...

R J Hillhouse

RC,

It was good enough for the New York Times Week in Review. They excerpted it.

RJH

Zee

Dr. Hillhouse, I would like to say that this interview and it's associated responses has been useful to me. I am sorry for the flak you are recieving by a bunch of closed-minded individuals. I sometimes wish that the sheep dogs could trade roles with the sheep. But then there wouldn't be any more sheep to look after as they would all have been eaten. Thank you again for making this available.
-Zee

This interview gives no new information

e-mailing softball questions and receiving them days later?

Didn't you merely publish a press release?

What a waste.

Remember Jeff Gannon

Lindsey-

Blackwater requires job applicants (among other things) to be free of domestic abuse/violence charges/convictions.

This miniscule requirement cannot stop worldwide evil or military authority abuses, of course.

But then again...

Dave

Privatization and outsourcing nat sec is a dicey business on a host of levels. The topography is made more complicated by ambiguous war-fighting ROE's and archaic nation- building practices (which haven't produced a win in sixty years). Those things are now in the hands of two layers of bureaucracy instead of one (gov alone): one is gov, hamstrung by snap- light waving PC rules which rarely serve our own national interests; the other is private companies moved principally by the mandate of profit. On a polite day, I'd call that an Odd Couple with conflicting mission statements operating in a shit storm.

We're forcibly merging violently incompatible war- fighting and nation- building practices through outsourced designees.

In a world where the balance of power is already shifting gravely to our disadvantage, and blatant anti-US allainces are common, this at least gives a few people assurance of a profit as the nation itself is manipulated into a back seat on the world- affairs bus.

But as the last six or seven decades of history seem to have proven, I guess you can get used to just about anything.

You can even start to favor the stench of a privvy if you stay there long enough.

perumal sathish

Dear Sir,
my application for the post of Office Administrator, Computer Technician, Data Entry, Office Assistant, Labor Foreman, Secretary, Time keeper, Warehouseman in your esteemed organization. I will be grateful to you, if I am called for an interview.
I have a good knowledge in computer.
I have knowledge in SAARS operating systems, and Logistic Warehouse objective and principles.
At present working in CSA Ltd, at Kuwait, in American Army Base, in Arifjan.
Known to drive Fork Lift up-to 10K.
Waiting for your favorable reply.

Thanking you,

P.SATISH

Jeff

Dr. Hillhouse,

It's becoming pretty clear that accusations and speculation about 9/11 will just not go away and is destined to fall into the likes of JFK's conspiracy hacks.

Aside from that, the question of "blame" will forever permeate American culture.

This in mind, the 9/11 Commission has been beaten left and right until there's little left to investigate.

Unfortunately, the naysayers are driven by political gain and cannot see past their partisan ambitions to see the truth.

Please, help me understand why Larry Johnson was never asked to appear before the Commission.

Larry held for many years, a position within the government’s terrorism hierarchy that would have clearly demanded him answering questions as to the history and events leading to the attack on our nation.

You may be appalled to learn, as was I, that Mr. Johnson wrote a published article in 2000, in a book called "Counterpoint: Terrorism" that was titled, "The threat of terrorism is overstated."

Please do some digging and help me understand how this... mindset, could have existed in our government's bowels.

Thanks

danielle

I just discovered your site. Thanks for this doing this interview.

yardley

www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article.3257725.ece

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Acknowledgements

  • A tip of the hat to investigative journalist Tim Shorrock who inspired the name of this blog with his path-breaking 2005 article, "The Spy Who Billed Me."

    Shorrock has a dedicated web page on outsourcing in intel. It links to many of his articles which are must-reads for anyone interested in the privatization of intelligence.