Air Force Flip-Flops on Blackwater Road Rage Incident. Several months ago a USAF investigative officer investigating a road rage incident between some Blackwater security personnel and Air Force officers in Afghanistan found that the two USAF officers had correctly followed the rules of engagement. Now, some allege as the result of pressure and intimidation from Blackwater's parent, the Prince Group, the Air Force is formally reprimanding one of the officers, despite that the official report cleared him of wrongdoing. The incident was detailed in a News-Observer article in February:
According to the documents, Brown pushed Bergeron, tried to trip him and threatened to kill him. Brown poked Bergeron in the chest with a loaded gun and pointed it at Bergeron's head.
"I don't care if you are a U.S. citizen, get on the ground," he said, according to the documents, and "You're about to be a dead U.S. citizen."
Gittins said the Air Force officers had no way to tell that Bergeron -- who has dark skin and was wearing an Afghan-style long beard and civilian clothes -- was American. He said they were worried because just days earlier another officer had been involved in an attack by a suicide bomber while driving through Kabul.
"They did exactly what they were supposed to do, which is use the normal 'shout, shove, shoot' escalation of force to get the man under control," Gittins said.
It's unlikely, he said, that two men who in civilian life are airline pilots -- a profession built around calm, rational behavior -- would behave as Brown and Hall are accused.
The subsequent investigation cleared the two officers:
“Given the security situation in Kabul at the time and the facts and circumstances of their encounter with Mr. Bergeron on the road, and then at the gate, I believe that they truly felt threatened and reacted exactly as they were trained to do,” Pickle wrote.
Pickle included a very interesting report from the head of the Afghan guards who witnessed the incident:
[S]he was approached by the commander of the Afghan guards stationed at the gate of Camp Eggers, the U.S. base where the confrontation occurred. The commander "wanted to report an attempt to bribe his guards," Pickle wrote. "He reported that he was contacted numerous times in an effort to convince him to have the Afghan guards testify falsely."
Anne Tyrrell, a Blackwater spokeswoman, said in an e-mail statement that "the allegations of bribery involve someone other than a Blackwater-affiliated person attempting to bribe Afghan guards to change their testimony and falsely claim that a Blackwater contractor was at fault."
The Virginia-Pilot story adds, "Pickle did not say who made the alleged bribery attempts or what testimony was being sought.
Whoops. Funny how BW could know what testimony was sought and who wasn't doing the bribery...
See also the Air Force Times story.
UN Workgroup criticizes Blackwater and Triple Canopy's Hiring Practices. Manila Times reports that a UN work group is presenting a study next month to the UN Commission on Human Rights on the use of Third World mercenaries by Western firms that is critical of Blackwater and Triple Canopy's recruiting and hiring practices. The head of the UN workgroup was critical of their poor training and worried that they could violate others' human rights because they carry guns. Then he worried about the mercenaries' rights as well, pointing out that they sign contracts in English that they often don't understand. If this is the best the workgroup could dig up, private military critics will be disappointed.
State Dept. passes over US firms for Embassy Contract. The US State Department passed over the American private military companies, Triple Canopy and DynCorp to award a $189 million contract to guard the US embassy in Kabul to the American subsidiary of ArnorGroup, a British private military corporation. It's not unusual for a British company to receive such a substantial security contract from the US government. In fact, the current contractor is also British--Global Strategies which holds the current contract to guard the Baghdad airport, having done an excellent job straightening up the mess that Custler Battles left behind.
Don't Ask. Don't Tell. USAF Gen (ret) James Clapper, SecDef Gate's nominee to replace Cambone as the Undersecretary for Intelligence testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee about the future of the Pentagon's intelligence activities and the CIA, "For me, the crucial distinction lies in whether an activity is 'passive' ... or 'active.' The military is supposed to be passive and the CIA active.
Score one for the Agency: The Pentagon wants to be the CIA's bitch.