The New York Times this morning has an article that begs attention–not only for what it says about the mercenary (i.e. “private security”) firm formerly known as Blackwater, then Academi, merged with Triple Canopy, and now part of a new firm, Constellis Holdings— but for what it says about the state of defense spending and policy in the US. Is security spending so embedded with various security firms that it has abandoned its public function? This is the continuing story of dangerous incompetence and greed that festers behind the veil of national security secrecy. Public funds in the U.S. are being used to fund the exponential growth of private security firms that work on everything from legally questionable data collection, as Edward Snowden revealed when he blew the whistle by handing over NSA documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, to the crude aggression of mercenaries.
NYT journalist James Risen writes today that State Department investigator Jean C. Richter attempted to look into Blackwater’s practices in Iraq in 2007, weeks before employees from the firm fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians. Blackwater hired guns threatened to kill the State department official, telling the U.S. diplomat “‘that he could kill’ the government’s chief investigator and ‘no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq.'”
And what did U.S. Embassy in Iraq do? Conceded. Richter’s investigation was called off and he returned to D.C., penning a strongly worded indictment, newly released to the public, of the excesses of a security system that had allowed contractors to rule the roost. Again, from the NYT:
“The management structures in place to manage and monitor our contracts in Iraq have become subservient to the contractors themselves,” the investigator, Jean C. Richter, wrote in an Aug. 31, 2007, memo to State Department officials. “Blackwater contractors saw themselves as above the law,” he said, adding that the “hands off” management resulted in a situation in which “the contractors, instead of Department officials, are in command and in control.”
This story came to light through recently released State Department documents. How many leaks and post facto releases will it take to demonstrate to the American public and elected leaders that much of what happens in the name of “national security” and the need for secrecy is gross and reckless privatization of public funds? What is more, these spending patterns harm U.S. security.