[News] The Secret US War In Pakistan
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Dec 7 10:41:31 EST 2009
The Secret US War In Pakistan
December 07, 2009 By Jeremy Scahill
Source: The Nation
At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special
Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi,
members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a
secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of
suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, "snatch and grabs" of
high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside
Pakistan, an investigation by The Nation has found. The Blackwater
operatives also assist in gathering intelligence and help direct a
secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the
well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed
source within the US military intelligence apparatus.
The source, who has worked on covert US military programs for years,
including in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has direct knowledge of
Blackwater's involvement. He spoke to The Nation on condition of
anonymity because the program is classified. The source said that the
program is so "compartmentalized" that senior figures within the
Obama administration and the US military chain of command may not be
aware of its existence.
The White House did not return calls or email messages seeking
comment for this story. Capt. John Kirby, the spokesperson for Adm.
Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Nation,
"We do not discuss current operations one way or the other,
regardless of their nature." A defense official, on background,
specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or
intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. "We don't have any contracts to do
that work for us. We don't contract that kind of work out, period,"
the official said. "There has not been, and is not now, contracts
between JSOC and that organization for these types of services."
Blackwater's founder Erik Prince contradicted this statement in a
recent interview, telling Vanity Fair that Blackwater works with US
Special Forces in identifying targets and planning missions, citing
an operation in Syria. The magazine also published a photo of a
Blackwater base near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
The previously unreported program, the military intelligence source
said, is distinct from the CIA assassination program that the
agency's director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June
2009. "This is a parallel operation to the CIA," said the source.
"They are two separate beasts." The program puts Blackwater at the
epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation
against which the United States has not declared war--knowledge that
could further strain the already tense relations between the United
States and Pakistan. In 2006, the United States and Pakistan struck a
deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden
with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given
permission. Officially, the United States is not supposed to have any
active military operations in the country.
Blackwater, which recently changed its name to Xe Services and US
Training Center, denies the company is operating in Pakistan. "Xe
Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction
oversight for the U.S. Government," Blackwater spokesperson Mark
Corallo said in a statement to The Nation, adding that the company
has "no other operations of any kind in Pakistan."
A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the military
intelligence source's claim that the company is working in Pakistan
for the CIA and JSOC, the premier counterterrorism and covert
operations force within the military. He said that Blackwater is also
working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an
Islamabad-based security firm that puts US Blackwater operatives on
the ground with Pakistani forces in counter-terrorism operations,
including house raids and border interdictions, in the North-West
Frontier Province and elsewhere in Pakistan. This arrangement, the
former executive said, allows the Pakistani government to utilize
former US Special Operations forces who now work for Blackwater while
denying an official US military presence in the country. He also
confirmed that Blackwater has a facility in Karachi and has personnel
deployed elsewhere in Pakistan. The former executive spoke on
condition of anonymity.
His account and that of the military intelligence source were borne
out by a US military source who has knowledge of Special Forces
actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan. When asked about Blackwater's
covert work for JSOC in Pakistan, this source, who also asked for
anonymity, told The Nation, "From my information that I have, that is
absolutely correct," adding, "There's no question that's occurring."
"It wouldn't surprise me because we've outsourced nearly everything,"
said Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Secretary of State Colin
Powell's chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, when told of Blackwater's
role in Pakistan. Wilkerson said that during his time in the Bush
administration, he saw the beginnings of Blackwater's involvement
with the sensitive operations of the military and CIA. "Part of this,
of course, is an attempt to get around the constraints the Congress
has placed on DoD. If you don't have sufficient soldiers to do it,
you hire civilians to do it. I mean, it's that simple. It would not
The Counterterrorism Tag Team in Karachi
The covert JSOC program with Blackwater in Pakistan dates back to at
least 2007, according to the military intelligence source. The
current head of JSOC is Vice Adm. William McRaven, who took over the
post from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC from 2003 to 2008
before being named the top US commander in Afghanistan. Blackwater's
presence in Pakistan is "not really visible, and that's why nobody
has cracked down on it," said the source. Blackwater's operations in
Pakistan, he said, are not done through State Department contracts or
publicly identified Defense contracts. "It's Blackwater via JSOC, and
it's a classified no-bid [contract] approved on a rolling basis." The
main JSOC/Blackwater facility in Karachi, according to the source, is
nondescript: three trailers with various generators, satellite phones
and computer systems are used as a makeshift operations center. "It's
a very rudimentary operation," says the source. "I would compare it
to [CIA] outposts in Kurdistan or any of the Special Forces outposts.
It's very bare bones, and that's the point."
Blackwater's work for JSOC in Karachi is coordinated out of a Task
Force based at Bagram Air Base in neighboring Afghanistan, according
to the military intelligence source. While JSOC technically runs the
operations in Karachi, he said, it is largely staffed by former US
special operations soldiers working for a division of Blackwater,
once known as Blackwater SELECT, and intelligence analysts working
for a Blackwater affiliate, Total Intelligence Solutions (TIS), which
is owned by Erik Prince. The military source said that the name
Blackwater SELECT may have been changed recently. Total Intelligence,
which is run out of an office on the ninth floor of a building in the
Ballston area of Arlington, Virginia, is staffed by former analysts
and operatives from the CIA, DIA, FBI and other agencies. It is
modeled after the CIA's counterterrorism center. In Karachi, TIS runs
a "media-scouring/open-source network," according to the source.
Until recently, Total Intelligence was run by two former top CIA
officials, Cofer Black and Robert Richer, both of whom have left the
company. In Pakistan, Blackwater is not using either its original
name or its new moniker, Xe Services, according to the former
Blackwater executive. "They are running most of their work through
TIS because the other two [names] have such a stain on them," he
said. Corallo, the Blackwater spokesperson, denied that TIS or any
other division or affiliate of Blackwater has any personnel in Pakistan.
The US military intelligence source said that Blackwater's classified
contracts keep getting renewed at the request of JSOC. Blackwater, he
said, is already so deeply entrenched that it has become a staple of
the US military operations in Pakistan. According to the former
Blackwater executive, "The politics that go with the brand of BW is
somewhat set aside because what you're doing is really one military
guy to another." Blackwater's first known contract with the CIA for
operations in Afghanistan was awarded in 2002 and was for work along
the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
One of the concerns raised by the military intelligence source is
that some Blackwater personnel are being given rolling security
clearances above their approved clearances. Using Alternative
Compartmentalized Control Measures (ACCMs), he said, the Blackwater
personnel are granted clearance to a Special Access Program, the
bureaucratic term used to describe highly classified "black"
operations. "With an ACCM, the security manager can grant access to
you to be exposed to and operate within compartmentalized programs
far above 'secret'--even though you have no business doing so," said
the source. It allows Blackwater personnel that "do not have the
requisite security clearance or do not hold a security clearance
whatsoever to participate in classified operations by virtue of
trust," he added. "Think of it as an ultra-exclusive level above top
secret. That's exactly what it is: a circle of love." Blackwater,
therefore, has access to "all source" reports that are culled in part
from JSOC units in the field. "That's how a lot of things over the
years have been conducted with contractors," said the source. "We
have contractors that regularly see things that top policy-makers
don't unless they ask."
According to the source, Blackwater has effectively marketed itself
as a company whose operatives have "conducted lethal direct action
missions and now, for a price, you can have your own planning cell.
JSOC just ate that up," he said, adding, "They have a sizable force
in Pakistan--not for any nefarious purpose if you really want to look
at it that way--but to support a legitimate contract that's
classified for JSOC." Blackwater's Pakistan JSOC contracts are secret
and are therefore shielded from public oversight, he said. The source
is not sure when the arrangement with JSOC began, but he says that a
spin-off of Blackwater SELECT "was issued a no-bid contract for
support to shooters for a JSOC Task Force and they kept extending
it." Some of the Blackwater personnel, he said, work undercover as
aid workers. "Nobody even gives them a second thought."
The military intelligence source said that the Blackwater/JSOC
Karachi operation is referred to as "Qatar cubed," in reference to
the US forward operating base in Qatar that served as the hub for the
planning and implementation of the US invasion of Iraq. "This is
supposed to be the brave new world," he says. "This is the Jamestown
of the new millennium and it's meant to be a lily pad. You can jump
off to Uzbekistan, you can jump back over the border, you can jump
sideways, you can jump northwest. It's strategically located so that
they can get their people wherever they have to without having to
wrangle with the military chain of command in Afghanistan, which is
convoluted. They don't have to deal with that because they're
operating under a classified mandate."
In addition to planning drone strikes and operations against
suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Pakistan for both JSOC and
the CIA, the Blackwater team in Karachi also helps plan missions for
JSOC inside Uzbekistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,
according to the military intelligence source. Blackwater does not
actually carry out the operations, he said, which are executed on the
ground by JSOC forces. "That piqued my curiosity and really worries
me because I don't know if you noticed but I was never told we are at
war with Uzbekistan," he said. "So, did I miss something, did
Rumsfeld come back into power?"
Pakistan's Military Contracting Maze
Blackwater, according to the military intelligence source, is not
doing the actual killing as part of its work in Pakistan. "The SELECT
personnel are not going into places with private aircraft and going
after targets," he said. "It's not like Blackwater SELECT people are
running around assassinating people." Instead, US Special Forces
teams carry out the plans developed in part by Blackwater. The
military intelligence source drew a distinction between the
Blackwater operatives who work for the State Department, which he
calls "Blackwater Vanilla," and the seasoned Special Forces veterans
who work on the JSOC program. "Good or bad, there's a small number of
people who know how to pull off an operation like that. That's
probably a good thing," said the source. "It's the Blackwater SELECT
people that have and continue to plan these types of operations
because they're the only people that know how and they went where the
money was. It's not trigger-happy fucks, like some of the PSD
[Personal Security Detail] guys. These are not people that believe
that Barack Obama is a socialist, these are not people that kill
innocent civilians. They're very good at what they do."
The former Blackwater executive, when asked for confirmation that
Blackwater forces were not actively killing people in Pakistan, said,
"that's not entirely accurate." While he concurred with the military
intelligence source's description of the JSOC and CIA programs, he
pointed to another role Blackwater is allegedly playing in Pakistan,
not for the US government but for Islamabad. According to the
executive, Blackwater works on a subcontract for Kestral Logistics, a
powerful Pakistani firm, which specializes in military logistical
support, private security and intelligence consulting. It is staffed
with former high-ranking Pakistani army and government officials.
While Kestral's main offices are in Pakistan, it also has branches in
several other countries.
A spokesperson for the US State Department's Directorate of Defense
Trade Controls (DDTC), which is responsible for issuing licenses to
US corporations to provide defense-related services to foreign
governments or entities, would neither confirm nor deny for The
Nation that Blackwater has a license to work in Pakistan or to work
with Kestral. "We cannot help you," said department spokesperson
David McKeeby after checking with the relevant DDTC officials.
"You'll have to contact the companies directly." Blackwater's Corallo
said the company has "no operations of any kind" in Pakistan other
than the one employee working for the DoD. Kestral did not respond to
inquiries from The Nation.
According to federal lobbying records, Kestral recently hired former
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger
Noriega, who served in that post from 2003 to 2005, to lobby the US
government, including the State Department, USAID and Congress, on
foreign affairs issues "regarding [Kestral's] capabilities to carry
out activities of interest to the United States." Noriega was hired
through his firm, Vision Americas, which he runs with Christina
Rocca, a former CIA operations official who served as assistant
secretary of state for South Asian affairs from 2001 to 2006 and was
deeply involved in shaping US policy toward Pakistan. In October
2009, Kestral paid Vision Americas $15,000 and paid a Vision
Americas-affiliated firm, Firecreek Ltd., an equal amount to lobby on
defense and foreign policy issues.
For years, Kestral has done a robust business in defense logistics
with the Pakistani government and other nations, as well as top US
defense companies. Blackwater owner Erik Prince is close with Kestral
CEO Liaquat Ali Baig, according to the former Blackwater executive.
"Ali and Erik have a pretty close relationship," he said. "They've
met many times and struck a deal, and they [offer] mutual support for
one another." Working with Kestral, he said, Blackwater has provided
convoy security for Defense Department shipments destined for
Afghanistan that would arrive in the port at Karachi. Blackwater,
according to the former executive, would guard the supplies as they
were transported overland from Karachi to Peshawar and then west
through the Torkham border crossing, the most important supply route
for the US military in Afghanistan.
According to the former executive, Blackwater operatives also
integrate with Kestral's forces in sensitive counterterrorism
operations in the North-West Frontier Province, where they work in
conjunction with the Pakistani Interior Ministry's paramilitary
force, known as the Frontier Corps (alternately referred to as
"frontier scouts"). The Blackwater personnel are technically
advisers, but the former executive said that the line often gets
blurred in the field. Blackwater "is providing the actual guidance on
how to do [counterterrorism operations] and Kestral's folks are
carrying a lot of them out, but they're having the guidance and the
overwatch from some BW guys that will actually go out with the teams
when they're executing the job," he said. "You can see how that can
lead to other things in the border areas." He said that when
Blackwater personnel are out with the Pakistani teams, sometimes its
men engage in operations against suspected terrorists. "You've got BW
guys that are assisting... and they're all going to want to go on the
jobs--so they're going to go with them," he said. "So, the things
that you're seeing in the news about how this Pakistani military
group came in and raided this house or did this or did that--in some
of those cases, you're going to have Western folks that are right
there at the house, if not in the house." Blackwater, he said, is
paid by the Pakistani government through Kestral for consulting
services. "That gives the Pakistani government the cover to say,
'Hey, no, we don't have any Westerners doing this. It's all local and
our people are doing it.' But it gets them the expertise that
Westerners provide for [counterterrorism]-related work."
The military intelligence source confirmed Blackwater works with the
Frontier Corps, saying, "There's no real oversight. It's not really
on people's radar screen."
In October, in response to Pakistani news reports that a Kestral
warehouse in Islamabad was being used to store heavy weapons for
Blackwater, the US Embassy in Pakistan released a statement denying
the weapons were being used by "a private American security
contractor." The statement said, "Kestral Logistics is a private
logistics company that handles the importation of equipment and
supplies provided by the United States to the Government of Pakistan.
All of the equipment and supplies were imported at the request of the
Government of Pakistan, which also certified the shipments."
Who is Behind the Drone Attacks?
Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated, the United States has
expanded drone bombing raids in Pakistan. Obama first ordered a drone
strike against targets in North and South Waziristan on January 23,
and the strikes have been conducted consistently ever since. The
Obama administration has now surpassed the number of Bush-era strikes
in Pakistan and has faced fierce criticism from Pakistan and some US
lawmakers over civilian deaths. A drone attack in June killed as many
as sixty people attending a Taliban funeral.
In August, the New York Times reported that Blackwater works for the
CIA at "hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the company's
contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound
laser-guided bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft." In
February, The Times of London obtained a satellite image of a secret
CIA airbase in Shamsi, in Pakistan's southwestern province of
Baluchistan, showing three drone aircraft. The New York Times also
reported that the agency uses a secret base in Jalalabad,
Afghanistan, to strike in Pakistan.
The military intelligence source says that the drone strike that
reportedly killed Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, his wife
and his bodyguards in Waziristan in August was a CIA strike, but that
many others attributed in media reports to the CIA are actually JSOC
strikes. "Some of these strikes are attributed to OGA [Other
Government Agency, intelligence parlance for the CIA], but in reality
it's JSOC and their parallel program of UAVs [unmanned aerial
vehicles] because they also have access to UAVs. So when you see some
of these hits, especially the ones with high civilian casualties,
those are almost always JSOC strikes." The Pentagon has stated
bluntly, "There are no US military strike operations being conducted
The military intelligence source also confirmed that Blackwater
continues to work for the CIA on its drone bombing program in
Pakistan, as previously reported in the New York Times, but added
that Blackwater is working on JSOC's drone bombings as well. "It's
Blackwater running the program for both CIA and JSOC," said the
source. When civilians are killed, "people go, 'Oh, it's the CIA
doing crazy shit again unchecked.' Well, at least 50 percent of the
time, that's JSOC [hitting] somebody they've identified through
HUMINT [human intelligence] or they've culled the intelligence
themselves or it's been shared with them and they take that person
out and that's how it works."
The military intelligence source says that the CIA operations are
subject to Congressional oversight, unlike the parallel JSOC
bombings. "Targeted killings are not the most popular thing in town
right now and the CIA knows that," he says. "Contractors and
especially JSOC personnel working under a classified mandate are not
[overseen by Congress], so they just don't care. If there's one
person they're going after and there's thirty-four people in the
building, thirty-five people are going to die. That's the mentality."
He added, "They're not accountable to anybody and they know that.
It's an open secret, but what are you going to do, shut down JSOC?"
In addition to working on covert action planning and drone strikes,
Blackwater SELECT also provides private guards to perform the
sensitive task of security for secret US drone bases, JSOC camps and
Defense Intelligence Agency camps inside Pakistan, according to the
military intelligence source.
Mosharraf Zaidi, a well-known Pakistani journalist who has served as
a consultant for the UN and European Union in Pakistan and
Afghanistan, says that the Blackwater/JSOC program raises serious
questions about the norms of international relations. "The immediate
question is, How do you define the active pursuit of military
objectives in a country with which not only have you not declared war
but that is supposedly a front-line non-NATO ally in the US struggle
to contain extremist violence coming out of Afghanistan and the
border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan?" asks Zaidi, who is
currently a columnist for The News, the biggest English-language
daily in Pakistan. "Let's forget Blackwater for a second. What this
is confirming is that there are US military operations in Pakistan
that aren't about logistics or getting food to Bagram; that are
actually about the exercise of physical violence, physical force
inside of Pakistani territory."
JSOC: Rumsfeld and Cheney's Extra Special Force
Colonel Wilkerson said that he is concerned that with General
McChrystal's elevation as the military commander of the Afghan
war--which is increasingly seeping into Pakistan--there is a
concomitant rise in JSOC's power and influence within the military
structure. "I don't see how you can escape that; it's just a matter
of the way the authority flows and the power flows, and it's
inevitable, I think," Wilkerson told The Nation. He added, "I'm
alarmed when I see execute orders and combat orders that go out
saying that the supporting force is Central Command and the supported
force is Special Operations Command," under which JSOC operates.
"That's backward. But that's essentially what we have today."
From 2003 to 2008 McChrystal headed JSOC, which is headquartered at
Pope Air Force Base and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where
Blackwater's 7,000-acre operating base is also situated. JSOC
controls the Army's Delta Force, the Navy's SEAL Team 6, as well as
the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment and 160th Special Operations Aviation
Regiment, and the Air Force's 24th Special Tactics Squadron. JSOC
performs strike operations, reconnaissance in denied areas and
special intelligence missions. Blackwater, which was founded by
former Navy SEALs, employs scores of veteran Special Forces
operators--which several former military officials pointed to as the
basis for Blackwater's alleged contracts with JSOC.
Since 9/11, many top-level Special Forces veterans have taken up
employment with private firms, where they can make more money doing
the highly specialized work they did in uniform. "The Blackwater
individuals have the experience. A lot of these individuals are
retired military, and they've been around twenty to thirty years and
have experience that the younger Green Beret guys don't," said
retired Army Lieut. Col. Jeffrey Addicott, a well-connected military
lawyer who served as senior legal counsel for US Army Special Forces.
"They're known entities. Everybody knows who they are, what their
capabilities are, and they've got the experience. They're very valuable."
"They make much more money being the smarts of these operations,
planning hits in various countries and basing it off their experience
in Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Ethiopia," said the military
intelligence source. "They were there for all of these things, they
know what the hell they're talking about. And JSOC has unfortunately
lost the institutional capability to plan within, so they hire back
people that used to work for them and had already planned and
executed these [types of] operations. They hired back people that
jumped over to Blackwater SELECT and then pay them exorbitant amounts
of money to plan future operations. It's a ridiculous revolving door."
While JSOC has long played a central role in US counterterrorism and
covert operations, military and civilian officials who worked at the
Defense and State Departments during the Bush administration
described in interviews with The Nation an extremely cozy
relationship that developed between the executive branch (primarily
through Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld) and JSOC. During the Bush era, Special Forces turned into a
virtual stand-alone operation that acted outside the military chain
of command and in direct coordination with the White House.
Throughout the Bush years, it was largely General McChrystal who ran
JSOC. "What I was seeing was the development of what I would later
see in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Special Operations forces would
operate in both theaters without the conventional commander even
knowing what they were doing," said Colonel Wilkerson. "That's
dangerous, that's very dangerous. You have all kinds of mess when you
don't tell the theater commander what you're doing."
Wilkerson said that almost immediately after assuming his role at the
State Department under Colin Powell, he saw JSOC being politicized
and developing a close relationship with the executive branch. He saw
this begin, he said, after his first Delta Force briefing at Fort
Bragg. "I think Cheney and Rumsfeld went directly into JSOC. I think
they went into JSOC at times, perhaps most frequently, without the
SOCOM [Special Operations] commander at the time even knowing it. The
receptivity in JSOC was quite good," says Wilkerson. "I think Cheney
was actually giving McChrystal instructions, and McChrystal was
asking him for instructions." He said the relationship between JSOC
and Cheney and Rumsfeld "built up initially because Rumsfeld didn't
get the responsiveness. He didn't get the can-do kind of attitude out
of the SOCOM commander, and so as Rumsfeld was wont to do, he cut him
out and went straight to the horse's mouth. At that point you had
JSOC operating as an extension of the [administration] doing things
the executive branch--read: Cheney and Rumsfeld--wanted it to do.
This would be more or less carte blanche. You need to do it, do it.
It was very alarming for me as a conventional soldier."
Wilkerson said the JSOC teams caused diplomatic problems for the
United States across the globe. "When these teams started hitting
capital cities and other places all around the world, [Rumsfeld]
didn't tell the State Department either. The only way we found out
about it is our ambassadors started to call us and say, 'Who the hell
are these six-foot-four white males with eighteen-inch biceps walking
around our capital cities?' So we discovered this, we discovered one
in South America, for example, because he actually murdered a taxi
driver, and we had to get him out of there real quick. We rendered
him--we rendered him home."
As part of their strategy, Rumsfeld and Cheney also created the
Strategic Support Branch (SSB), which pulled intelligence resources
from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA for use in sensitive
JSOC operations. The SSB was created using "reprogrammed" funds
"without explicit congressional authority or appropriation,"
according to the Washington Post. The SSB operated outside the
military chain of command and circumvented the CIA's authority on
clandestine operations. Rumsfeld created it as part of his war to end
"near total dependence on CIA." Under US law, the Defense Department
is required to report all deployment orders to Congress. But
guidelines issued in January 2005 by former Under Secretary of
Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone stated that Special
Operations forces may "conduct clandestine HUMINT operations...before
publication" of a deployment order. This effectively gave Rumsfeld
unilateral control over clandestine operations.
The military intelligence source said that when Rumsfeld was defense
secretary, JSOC was deployed to commit some of the "darkest acts" in
part to keep them concealed from Congress. "Everything can be
justified as a military operation versus a clandestine intelligence
performed by the CIA, which has to be informed to Congress," said the
source. "They were aware of that and they knew that, and they would
exploit it at every turn and they took full advantage of it. They
knew they could act extra-legally and nothing would happen because A,
it was sanctioned by DoD at the highest levels, and B, who was going
to stop them? They were preparing the battlefield, which was on all
of the PowerPoints: 'Preparing the Battlefield.'"
The significance of the flexibility of JSOC's operations inside
Pakistan versus the CIA's is best summed up by Senator Dianne
Feinstein, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
"Every single intelligence operation and covert action must be
briefed to the Congress," she said. "If they are not, that is a
violation of the law."
Blackwater: Company Non Grata in Pakistan
For months, the Pakistani media has been flooded with stories about
Blackwater's alleged growing presence in the country. For the most
part, these stories have been ignored by the US press and denounced
as lies or propaganda by US officials in Pakistan. But the reality is
that, although many of the stories appear to be wildly exaggerated,
Pakistanis have good reason to be concerned about Blackwater's
operations in their country. It is no secret in Washington or
Islamabad that Blackwater has been a central part of the wars in
Afghanistan and Pakistan and that the company has been
involved--almost from the beginning of the "war on terror"--with
clandestine US operations. Indeed, Blackwater is accepting
applications for contractors fluent in Urdu and Punjabi. The US
Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, has denied Blackwater's
presence in the country, stating bluntly in September, "Blackwater is
not operating in Pakistan." In her trip to Pakistan in October,
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dodged questions from the
Pakistani press about Blackwater's rumored Pakistani operations.
Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, said on November 21 he
will resign if Blackwater is found operating anywhere in Pakistan.
The Christian Science Monitor recently reported that Blackwater
"provides security for a US-backed aid project" in Peshawar,
suggesting the company may be based out of the Pearl Continental, a
luxury hotel the United States reportedly is considering purchasing
to use as a consulate in the city. "We have no contracts in
Pakistan," Blackwater spokesperson Stacey DeLuke said recently.
"We've been blamed for all that has gone wrong in Peshawar, none of
which is true, since we have absolutely no presence there."
Reports of Blackwater's alleged presence in Karachi and elsewhere in
the country have been floating around the Pakistani press for months.
Hamid Mir, a prominent Pakistani journalist who rose to fame after
his 1997 interview with Osama bin Laden, claimed in a recent
interview that Blackwater is in Karachi. "The US [intelligence]
agencies think that a number of Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders are
hiding in Karachi and Peshawar," he said. "That is why [Blackwater]
agents are operating in these two cities." Ambassador Patterson has
said that the claims of Mir and other Pakistani journalists are
"wildly incorrect," saying they had compromised the security of US
personnel in Pakistan. On November 20 the Washington Times, citing
three current and former US intelligence officials, reported that
Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, has "found
refuge from potential U.S. attacks" in Karachi "with the assistance
of Pakistan's intelligence service."
In September, the Pakistani press covered a report on Blackwater
allegedly submitted by Pakistan's intelligence agencies to the
federal interior ministry. In the report, the intelligence agencies
reportedly allege that Blackwater was provided houses by a federal
minister who is also helping them clear shipments of weapons and
vehicles through Karachi's Port Qasim on the coast of the Arabian
Sea. The military intelligence source did not confirm this but did
say, "The port jives because they have a lot of [former] SEALs and
they would revert to what they know: the ocean, instead of flying stuff in."
The Nation cannot independently confirm these allegations and has not
seen the Pakistani intelligence report. But according to Pakistani
press coverage, the intelligence report also said Blackwater has
acquired "bungalows" in the Defense Housing Authority in the city.
According to the DHA website, it is a large residential estate
originally established "for the welfare of the serving and retired
officers of the Armed Forces of Pakistan." Its motto is: "Home for
Defenders." The report alleges Blackwater is receiving help from
local government officials in Karachi and is using vehicles with
license plates traditionally assigned to members of the national and
provincial assemblies, meaning local law enforcement will not stop them.
The use of private companies like Blackwater for sensitive operations
such as drone strikes or other covert work undoubtedly comes with the
benefit of plausible deniability that places an additional barrier in
an already deeply flawed system of accountability. When things go
wrong, it's the contractors' fault, not the government's. But the
widespread use of contractors also raises serious legal questions,
particularly when they are a part of lethal, covert actions. "We are
using contractors for things that in the past might have been
considered to be a violation of the Geneva Convention," said Lt. Col.
Addicott, who now runs the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's
University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas. "In my opinion, we
have pressed the envelope to the breaking limit, and it's almost a
fiction that these guys are not in offensive military operations."
Addicott added, "If we were subjected to the International Criminal
Court, some of these guys could easily be picked up, charged with war
crimes and put on trial. That's one of the reasons we're not members
of the International Criminal Court."
If there is one quality that has defined Blackwater over the past
decade, it is the ability to survive against the odds while
simultaneously reinventing and rebranding itself. That is most
evident in Afghanistan, where the company continues to work for the
US military, the CIA and the State Department despite intense
criticism and almost weekly scandals. Blackwater's alleged Pakistan
operations, said the military intelligence source, are indicative of
its new frontier. "Having learned its lessons after the private
security contracting fiasco in Iraq, Blackwater has shifted its
operational focus to two venues: protecting things that are in danger
and anticipating other places we're going to go as a nation that are
dangerous," he said. "It's as simple as that."
Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation
Institute, is the author of the bestselling Blackwater: The Rise of
the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, published by Nation Books.
He is an award-winning investigative journalist and correspondent for
the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the News