[From the diaries by susanhu.] This is incredible. This is obscene. Is this legal? Are they going to claim these are “militia’s”? Private contractors with the power to make arrests and use lethal force. Not answerable to the people.
The folly of the war in Iraq and the lack of preparation by the Bush administration (and the governor’s office?) cannot be more clear. This is a dangerous precedent America.
I say we tell the fundies and militia members what’s going on with the mercenaries operating on US soil and see how they react to it… black helicopters of the UN, pshaw, you’ve got the black helicopters of Blackwater to deal with first.
Some of the mercenaries say they have been “deputized” by the Louisiana governor; indeed some are wearing gold Louisiana state law enforcement badges on their chests and Blackwater photo identification cards on their arms.
They say they are on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and have been given the authority to use lethal force. Several mercenaries we spoke with said they had served in Iraq on the personal security details of the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer and the former US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte.
“This is a totally new thing to have guys like us working CONUS (Continental United States),” a heavily armed Blackwater mercenary told us as we stood on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. “We’re much better equipped to deal with the situation in Iraq.”
Blackwater mercenaries are some of the most feared professional killers in the world and they are accustomed to operating without worry of legal consequences.
Their presence on the streets of New Orleans should be a cause for serious concern for the remaining residents of the city and raises alarming questions about why the government would allow men trained to kill with impunity in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to operate here. Some of the men now patrolling the streets of New Orleans returned from Iraq as recently as 2 weeks ago.
What is most disturbing is the claim of several Blackwater mercenaries we spoke with that they are here under contract from the federal and Louisiana state governments.
Blackwater is one of the leading private “security” firms servicing the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan…. The company rose to international prominence after 4 of its men were killed in Fallujah and two of their charred bodies were hung from a bridge in March 2004. Those killings sparked the massive US retaliation against the civilian population of Fallujah that resulted in scores of deaths and tens of thousands of refugees.
MORE EVIDENCE BELOW:
Officially, Blackwater says it forces are in New Orleans to “join the Hurricane Relief Effort.” A statement on the company’s website, dated September 1, advertises airlift services, security services and crowd control. The company, according to news reports, has since begun taking private contracts to guard hotels, businesses and other properties. But what has not been publicly acknowledged is the claim, made to us by 2 Blackwater mercenaries, that they are actually engaged in general law enforcement activities including “securing neighborhoods” and “confronting criminals.”
That raises a key question: under what authority are Blackwater’s men operating? A spokesperson for the Homeland Security Department, Russ Knocke, told the Washington Post he knows of no federal plans to hire Blackwater or other private security. “We believe we’ve got the right mix of personnel in law enforcement for the federal government to meet the demands of public safety.” he said.
But in an hour-long conversation with several Blackwater mercenaries, we heard a different story. The men we spoke with said they are indeed on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and the Louisiana governor’s office and that some of them are sleeping in camps organized by Homeland Security in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
We encountered the Blackwater forces as we walked through the streets of the largely deserted French Quarter. We were talking with 2 New York Police officers when an unmarked car without license plates sped up next to us and stopped. Inside were 3 men, dressed in khaki uniforms, flak jackets and wielding automatic weapons. “Y’all know where the Blackwater guys are?” they asked. One of the police officers responded, “There are a bunch of them around here,” and pointed down the road.
“Blackwater?” we asked. “The guys who are in Iraq?”
“Yeah,” said the officer. “They’re all over the place.”
Two men we spoke with said they plan on returning to Iraq in October. But, as one mercenary said, they’ve been told they could be in New Orleans for up to 6 months. “This is a trend,” he told us. “You’re going to see a lot more guys like us in these situations.”
Update [2005-9-11 15:46:46 by spiderleaf]:
A copy of the email press release announcing Blackwater on the ground in NOLA…
September 05, 2005
BLACKWATER JOINS HURRICANE KATRINA RELIEF EFFORT!
This morning (September 1, 2005), Blackwater USA joined the ongoing relief effort in the Gulf Region devastated by Hurricane Katrina by dispatching a SA-330 Puma helicopter to help assist in evacuating citizens from flooded areas.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Erik Prince stated, “At this time, all Americans should band together and assist our countrymen who have been struck by this natural disaster.”
Blackwater’s aerial support services are being donated to the relief effort.
The following services are available:
Humanitarian Support Services
Logistics and Transportation Services
Cross-posted at dkos