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Blackwater™ Mercs Deploy in NOLA

Democracy Now! reporters describe conversations with Blackwater™ corporate/government (i.e. fascist) armed squads rotated from US occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq--getting a share of the $10B + $50B KBR/Halliburton fund that the regime has hijacked from public education and health needs. They're getting only $350/day + per diem (add another couple hundred)--as if they are having to cover motel, restaurant and auto rental expenses while performing on their contracts in the flooded city.
Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans
By Jeremy Scahill and Daniela Crespo
t r u t h o u t | Report

Saturday 10 September 2005

New Orleans - Heavily armed paramilitary mercenaries from the Blackwater private security firm, infamous for their work in Iraq, are openly patrolling the streets of New Orleans. 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. It has several US government contracts and has provided security for many senior US diplomats, foreign dignitaries and corporations. 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.

As the threat of forced evictions now looms in New Orleans and the city confiscates even legally registered weapons from civilians, the private mercenaries of Blackwater patrol the streets openly wielding M-16s and other assault weapons. This despite Police Commissioner Eddie Compass' claim that "Only law enforcement are allowed to have weapons."

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. One of them wore a gold Louisiana state law enforcement badge and said he had been "deputized" by the governor. They told us they not only had authority to make arrests but also to use lethal force. 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."

A short while later, as we continued down Bourbon Street, we ran into the men from the car. They wore Blackwater ID badges on their arms.

"When they told me New Orleans, I said, 'What country is that in?,'" said one of the Blackwater men. He was wearing his company ID around his neck in a carrying case with the phrase "Operation Iraqi Freedom" printed on it. After bragging about how he drives around Iraq in a "State Department issued level 5, explosion proof BMW," he said he was "just trying to get back to Kirkuk (in the north of Iraq) where the real action is." Later we overheard him on his cell phone complaining that Blackwater was only paying $350 a day plus per diem. That is much less than the men make serving in more dangerous conditions in Iraq. 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."

If Blackwater's reputation and record in Iraq are any indication of the kind of "services" the company offers, the people of New Orleans have much to fear.

-----

Jeremy Scahill, a correspondent for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!, and Daniela Crespo are in New Orleans. Visit www.democracynow.org for in-depth, independent, investigative reporting on Hurricane Katrina. Email:  jeremy@democracynow.org.

Men with Blackwater DIE! 10.Sep.2005 18:43

Beryl Markham

Title of the first chapter of my first and only book. Enough said. Unless you have yet to read it...

...Blackwater is a disease...

How fucking depressing... 10.Sep.2005 20:50

Snazmo

God, I can't believe how utterly and completely fucked up our federal, state, and local governments have become. To think our own government has unleashed these stupid "Rambo" Blackwater fuckwits on New Orleans is a tragedy. Like Stalin during his "war against his own people" preceding World War II, our government is now moving in the same direction! Blackwater Rambo wannabees with their m-16s trained on victims of the hurricane! How's that for "hurricane relief" folks? Pretty fucked up, eh? No food, water, or transport when it was needed DAYS AGO. Instead, some Blackwater asshole kicks in your front door and points an m-16 at your forehead, knocks you to the floor, handcuffs you, and drags you off to some nearby bus headed to a "New Orleans Refugee" concentration camp. All because you, a New Orleans resident, wanted to try and protect your home from looters after the hurricane!

Posse Comitatus (the U.S. law which clearly states "the U.S. military will NOT be used or employed against U.S. civilians" is now GONE, folks. We are witnessing our civil liberties and Constitution being ELIMINATED without due process and without legal protocol. You now live in a corporate fascist police state. Feel afraid. Feel very afraid, because things may get much worse in the years ahead. You can pretty much guarantee you will live under military MARTIAL LAW if there is another major terrorist attack which affects this region.

And look at how much these Blackwater assholes make! Yes, folks, that is where YOUR tax dollars go: to everything and anything military; and next to nothing for healthcare, education--or any other tangible service that might benefit YOU, the American taxpayer.

I really can't believe this is all happening to my country, it is like a nightmare coming to life. I am so bummed out by all this!

Snazmo

A Note On Posse Comitatus. 11.Sep.2005 11:09

tin star

What Snazmo is refering to here is the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, wherein, indeed, use of federal troops for domestic law enforcement is prohibited (Except when authorized by the Constitution(?) or Congress). Also see the Insuurction Act. These have both alredy been sidestepped or invalidated altogether. Remember, however, that origionally the Posse comitatus (power of the County) was equivalent to the civilian militia. The posse. The power of the Sheriff (or Governor, I suppose) to deputize "any able-bodied male over the age of fifteen".
It is said to be obsolete yet it has never been repealed. This could spell trouble as well, with blackwater goons getting pinned, but I'll bet there are some very pissed-off local sheriffs in the south right now who don't appreciate what has happened to their communities, their authority and their lives. These sentiments will surely only grow in the days to come. "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Free State being a very important phrase.
"These are the times that try men's souls"...where are you Thomas Paine? We need you right about now.

Blackwater mercenaries 13.Sep.2005 20:10

F.N. Wright

before i say too much I am going to research these very outrageous claims you have made. Though my initial comment is I think you are full of shit! Show me some pictures that prove this claim! I am a Vietnam & Quemoy-Matsu Islands Crisis Veteran and know the government should not be trusted in many instances (from personal experience) but these claims seem far-fetched & i would require more proof from you!

Well, they're there 14.Sep.2005 15:13

db

well, they are definitely present in NOLA -  http://www.blackwaterusa.com/ - what their role is may be up for debate - but regardless, I'm very uncomfortable with them playing any part in this effort, humanitarian or not. It's bad enough that they have contracts with our government to do what they do in Iraq and Afghanistan - now we're hiring 'em out for domestic issues? What's next? They'll work under contract to "secure" potential terror targets - standing on the street corner at the next Super Bowl - armed and ready with no rules of engagement, no threat of consequence for their actions, making $400 a day. Turning the US into a potential police state guarded by contracted mercenaries is not my idea of a "war on terror."

Blackwater faggots identities 02.May.2007 17:05

Jim Grosfield groseye@hotmail.com

Does anyone know how I can get photographs, and/or identities of any Blackwater fruits?
It would be good to post and study them. They are not immune from all resistance, after all.

Screw them, and the current domestic junta.