Private army seeking political advice in
Blackwater USA, a private security company contracted
by the Coalitional Provisional Authority (CPA) to protect its personnel
in Iraq, has tapped the Alexander Strategy Group to help shape the
company’s response after four employees were murdered by a
mob in Fallujah last month.
Blackwater encountered more problems when eight of its contractors,
along with U.S. Marines and Salvadoran troops, fought hundreds of
Iraqi insurgents in Najaf.
Unable to communicate with U.S. military forces, the Blackwater
officials sent in their own helicopters, which CPA Chief Administrator
Paul Bremer uses for transport, to resupply ammunition and rescue
a wounded Marine.
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate GOP Conference,
arranged a meeting with Blackwater executives and three key Senate
Republicans — Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens
(Alaska), Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (Va.) and
George Allen (Va.) — to discuss problems facing Blackwater.
Besieged by hundreds of calls from the media following the March
31 lynching, the Moyock, N.C.-based firm turned to Paul Behrends,
who joined Alexander Strategy in February. Behrends, a U.S. Marine
Corps Reserve lieutenant colonel, is friends with Erik Prince, one
of Blackwater’s founders and a former Navy SEAL.
“They did not go out looking for the publicity and did not
ask for everything that happened to them,” Chris Bertelli,
a spokesman for Alexander Strategy, said. “We want to do everything
we can to educate [the media and Congress] about what Blackwater
Behrends sat in on the 45-minute meeting between the senators and
The role of private security firms in Iraq is raising politically
charged questions about the rules under which they can engage the
Thirteen Democratic senators have asked Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld to establish rules of engagement for private security contractors
and to provide an “accurate tally of the number of privately
armed … personnel in Iraq.”
In a March 31 letter, they wrote: “It would be a dangerous
precedent if the United States allowed the presence of private armies
operating outside the control of governmental authority and beholden
only to those who pay them.”
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) recently told The New York Times
that she opposes “the use of military contractors who are
not subject to the same kind of scrutiny and accountability as U.S.
soldiers. When things go wrong for these contractors, they and their
families have been shamefully forgotten by their American employers.”
After the task of crisis management subsides, Bertelli said, his
company would help Blackwater provide input into proposed regulations
circulating in the Pentagon that would establish rules of engagement
for private security contractors.
With at least 15,000 private contractors in Iraq, some lawmakers
are increasingly concerned about using private security for military
personnel. But a House Armed Services Committee spokeswoman said
the committee had no plans to hold hearings.
Outsourcing activities in war zones started in the early 1990s when
then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney approved a $3.9 million contract
to explore outsourcing logistical activities.
Peter Singer, an expert on private security forces at the Brookings
Institution, said many tough questions remain unanswered. “What
should and should not be outsourced? How can we do it in a way that
guards our interests and saves money?” he said.
Blackwater, which has a $21 million contract to protect Bremer and
other CPA personnel, is not the only security firm in Iraq to use
CPA contracted Global Risk International, a British firm, to protect
convoys carrying the new Iraqi currency. Global Risk hired Fijian
soldiers, who are well regarded in military circles for performing
peacekeeping missions in East Timor and Lebanon, to provide the
muscle. Olive Security, a British firm, protects employees of General
Electric in Iraq.
In Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq early this year, an American special
forces soldier, a Canadian former special forces operative employed
by Global Risk, and a Fijian soldier invited two reporters from
The Hill to drink beer. The Canadian soldier said the convoys were
fired on an average of once per week. He praised the Fijians’
restraint in using military force, except when attacked.
MPRI, Armor Holdings Inc., Science Applications International Corp.,
and Dyncorp provide military training and security, and pay top
dollar for lobbyists.