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A private army for California?

Los Angeles Times (2007-04-17)

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Los Angeles Times

Apr 17, 2007

Blackwater USA, a private army that promises "the most comprehensive professional security, peacekeeping and stability operations" in the world, is planning to build a major training center in San Diego County and, according to one company executive, has met with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger providing its services following a major California disaster.

Never heard of Blackwater? As Time magazine reported, Blackwater has become the embodiment of the outsourcing of the Iraq war and its grisly results. In March 2004, four Blackwater employees were ambushed in Fallujah, dragged from their cars and mutilated. Two of the men were hanged from the bridge at the edge of town. "In Fallujah, it's still known as Blackwater Bridge," Time writes.

The company also was hired to assist with disaster security following Hurricane Katrina.

The North Carolina company is the subject of a new book by Jeremy Scahill, "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army." In a recent interview with Terry Gross on "Fresh Air," Scahill said Blackwater has met with Schwarzenegger about providing disaster assistance for California. Scahill said the company "was founded with the idea of anticipating increased government outsourcing of military training, and so Blackwater is really positioning itself to cash in for many, many years to come."

"The company has applied for operating licenses in all of the coastal states of the United States and, as I said, they're opening military and law enforcement training facilities in Illinois and California. They're sort of building a triangle around the country," he said.

Did Schwarzenegger really talk to a private mercenary army about providing security assistance after a major California disaster? Scahill has repeated the information in numerous interviews.

The Schwarzenegger administration said it has no records of Blackwater ever meeting with the Republican governor. Chris Bertelli, deputy director of the California Office of Homeland Security, once did consulting work for Blackwater, but Homeland Security and the Office of Emergency Services both said they had no record of a meeting with the company. I emailed Scahill about his information, and he said he heard about a Schwarzenegger- Blackwater meeting from two reporters at the Virginian-Pilot, which has done extensive and meticulous research into Blackwater.

One of the reporters told me she heard the information from a senior executive at the company, Seamus Flatley, a retired Navy fighter pilot. The Virginian-Pilot reported in its six-part series on Blackwater last June that Schwarzenegger met with Blackwater, but the information didn't make news in California. Flatley, director of domestic operations, said in the story: "We want to make sure they're aware of who we are and what we can bring to the table. We want to get out ahead of it." The company did not return a call seeking comment.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron Mc Lear said there was no meeting and that Seamus Flatley "is flat wrong."

Nevertheless, the proposed 824-acre Blackwater facility in San Diego is under intense scrutiny now, given the company's history in Iraq and Katrina. In San Diego, Blackwater would turn chicken coops into firing ranges, augmented with a tactical driving track, a ship simulator, a rescue safety training tower and a helipad, according to company documents filed with San Diego County.

Now, Rep. Bob Filner (D-San Diego) said he may introduce legislation to block the company from building the training camp in Potrero, about 45 miles east of San Diego. Filner said company officers did not contact him until after they met with county planners, and after the local planning group unanimously approved a preliminary proposal, the AP reported. "They're under investigation in a couple of different ways, and I just want to make sure that, if there's something they're doing wrong," Filner said, "we need to know about it before they go further on this project."

(Photos: John R. Mc Cutchen/San Diego Union-Tribune via AP; Khalid Mohammed/AP; Joon Powell/AP)

Apr 17, 2007 |

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Title A private army for California?
Publisher Los Angeles Times
Pub Date 2007-04-17
Media Link
Keywords Blackwater
Media Type Linked Article
Author Name Sortable
Topic revision: r1 - 02 Oct 2007, RaymondLutz
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