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Mystery man

"Mystery man" Continued...

Issue: "A mighty fortress is our sect," Oct. 20, 2007

Tyrrell told WORLD, "I can't say anything related to the Sept. 16 incident. I can't discuss it because it is being investigated by the FBI." She said Blackwater is "contractually prohibited, but not by our own choice" to keep operations in Iraq classified.

Some of those who've worked with Blackwater in Iraq-and benefited from its protection-have come to its defense. Pete McHugh, now with the Joint Forces Staff College in Virginia, is a Department of Transportation employee who spent more than a year in Iraq with Blackwater providing security for him and his staff of 18.

"I have firsthand insight into their professionalism," McHugh said. "They saved my guys from harm."

McHugh said: "Blackwater would not only do intelligence on the meeting site, but would protect us there, and while going and coming. They would send an advance team to check the route and the destination. There were places they wouldn't let us go."

U.S. military forces could take over such tasks, McHugh acknowledged. "The question is, do you want them to do that? The military is overqualified and has more than its plate full. Do you want the military providing primary security for a bunch of bureaucrats? I don't think so."

Of course, McHugh's experience, while instructive, does not prove or disprove whether Blackwater personnel involved in the Sept. 16 incident and others under question may have behaved badly, even illegally.

As for Prince himself, during his day of testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he seemed to grow bolder as the day went along. Asked at one point about Blackwater's revenue, he said that Blackwater was a "private company-and there's a key word there: private." And that's how Blackwater-and its U.S. contracting agencies-apparently want to keep it.

The causes of Erik Prince

  • Family Research Council Between July 2003 and July 2006, the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation gave at least $670,000 to the FRC. Erik Prince is vice president of the foundation.
  • Focus on the Family During the same time period, the foundation gave $531,000 to Focus on the Family.
  • Christian Freedom International Erik Prince and Paul Behrends, a former aide to Republican Rep. Dana Rohrbacher and now a Blackwater executive, are on the board of this organization that "helps Christians who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ."
  • Republican Party Made his first political contribution ($15,000) at age 19. Has contributed more than $200,000 to the party or to Republican candidates (from 1989 to the present).
  • Susan B. Anthony List Made a $3,500 contribution to this group that supports pro-life candidates.
  • Green Party of Luzerne County, Pa. Contributed $5,000 to fund a petition drive that allowed Green Party candidate Carl Romanelli to qualify for the 2006 U.S. Senate race. The Green Party candidacy was expected to help Republican Sen. Rick Santorum against Democrat Bob Casey. Santorum ultimately lost the race.

Sources: opensecrets.org, Philadelphia Inquirer, Holland (Mich.) Sentinel, Salon.com

Urban warfare

Private security contractors have a tough environment requiring smart rules for the road

By Mindy Belz

Teams of FBI investigators that arrived in Baghdad last week are beginning to comb through the evidence surrounding a Sept. 16 firefight in Nisoor Square that left 17 Iraqis dead and put under intense scrutiny the leading U.S. security firm in Iraq, Blackwater USA. While FBI agents are tasked with comparing and contrasting their own findings with those of Iraqi law enforcement, a State Department panel in Washington is reviewing the role of private security contractors in Iraq.

Timothy White, a 20-year FBI veteran who just returned from training Iraqi police and other law enforcement in Baghdad, told WORLD, "My own experience is that the Iraqis are quite capable of doing an investigation of Blackwater or anybody else."

Like other special agents before him, White spent three months on a volunteer assignment in Baghdad training officers in forensics, interrogation, and other investigative techniques. White's tour in Iraq is part of a little-noted program that began shortly after the U.S. invasion in 2003 using some of the world's best and most seasoned investigators to pass along tools of the trade to a new corps of Iraqi officers. The special agent told WORLD he concluded after the assignment, "Iraqi officers do exceptional work and provide fair and balanced assessments."

Blackwater often provided personal security details for White as he traveled from the Green Zone, and he noted that no one argues with the firm's success rate or the tough environment in which its guards operate: "This is urban warfare where weapons can appear on foot, in a vehicle, or at the corner. It's every single day. If you took away the private security, I think the military assets would be hard pressed to fill that gap."

While it remains unquestioned that U.S. diplomats and others in Iraq need personal security details, what's at issue in the Blackwater case is whether private security contractors can be more accountable, whether their tactics help or harm the overall war effort, and how to respect Iraqi sovereignty and the rights of civilians in the dangerous environment.

Iraqi police are central to the controversy over what actually happened in Nisoor Square. A police checkpoint operates in the busy intersection, one policeman was killed in the incident, and a major police outpost is just around the corner. Its officers arrived on the scene minutes after Blackwater's convoy sped away and began the initial assessment that led to an Iraqi government report released this month that charges Blackwater guards with the deaths of 17 Iraqis-all killed when the private security detail sprayed the traffic circle with heavy machine-gun fire.

The report calls for the ouster of Blackwater from Iraq, demands that the guards involved in the incident be handed over to face possible trial, and calls for the company to pay compensation to the families of victims of the shootings, totaling $136 million. In a sharp note that has become characteristic of the tone of this controversy, the report said the damages are set high "because Blackwater uses employees who disrespect the rights of Iraqi citizens even though they are guests in this country."

What has tipped Iraqi anger-both official and unofficial-is not only the death toll and disruption private security convoys in Baghdad have come to represent. It's also that their tactics run counter to the protocol put in place under Gen. David Petraeus this year and the emphasis on Iraqi sovereignty stressed by President Bush.

"The key to success in counterinsurgency is protecting the population," states the Army/Marine manual written at Petraeus' direction that forms the basis for the present troop surge and patrols. The field manual, published last year, directs U.S. forces "to make securing the civilian, rather than destroying the enemy, their top priority." Doing so, according to the Petraeus doctrine, is the only way to separate the insurgent "fish" from the civilian "sea."

Co-author of the new doctrine Lt. Col. John Nagl, commander of 1st Battalion, 34th Armor, put it this way earlier this year: "A stray tank round that kills a family could create dozens of insurgents for a generation," and he argues for use of force "with as much discrimination as is possible," especially at checkpoints.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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