The New York Times reports that Blackwater Worldwide (currently known as Xe, Inc.) responded to the increased scrutiny it received following the 2007 Nisour Square shootings by forming “a web of more than 30 shell companies” with the purpose of obtaining new contracts from the US government without the negative image its name carried. The revelation comes in the recently published record of a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing held on February 24. The hearing detailed numerous improprieties and incidents on the part of Blackwater and its subsidiaries.
Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) began the hearing by recounting a particularly egregious shooting incident involving a Blackwater front named Paravant:
In the fall of 2008, the company called Paravant entered into a subcontract with Raytheon to perform weapons training for the Afghan National Army (ANA). I emphasize the words weapons training. […] According to former Paravant Vice President Brian McCracken, who is with us here this morning, Paravant and Blackwater were “one and the same.” He said Paravant was created in 2008 to avoid the “baggage” associated with the Blackwater name.
On May 5, 2009, two men working for Paravant in Afghanistan fired their weapons killing two Afghan civilians. The commanding general for the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC–A), then-Major General Richard Formica, said that it appeared that the contractor personnel involved in the May 5, 2009, shooting had “violated alcohol consumption policies, were not authorized to possess weapons, violated use of force rules, and violated movement control policies.”
According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the May 5, 2009, shooting impacted “the national security interests of the United States.”
One media report said the shooting turned an entire neighborhood against U.S. presence and quoted a local elder saying, “If they keep killing civilians, I’m sure some Afghans will decide to become insurgents.”
Levin went on to describe an earlier incident that involved a Paravant training team which took place on 9 December 2008 at Camp Darulaman (nicknamed “Camp Dubs”). The trainers were apparently “conducting unauthorized activities with AK–47s” when the team leader got on board a moving vehicle while carrying a loaded AK–47 and rode it “like a stagecoach.” When the vehicle hit a bump the AK-47 discharged and hit another Paravant trainer, partially paralyzing him. A report of this incident was sent to a US Army contracting office. The report determined the incident was caused by the operation of equipment “improperly and without authority,” “improper technique,” failure to adhere to “policies/procedures/plans,” and the failure to follow safety training. For reasons unknown, the contracting office never responded to this report and was only made aware of it following an October 2009 meeting with Congressional staff. Levin concluded that the US Army’s failure to take “corrective action” following this first incident may allowed the May 2009 shooting to take place.
Also concerning to Levin was Blackwater/Paravant’s vetting of employees. One of the two trainers indicted for the May 2009 shooting, Christopher Drotleff, had a military record that “included assault, insubordinate conduct, absence without leave, larceny, and wrongful appropriation.” After being discharged from the military, he was convicted of “assault, battery, resisting arrest, and drunk driving.” The other man indicted for the shooting, Justin Cannon, was previously “discharged from the US military after he was absent without leave and tested positive for cocaine.” Another case makes it even clearer how inept Paravant’s vetting procedures were:
Back in September 2006, Blackwater fired another Paravant trainer, Sebastian Kucharski, and placed him on its own “do not use” list for an alcohol-fueled incident that ended in a fight with another contractor. Blackwater’s own computer records state do not hire this man, do not use Mr. Kucharski. Despite that, Mr. Kucharski was hired by Paravant in 2008 and worked for the company in Afghanistan until he was fired again in May 2009 for another altercation, this time with a military person.
To top it all off, the AK-47s that the Paravant trainers had were all stolen from a weapons and ammunition depot meant for the Afghan National Police (ANP). Hundreds of firearms, including over 500 AK-47s, were simply taken a US-run facility known as Bunker 22 by Blackwater without any authorization. A November 2009 letter from Central Command Commander David Petraeus plainly states, “There is no current or past policy, order, directive, or instruction that allows U.S. military contractors or subcontractors in Afghanistan to use weapons stored at [Bunker 22].” Blackwater’s own armorer and Afghanistan country manager were both directly involved in this unapproved acquisition.
The following is an excerpt from page 79 of the hearing which contains a list of shell companies used by Blackwater to obtain US contracts:
Mr. Roitz, of the following companies currently operating as subsidiaries of the Prince Group LLC or Xe Services LLC (formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide), please identify when Blackwater began conducting business under the name of each subsidiary and the date(s) on which any proposal was submitted for a government contract or subcontract under each name.
a. Apex Management Solutions LLC (10/21/05)
b. Aviation Worldwide Services LLC (11/16/00) and its subsidiaries (Air Quest Inc., (10/23/00), Presidential Airways Inc., (6/10/98), Guardian Flight Systems LLC (1/6/06) (now a subsidiary of X3), STI Aviation Inc.) (3/19/02)
c. Backup Training LLC (8/9/07)
d. Blackwater Proshop LLC (11/21/05) (6/2/06)
e. BWT Services LLC (6/2/06)
f. E & J Holdings LLC (1/1/97)
g. E & J Leasing LLC (9/25/98)
h. EP Aviation LLC (11/15/01)
i. EP Management Services LLC (11/16/06)
j. GSD Manufacturing LLC (10/16/00)
k. Pelagian Maritime LLC (2/2/07)
l. Raven Development Group LLC (9/3/04-cancelled 8/12/09)
m. Samurus Co. LTD (10/12/06) and its subsidiaries Greystone LTD (5/13/04), Greystone SRL (9/3/07), Salamis Aviation LLC (8/27/04), Al-Zulama Company) (5/2/06)
n. Total Intelligence Solutions (11/28/06)
o. Technical Defense, Inc. (11/29/00)
p. Terrorism Research Center, Inc. (1/30/97)
q. U.S. Training Center, Inc. (12/26/96) and its subsidiaries Blackwater West LLC (5/15/06), and Blackwater Security Consulting LLC) (1/22/02)
r. XPG LLC (5/28/08)