Blackwater: Shadow Army - Martial Law PlansWed Mar 21, 2007 23:32
Blackwater: Shadow Army 04:25
The Nation's Jeremy Scahill describes the rise of Blackwater
USA, the world's most powerful mercenary army.
Jeremy Scahill, a correspondent for the national radio and TV
program Democracy Now!, and Daniela Crespo are in New
Orleans. Visit http://www.democracynow.org for in-depth,
independent, investigative reporting on Blackwater: Shadow Army
Martial Law Plans
bigbro says: Okay, kids....follow the bouncing ball on how Martial Law Plans are being set down for your safe imprisonment by either federally controlled local National Guard units or federally funded mercenary teams like Blackwater.........all via the John Warner Bill.....bb
According to a press release from the office of Senator Patrick Leahy, however, the bill takes a “sizable step toward weakening states’ authority over their [National] Guard units, according to the congressional leaders who are leading the fight for Guard empowerment.” Leahey and senator Kit Bond, a Montana Republican, “said the conference agreement is expected to include a provision making it easier for the President to declare martial law, stripping state governors of part of their authority over state National Guard units in domestic emergencies. The provision is opposed by the National Governors Association and by key leaders in both the House and Senate.”
Operation Falcon is the clearest indication yet that the Bush administration is fine-tuning its shock-troops so it can roll up tens of thousands of people at a moment’s notice and toss them into the newly-built Halliburton detention centers. This should be a red flag for anyone who cares at all about human rights, civil liberties, or simply saving his own skin
Operation Falcon was allegedly the brainchild of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his counterpart in the US Marshal’s office, (Director) Ben Reyna. But its roots go much deeper into the nexus of right-wing Washington think tanks where fantasies of autocratic government have a long history. The name, Falcon, is an acronym for “Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally.” It relates to the more than 960 state, local and federal agencies which are directly involved in the administration’s expansive criminal dragnets.
On Oct. 17, President Bush signed the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007.
The act grants the military the authority to seek from Congress $462.8 billion. In addition, Senate and House conferees added another $70 billion in supplemental defense spending bringing the overall total of the act to an unprecedented $532.8 billion. The supplemental funding provides billions of dollars to help “reset” Army and Marine Corps equipment, which is wearing out faster than planned because of the war in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq.
A highly controversial and little-known aspect of the act “contains a widely opposed provision to allow the president more control over the National Guard [by adopting] changes to the Insurrection Act, which will make it easier for this or any future president to use the military to restore order without the consent of the nation’s governors,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Ver.) said.
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 its 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 http://www.democracynow.org for in-depth, independent, investigative reporting on
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