Oversight Hearing on Blackwater Panel I

Posted on by Jesse Lee

The Oversight Committee is currently holding a hearing, “Private Security Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The hearing will examine the mission and performance of private military contractor Blackwater USA in Iraq and Afghanistan. Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater, will testify as well as three State Department officials. The hearing will address three key questions: (1) Is Blackwater’s presence advancing or undermining U.S. efforts? (2) Has State Department responded appropriately to the shooting incidents involving Blackwater forces? (3) What are the costs to U.S. taxpayers for the reliance on Blackwater and other private military contractors?

Read previous Gavel coverage of Blackwater >>

Watch the hearing live via committee webcast or on C Span 3.

Chairman Henry Waxman gives opening remarks:

Chairman Waxman:
“Over the past 25 years a sophisticated campaign has been waged to privatize government services. The theory is that corporations can provide government services better, and at a lower cost, than the government. Over the last six years this theory has been put into practice, the result is that privatization has exploded, for every tax payer dollar spent on federal programs, over 40 cents now goes to private contractors. Our government now outsources even the oversight of the outsourcing.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney questions Prince about an employee who shot and killed a guard to the Iraqi Vice President while drunk:

Rep. Maloney:
“In America, if you’ve committed a crime, you don’t pack him up and ship him out of the country in two days. If you’re really concerned about accountability, which you testified in your testimony, you would have gone in and done a thorough investigation, and because the shooting took place within the Green Zone this was a controllable situation, you could have gone in and done forensic and all the things that they do but the response was to pack him up in have him leave the country within two days. And I’d like to ask you how do you justify sending him away from Iraq when any investigation would have only just begun?”

Chairman Waxman questions Prince on a largely unreported incident in which Blackwater pilots got American troops killed through recklessness:

Chairman Waxman:
“My time’s up, but the corporation hired a inexperienced pilots, you put them on a route they didn’t know about, they didn’t even follow your own rules. It seems to be that it’s more than pilot error, there ought to be corporate responsibility.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings questions Prince on Blackwater employees celebrating the blaming of US troops for the killing of the Iraqi Vice President’s guard:

Rep. Cummings:
“After this report aired, an official who works for you – and this is what really concerns me, I just want to know your reaction to this – sent an email, this is an employee of yours, an email internally to some of your colleagues. He did not suggest contacting the station I guess for the reason you just said, he didn’t suggest putting out a press release and he didn’t suggest correcting the false story in any way. Instead, this is what the email said, quote: ‘At least the ID of the shooter will take the heat off of us,’ meaning Blackwater. In other words, he was saying, ‘wow, every one thinks it was the military and not Blackwater, what great news for us, what a silver lining.’”

Rep. John Tierney questions Prince on the implications of his company’s actions for our military and the general effort in Iraq:

Rep. Tierney: “We’ve been discussing a little bit here about the goal of the venture here, and I think that General Petraeus has been pretty clear that he’d like to change it from the type of war it’s been to one where he wants to defeat insurgents, and that entails in significant part winning the hearts and minds. So I want to read you this quote: ‘Counterinsurgents that use excessive force to limit short-term risk alienate the local populace. They deprive themselves of the support or tolerance of the people. This situation is what insurgents want. It increases the threat they pose.’ Do you know who made that statement?”
Prince: “Do I know who made that statement? No, sir.”
Rep. Tierney: “That was General Petraeus…”
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