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by Eddie London, staff writer

 
Some private security companies, including Blackwater, are under federal contract, while others have been hired independently by wealthy individuals, such as F. Patrick Quinn III. Quinn brought in private security to protect his $3 million private estate and his luxury hotels, which are under consideration for a lucrative federal contract to house FEMA workers. Illinois Senator Barack Obama has expressed his concerns saying, “It strikes me…that that may not be the best use of money,” in regards to private security companies. Illinois Democrat, Senator Richard Durbin told National Public Radio that “I am worried because we hear about no-bid contracts in the Katrina areas going to the same companies that they went to in Iraq without the kind of accountability that we have to demand.” Ratner told Scahill that, “These private security forces have behaved brutally, with impunity, in Iraq. To have them now on the streets of New Orleans is frightening and possibly illegal.”
Within two weeks of the hurricane, the number of private security companies registered in Louisiana jumped from 185 to 235. Mercenaries from companies similar to Blackwater USA, American Security Group, Wackenhut, Securitas Security Services, Intercon, DynCorp, and an Israeli company called Instinctive Shooting International (ISI) swarmed to New Orleans to guard private businesses, homes, and government projects and institutions.

Armed conflict has already occurred between Quinn’s hired security and New Orleans residents. Scahill allows Quinn’s security chief, Michael Montgomery, who owns a private security company called Bodyguard and Tactical Security (BATS) to tell his own story of the incident. On Montgomery’s second night in New Orleans he was with a heavily armed security detail en route to pick up one of Quinn’s associates and to escort him through the city. Montgomery told Scahill that they came under fire from “gang bangers” on an overpass near the Ninth Ward neighborhood, an economically depressed area. Montgomery and his team armed with AR-15 assault rifles and Glock nines unleashed a barrage of bullets in the general direction of the shooters on the overpass.
Montgomery commented, “After that, all I heard was moaning and screaming, and the shooting stopped. That was it. Enough said.” Soon after the incident, the U.S. Army showed up, “yelling at us and thinking we were the enemy. We explained to them that we were security. I told them what had happened and they didn’t even care. They just left,” said Montgomery. Five minutes later, Louisiana state troopers arrived on the scene, inquired about the incident, and then asked Montgomery for direction on “how they could get out of the city.”

Jeremy Scahill also interviewed two Israelis who were working for a wealthy New Orleans businessman, James Reiss, who serves in Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration as chairman of the city’s Regional Transit Authority. The two men were guarding the elite gated community of Audubon Place, just a few miles from the French Quarter. The two men worked for ISI, were dressed in black, and armed with M-16s. They had served as professional soldiers in the Israeli military, and one boasted participation in the invasion of Lebanon. “We have been fighting the Palestinians all day, every day, our whole lives,” one of the men told Scahill. “Here in New Orleans, we are not guarding from terrorists.” Then, tapping on his machine gun, he says, “Most Americans, when they see this thing, that’s enough to scare them.”

Instinctive Shooting International (ISI) is virtually the Israeli version of Blakckwater USA. The company was formed in 1993, and Web site proclaims “up-to-date services meet the challenging needs for Homeland Security preparedness and overseas combat procedures and readiness.” ISI is currently a U.S. government approved vendor to supply Homeland Security Services, Scahill reported.

Why does the United States need foreign and domestic private security companies to secure the streets of New Orleans when there are so many Federal troops present? One explanation lies in government relations with the people hiring these private security companies, Scahill wrote. But the government of Louisiana had to formally suspend the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which does not allow the deployment of military or U.S. federal troops on U.S. soil, before federal troops could go in to help. The Act was originally introduced to prevent federal troops from supervising elections in former Confederate states. The formal suspension took several days, during which private security companies were hired for protection.

Unlike ISI or BATE, Blackwater is operating under a federal contract to provide 164 armed guards for F.E.M.A. reconstruction projects in Lousisiana. That contract was announced just days after Homeland Security Department spokesperson Russ Knocke told the Washington Post he knew of no federal plans to hire Blackwater or other private security firms. “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. Before that contract was announced, Blackwater told Scahill that they were already on contract with the DHS, and that they were sleeping in camps organized by the federal agency.
Blackwater USA’s parent company is The Prince Group. Scahill reported that according to election records, Blackwater’s CEO and co-founder, billionaire Erik Prince, has given tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans, including more than $80,000 to the Republican National Committee the month before Bush’s victory in 2000. Prince, in addition, handed out money to House majority leader Tom Delay and a number of other Republican candidates, including Bush/Cheney in 2004. “As a young man, Prince interned with President George H.W. Bush,” reported Scahill.

In February 2005, Blackwater USA hired, as vice chairman, former Ambassador Cofer Black, former coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department and former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. “Just as the hurricane was hitting... the Prince Group, named Joseph Schmitz, who had just resigned as the Pentagon’s inspector general, as the group’s chief operating officer and general counsel,” reported Scahill.

As chaotic incidences are rapidly spreading around the globe, private interests are “taking care of business” in their own manner, Sachill said by hiring professional guns. The U.S. government deployed its own forces and methods of control as well. Here in Hawai‘i we may face similar threats during such events as hurricanes, landslides, and tsunamis. The same companies that are privately securing New Orleans, including Wackenhut and Securitas Security Services, are already patrolling downtown’s Fort Street Mall and Waikiki’s hotels. If history is any indication of what is to come, then Hawai‘i may call upon these forces in an anarchic situation.

 

 

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