In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Editor's note: In 2007, the private intelligence gathering firm Aegis, founded by a former British officer whose military service included quelling a rebellion in Papua New Guinea, found its $293 million security contract awarded in 2004 was up for renewal. The new contract would be worth $475 million and would include 1,000 security officers to protect the Army Corps of Engineers conducting infrastructure projects — the largest for private security in Iraq. The following excerpt is about that congressional debate.

The following is an excerpt from INVISIBLE SOLDIERS by Ann Hagedorn. Copyright © 2014 by Ann Hagedorn. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

In the spring of 2007, as the deadline for the contract renewal was drawing near, seven U.S. senators, all Democrats, had signed on as Aegis critics: Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Charles Schumer, Chris Dodd, Ted Kennedy, Russ Feingold, and Barack Obama. ..(..).. [T]he watchdogs of Congress and the Pentagon were beginning to claim that the probes, audits, studies, and reports were accomplishing little toward addressing the impact of the growing numbers of “mercenaries” working for America. No one was taking a stand, stressed Jeremy Scahill, a journalist who at the time was writing a book about Blackwater. Both Republicans and Democrats, with a few exceptions, were “selling out,” he wrote. Even shutting down the wars would not stop the PMSCs, he observed. “Until Congress reins in these massive corporate forces and the whopping federal funding that goes into their coffers, partially withdrawing U.S. troops may only set the stage for the increased use of private military companies (and their rent-a-guns) which stand to profit from any kind of privatized future ‘surge’ in Iraq. . . . It’s making them unstoppable, if they are not already.”

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Rick Perry's special prosecutor is going to have a hard time taking him down.

The Texas governor was indicted by a grand jury Friday on one count of abuse of power by intentionally misusing government property to harm someone, and one count of coercion of a public servant. He insists he's innocent and calls the indictment a politically-motivated "farce" that's likelier to occur in the "old Soviet Union" than the United States.

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Remember when Republicans wanted to woo Latino voters?

It seems like an eternity ago.

Far from taking party elders' advice last year to warm up to comprehensive immigration reform, Republican presidential hopefuls are moving in the opposite direction, already competing over who would be more aggressive at cracking down on illegal immigration.

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Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson proposed legislation on Thursday aimed at demilitarizing domestic police forces, amid national criticism of heavily armed cops going after protesters in Ferguson, Mo.

"Our main streets should be a place for business, families, and relaxation, not tanks and M16s," the Democratic congressman wrote in a "Dear Colleague" letter to members of Congress. "Unfortunately ... our local police are quickly beginning to resemble paramilitary forces."

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The images coming out of Ferguson, Mo., in the last few days have been harrowing, and one element in particular has shocked those watching the events unfold. American law enforcement decked out in military fatigues, patrolling the streets in armored vehicles that look like they were plucked out of Afghanistan or Iraq.

And the thing is, they very well might have been. The Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments have both received equipment from the U.S. military through what's known as the 1033 program, a federal program that the American Civil Liberties Union says has been a key catalyst to the broader escalation of law enforcement force in the United States.

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It was one of Barack Obama's signature promises during the 2008 campaign: he would fight the notorious influence of special interests by imposing strict rules against lobbyists in the federal government on his watch.

One day after becoming president, he signed his "revolving door ban" in an executive order prohibiting anyone in his administration from working on issues, or in agencies, they might have lobbied in the previous two years.

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As war between Israelis and Palestinians raged in Gaza again in recent weeks, President Barack Obama signed a bill to provide another $225 million to Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. But what if the U.S. government is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a system that isn't nearly as effective as it is claimed to be?

It seems unthinkable by the official record. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest praised the system by saying it has "saved countless Israeli lives." Time magazine wrote in 2012, a year after the system's premiere, that Iron Dome was the "most-effective, most-tested missile shield the world has ever seen."

The federal government has so far given its closest Mideast ally about $700 million to develop the system, the Defense Department told TPM, and the Israeli military says Iron Dome — which fires missiles to take down incoming rockets heading into Israeli population centers — has a success rate of about 85 percent.

But independent research by an MIT professor who specializes in ballistics has called that official figure into question. In fact, according to the analysis by Ted Postol, the Iron Dome system might actually disarm as little as 5 percent of the rockets it attempts to intercept. The number could be higher, depending on a number of variables, but the bottom line argument is that the system is not nearly as successful in stopping rockets being fired into Israel as official sources suggest.

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