Blackwater Well-Positioned to Stymie Official Inquiries, Regulation

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Blackwater doesn’t just operate in a legal black hole in Iraq. The private-security firm has grown expert in protecting itself from oversight and regulation in Washington as well.

Over at POGO, Nick Schwellenbach connects Blackwater to House oversight committee chairman Henry Waxman’s investigation of Howard Krongard, the State Department inspector general whom Waxman alleges stifled numerous corruption probes in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of those probes involved an alleged Blackwater scheme to funnel weapons into Iraq, and, Schwellenbach notes, it wouldn’t be so difficult for Blackwater to know how to get around an IG probe. Its parent company, the Prince Group, recently hired the Pentagon’s ex-IG, Joseph Schmitz.

Indeed, all throughout Blackwater are ways to get around government oversight: Cofer Black, the company’s vice chairman, used to work at the CIA with A.B. “Buzzy” Krongard, formerly CIA’s executive director. And, yes, you read that last name correctly: Krongard of CIA is the brother of the current State Department IG. Think Schmitz or Black knew which numbers to call in the event of a State inquiry into the company?

That’s not all.Roll Call reports (sub. req.) that Blackwater and its private-security colleagues are investing heavily in lobbyists to prevent Congress from passing legislation regulating their war-zone activities.

“It’s a little bit frustrating because there are 15 different committees that have jurisdiction over what our industry does,” said Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association, whose members include Blackwater and DynCorp. “We are pulled in all these different directions.”

The private-security industry is lining up behind a bill by Rep. David Price (D-NC) to put their firms under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, thereby creating a more coherent legal framework for their operations. Apparently it wouldn’t be such an onerous one. Here’s how Blackwater lobbyist Alan Chvotkin described competing legislation backed by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), which would “would require more transparency in the contracts”:

“Our disagreements with Mrs. Schakowsky are over the amount of detail that she would like to see reported, versus our view of what’s useful information to policy makers,” Chvotkin said. “She wants compensation levels and hours worked, those kinds of things will change with every shift, every day, and in our view it doesn’t help a policy maker to know that.”

Lobbyists for private-security companies describe regulating Blackwater and its ilk as having “life or death consequences” in places like Iraq. Somehow, though, they may not have to worry.