Grayson: Even If Blackwater Saved Me From Coup, I Stand By Criticism Of Contractors

February 24, 2010 9:15 am

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), who found himself caught in a coup in Niger last week, was flown out of the country on an aircraft that may have been operated by a Blackwater subsidiary, Mother Jones reported today.

But in a statement to TPMmuckraker, Grayson’s spokesman says the congressman — who has been a fiery critic of the privatization of American foreign policy — still believes the use of profit-driven contractors can be deeply problematic.“The Congressman does not deny that there is admirable work being done by some employees of private contractors,” said Todd Jurkowski. “However, he stands by his criticism of companies who have been found to cheat the American people, defraud our government, and unnecessarily risk the lives of members of our military, all in the name of making a profit.”

As for whether Blackwater was involved in flying Grayson from Niger to neighboring Burkina Faso, Jurkowski said: “The flight was arranged through the State Department. The Congressman did not know, and frankly did not care, who owned the plane.” (See update below.)

Grayson was traveling in Niger as part of a science and technology-focused congressional delegation. He heard gunshots in a building next door on the day military leaders stormed the nation’s presidential palace and suspended its constitution.

He was taken to the U.S. embassy and put under guard — it’s not clear by whom — and then flown to Brukina Faso, according to CNN.

Mother Jones reported that a Blackwater executive testifying before Congress today said, in an apparent reference to Grayson: “Xe Services, through its subsidiary Presidential Airways, provides aviation support and medevac services to Defense Department personnel in Africa. Just last week, our personnel evacuated a congressman from Niger during civil unrest.”

Late Update: Grayson’s spokesman tells us that the State Department confirmed the flight out of Niger was on a Xe aircraft — a helicopter.

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