Triple Canopy gets the Iraq WPPS contract, ex-Blackwater

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Triple Canopy gets the Iraq WPPS contract, ex-Blackwater

Postby thewalrus » Thu Apr 02, 2009 2:02 pm

By Jeremy Scahill

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama's advisers said he "can't rule out [and] won't rule out" using mercenary forces, like Blackwater. Now, it appears that the Obama administration has decided on its hired guns of choice: Triple Canopy, a Chicago company now based in Virginia. It may not have Blackwater's thuggish reputation, but Triple Canopy has its own bloody history in Iraq and a record of hiring mercenaries from countries with atrocious human rights records. What's more, Obama is not just using the company in Iraq, but also as a U.S.-government funded private security force in Israel/Palestine, operating out of Jerusalem.

Beginning May 7th, Triple Canopy will officially take over Xe/Blackwater's mega-contract with the U.S. State Department for guarding occupation officials in Iraq. It's sure to be a lucrative deal: Obama's Iraq plan will inevitably rely on an increased use of private contractors, including an army of mercenaries to protect his surge of diplomats operating out of the monstrous U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

The Iraq contract may come as no surprise. But according to federal contract records obtained by AlterNet, the Obama administration has also paid Triple Canopy millions of dollars to provide "security services" in Israel. In February and March, the Obama administration awarded a "delivery order" to Triple Canopy worth $5.5 million under State Department contract SAQMPD05F5528, which is labeled "PROTECTIVE SERVICES--ISRAEL." According to one government document, the contract is scheduled to run until September 2012. (Another document says September 2009.) The contract is classified as "SECURITY GUARDS AND PATROL SERVICES" in Israel. The total value of the contract was listed at $41,556,969.72. According to a January 2009 State Department document obtained by AlterNet labeled "Sensitive But Unclassified," the Triple Canopy contract is based out of Jerusalem.

According to federal records, the original arrangement with Triple Canopy in Israel appears to date back to at least September 2005 and has been renewed every year since. The company is operating under the State Department's Worldwide Personal Protection Program (WPPS), which provides for private security/military companies to operate on the U.S. government payroll in countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, and Israel. Triple Canopy, according to an internal State Department report, also worked under the program in Haiti, though that task order is now listed as "closed." In State Department documents the WPPS program is described as a government initiative to protect U.S. officials as well as "certain foreign government high level officials whenever the need arises." The State Department spent some $2 billion on the WPPS program from 2005-2008.

Triple Canopy's Growing Footprint in Iraq

Triple Canopy is hardly new to the Iraq occupation. Founded in Chicago in 2003 by "U.S. Army Special Forces veterans," the company won its first Iraq contract in 2004. In 2005, with its business expanding, Triple Canopy relocated its corporate headquarters from Obama's home state to Herndon, Virginia, placing it much closer to the center of U.S. war contracting. (On several U.S. government contracts, however, including the Israel security contracts, its Lincolnshire, Illinois address is still used.)

Along with Blackwater and DynCorp, Triple Canopy has had armed operatives deployed in Iraq on a major U.S. government contract since the early stages of the occupation. At one point during this arrangement, Blackwater was responsible for Baghdad (the largest share of the work), DynCorp covered northern Iraq and Triple Canopy southern Iraq. Triple Canopy also worked for KBR and other corporations. As of 2007, Triple Canopy had about 2,000 operatives in Iraq, but only 257 on the State Department contract. However, its new contract, which takes effect May 7, will greatly expand Triple Canopy's government presence in Iraq. (Meanwhile, Blackwater is scheduled to continue to work in Iraq under Obama through its aviation division and in Afghanistan, where it has security and counter-narcotics contracts. It also holds millions of dollars in other U.S. government contracts around the world and in the U.S. In February alone, the Obama administration paid Blackwater nearly $70 million in security contracts.) The Obama administration may have traded Blackwater for Triple Canopy in Iraq, but it is likely that some of Blackwater's operatives, too, will simply jump over to Triple Canopy to keep working as armed security guards for occupation officials.

Like Blackwater, Triple Canopy has had its share of bloody incidents, among them allegations that operatives have gone on missions where they shot at civilian vehicles, including one after a briefing where a team leader cocked his M-4 and said to his men, "I want to kill somebody today. ... Because I'm going on vacation tomorrow." (The man in question denied any wrongdoing). While Triple Canopy fired some employees for not reporting shooting incidents in Iraq, none have been criminally prosecuted in Iraq or the U.S. (For a full report on this and other incidents involving Triple Canopy, check out the great work of Washington Post foreign correspondent Steve Fainaru, author of Big Boy Rules.)

Also like Blackwater, Triple Canopy has hired mercenaries from countries with atrocious human rights records and histories of violent counter-insurgencies. Among them: Peru, Chile, Colombia and El Salvador. In fact, in Iraq, Triple Canopy hired far more "Third Country Nationals" than Blackwater and DynCorp and has used more TCNs than US citizens or Iraqis. As I reported in my book, Triple Canopy used the same Chilean recruiter (who served in Augusto Pinochet's military) Blackwater used when it hired Chilean forces, including some "seasoned veterans" of the Pinochet era. In El Salvador, the company reportedly used "a U.S.-trained former paratrooper and officer of the Salvadoran special forces during the country's civil war" where the U.S. backed a brutal right wing dictatorship in a war that took the lives of some 75,000 Salvadorans. A Triple Canopy spokesperson reportedly said of the Salvadorans, "They've got the right background for the type of work we are doing." A Triple Canopy subsidiary in Latin America has also reportedly used a former CIA base in Lepaterique, Honduras as a training center. In the 1980s, the facility was used by the CIA and Argentinian military intelligence in training Contra death squads to attack Nicaragua. The base also served as the headquarters for the notorious Battalion 316, a CIA-trained Honduran military unit responsible for torture and disappearances.

There is also cause for concern about Triple Canopy's attitude towards accountability for its forces in Iraq, particularly in light of new rules which, on paper, give Iraqi courts jurisdiction over contractor crimes. Blackwater has, at times, conspired with the U.S. State Department to whisk its forces out of Iraq when they are facing potential prosecution for alleged crimes committed in the country, as in the case of a drunken Blackwater operative who was alleged to have shot and killed a bodyguard to Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdel-Mahdi on Christmas Eve 2006.

According to one Triple Canopy operative, "We were always told, from the very beginning, if for some reason something happened and the Iraqis were trying to prosecute us, they would put you in the back of a car and sneak you out of the country in the middle of the night." Another Triple Canopy operative said U.S. contractors had their own motto: "What happens here today, stays here today."
The use of mercenaries by Hillary Clinton's State Department stands in stark contrast to her co-sponsorship as a Senator of a bill last year that sought to ban the use of such companies in U.S. war zones, specifically Iraq. Last February Clinton said, "The time to show these contractors the door is long past due." Now, Clinton will be relying on these hired guns for protecting her and her staff in various countries.

It's hardly a surprise that Obama is continuing the use of mercenaries in Iraq and beyond (Triple Canopy itself maintains offices in Abu Dhabi, Nigeria, Peru, Jordan and Uganda); nevertheless, members of Congress -- whose actions when Bush deployed these private armies were too little, too late -- have a responsibility to investigate his use of companies whose profits are intimately linked to a continuation of war. Moreover, Obama's choice of this particular company should be investigated, both by the House and Senate, before May 7th when Obama's mercenaries become the official paramilitary force in Iraq. As for Triple Canopy's role in Israel, Obama's administration should explain exactly what these forces are doing on the U.S. government payroll.




See more stories tagged with: cnn, barack obama, blackwater, mercenaries, kbr, state department, dyncorp, xe, triple canopy, worldwide personal protec, steve fainaru, big boy rules, private military firms

Jeremy Scahill, an independent journalist who reports frequently for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!, has spent extensive time reporting from Iraq and Yugoslavia. He is currently a Puffin Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute. Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army
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Re: Triple Canopy gets the Iraq WPPS contract, ex-Blackwater

Postby JohnnyFishfinger » Thu Apr 02, 2009 2:28 pm

wasn't triple canopy going bankrupt at some point?
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Re: Triple Canopy gets the Iraq WPPS contract, ex-Blackwater

Postby coldharvest » Thu Apr 02, 2009 5:20 pm

By Jeremy Scahill

......and that's when I stopped reading.
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Re: Triple Canopy gets the Iraq WPPS contract, ex-Blackwater

Postby JohnnyFishfinger » Thu Apr 02, 2009 5:24 pm

coldharvest wrote:
By Jeremy Scahill

......and that's when I stopped reading.


the second time I read this thread I was like why did I continue the first time, after I reading the name Jeremy Scahill.
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Re: Triple Canopy gets the Iraq WPPS contract, ex-Blackwater

Postby matt5058 » Fri Apr 03, 2009 6:43 am

What's the dealio with Scahill?
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Re: Triple Canopy gets the Iraq WPPS contract, ex-Blackwater

Postby coldharvest » Fri Apr 03, 2009 7:32 am

matt5058 wrote:What's the dealio with Scahill?

He's a vile betrayer and chronic butt-fingerer.
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Re: Triple Canopy gets the Iraq WPPS contract, ex-Blackwater

Postby thewalrus » Fri Apr 03, 2009 7:53 am

the main thing scahill forgot to mention (aside from his great degree of slant) is that only Dyncorp, Triple Canopy and BW are even ELIGIBLE to bid on WPPS task orders. Dyn and TC had to prequality their training methods, logistics/inventory control systems and other methodology through the DoS in advance...
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Re: Triple Canopy gets the Iraq WPPS contract, ex-Blackwater

Postby jrb09 » Sat Apr 04, 2009 2:04 am

why didn't DC get it anyway, guess TC was just cheaper, eh?
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Re: Triple Canopy gets the Iraq WPPS contract, ex-Blackwater

Postby Jumper » Sat Apr 04, 2009 5:42 am

Jeremy Assfill is at it again. Maybe he should write his next non-book on Triple Canopy? He could have some Pakistani ghost write it for him this time, to save a little money.

As for the Israel gig, TC has been doing that one for awhile. The static gig just came up, but not the other stuff.
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Re: Triple Canopy gets the Iraq WPPS contract, ex-Blackwater

Postby RYP » Sat Apr 04, 2009 7:00 am

I love the hot button terminology, total lack of understanding of his subject matter and complete lack of factual perspective. But it sells books.

Ex-Blackwater Workers May Return to Iraq Jobs
Gervasio Sanchez/Associated Press

Private security guards working for Blackwater Worldwide participated in a firefight in the Iraqi city of Najaf in 2004.

By ROD NORDLAND
Published: April 3, 2009

BAGHDAD — Late last month Blackwater Worldwide lost its billion-dollar contract to protect American diplomats here, but by next month many if not most of its private security guards will be back on the job in Iraq.
Skip to next paragraph
Related
Times Topics: Blackwater Worldwide

The same individuals will just be wearing new uniforms, working for Triple Canopy, the firm that won the State Department’s contract after Iraqi officials refused to renew Blackwater’s operating license, according to American diplomats, private security industry officials and Iraqi officials. Blackwater — viewed in Iraq as a symbol of American violence and impunity — lost the contract after being accused of excessive force in several instances, particularly an apparently unprovoked shooting in downtown Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed.

Despite the torrent of public criticism against Blackwater, American officials say they are relieved that the old guards will stay on. Otherwise, Triple Canopy, they say, would not be able to field enough qualified guards, with the proper security clearances, before the new contract goes into effect in May.

“There is just no other way to do it,” said one Western diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is not permitted to discuss the issue publicly.

Critics of Blackwater said they worried that the same people might perpetuate what they believed was a corporate culture that disregarded Iraqis’ lives.

“They’re really all still there, and it’s back to business as usual,” said Susan Burke, an American lawyer who has filed three civil rights lawsuits against Blackwater on behalf of Iraqi civilians alleged to be victims of it.

An unresolved question is whether Blackwater, recently renamed Xe (pronounced zee), or any affiliated company will profit from the deal. Speculation inside the industry and the Iraqi government has focused on whether Triple Canopy might hire as a subcontractor a company called the Falcon Group, identified in a lawsuit brought by Ms. Burke as a Blackwater affiliate.

A Blackwater spokeswoman, Anne Tyrell, said that Blackwater had no relationship with Falcon Group, whose Web site describes it as an Iraqi-owned company with interests in security and reconstruction. “The people who provide security services abroad are independent contractors,” Ms. Tyrell said. “When their 60- to 90-day contracts with us expire, they can seek employment with whomever they choose.”

A Triple Canopy spokesman, Jayanti Menches, declined to respond to the subcontractor issue. “We will staff this contract with qualified, vetted and trained personnel,” Ms. Menches said.

The Western diplomat said that even if most of the bodyguards remained Blackwater veterans, there would be dramatic changes in their rules of engagement. One former Marine Corps colonel who worked closely with Blackwater summed up the previous rules: “No compassion for the locals who had to use the roads with the Blackwater vehicles or convoys, shoot if in doubt and keep driving, etc.”

The new rules of engagement, the diplomat said, would require staff members to behave less aggressively. They had already started to take effect, he added, with Blackwater escorts ordered to negotiate traffic courteously.

After Iraq refused to renew Blackwater’s contract, the State Department awarded it to Triple Canopy, one of two other firms, including DynCorp, already doing some State Department security contracting in Iraq. The five-year State Department contract, awarded March 31, is worth $977 million and goes into effect May 7. That amount represents a large proportion of Blackwater’s previous worldwide business.

American officials said replacing Blackwater from scratch in just over a month would be difficult. The firm maintains a force of 600 armed men based in Baghdad’s Green Zone to protect embassy and other United States government civilian employees. Their work requires security clearances when they accompany diplomats on sensitive missions, involving lengthy background checks. It is particularly difficult for non-Americans to get such clearances.

Blackwater also maintains a quick reaction force, and has a civilian air wing with helicopters, surveillance drones and other aircraft. The contract for their air operations remains in force, expiring in September.

Although Triple Canopy is an American company, most of its Iraq-based employees are former members of the military from countries with low wage scales, like Peru and El Salvador, with a much lower level of training or expertise than Western employees, and little likelihood of getting security clearances.

Many American diplomats have defended Blackwater. At least six American State Department employees have been killed since the occupation of Iraq, and Ms. Tyrell said that 27 Blackwater personnel members were killed defending their charges. “A certain number of our people are here today because Blackwater guards have been killed protecting them,” said an official familiar with security arrangements for American diplomats, who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

The Iraqis now seem prepared to accept the prospect that many or even most of the former Blackwater employees will remain on the job as Triple Canopy employees. “It doesn’t matter who they are, what their names are, or what uniform they wear,” said Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry, “as long as they are subject to Iraqi law and their company follows Iraqi laws.”

Tareq Maher contributed reporting.
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Re: Triple Canopy gets the Iraq WPPS contract, ex-Blackwater

Postby Jumper » Sun Apr 05, 2009 1:10 am

Do journalists even care to do their research anymore, or ask those of us in the industry for clarification. Because that story you posted Pelton was pathetic. Guys in this industry have worked for multiple companies at this stage of the war, and it is pretty stupid to say that the rollovers from Blackwater are somehow tainted or evil. Or that those guys have only worked for Blackwater and they somehow show allegiance to the Blackwater way. pffft. Guys go where the money and opportunity is, regardless of what company, and if you stay in this business long enough, you end up working for most of the top companies at least once. I have worked for six companies over the last 4 1/2 years. Hell, sometimes you work for the same company a multitude of times. And with the WPPS program, the training is all to the same State Dept. standard. So of course guys are going to be able to jump back and forth to whomever is hiring or paying the most.
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Re: Triple Canopy gets the Iraq WPPS contract, ex-Blackwater

Postby RYP » Sun Apr 05, 2009 2:35 am

Jumper we don't ask you for clarification on anything.....if want obsfucation we will ring you up. Scahill couldn't accurately describe a phone book without pointing out it was a conspiracy
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Re: Triple Canopy gets the Iraq WPPS contract, ex-Blackwater

Postby Bouncer » Sun Apr 05, 2009 8:54 am

jrb09 wrote:why didn't DC get it anyway, guess TC was just cheaper, eh?


Probably because TC has the logistics support on ground already since they provide the BESF static guard force (approx 2K Peruvians in and around the Embassy). For them it's a matter of hiring on all the PSD guys who want to stay and putting in a sat network and some pc's at the wpps mancamp and they're more or less done.


Nobody is talking about it yet, but I'm more curious and concerned about what happens to Presidential Airways, the BW owned subsidiary that provides DoS air transport of people and cargo all over Iraq. They have like the third largest airforce in the country and are very busy doing missions for DoD, DoS, DHS, etc etc. If they depart that creates huge logistical and transport issues for multiple agencies. They also provide armed overwatch and air ambulance transport for convoys, and that is a capability that has saved lives.

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Re: Triple Canopy gets the Iraq WPPS contract, ex-Blackwater

Postby Bouncer » Sun Apr 05, 2009 8:55 am

coldharvest wrote:
By Jeremy Scahill

......and that's when I stopped reading.


I admit I read the first para, snorted, read the byline and stopped.

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Re: Triple Canopy gets the Iraq WPPS contract, ex-Blackwater

Postby Bouncer » Sun Apr 05, 2009 9:09 am

Jumper wrote:Do journalists even care to do their research anymore, or ask those of us in the industry for clarification. Because that story you posted Pelton was pathetic. Guys in this industry have worked for multiple companies at this stage of the war, and it is pretty stupid to say that the rollovers from Blackwater are somehow tainted or evil. Or that those guys have only worked for Blackwater and they somehow show allegiance to the Blackwater way. pffft. Guys go where the money and opportunity is, regardless of what company, and if you stay in this business long enough, you end up working for most of the top companies at least once. I have worked for six companies over the last 4 1/2 years. Hell, sometimes you work for the same company a multitude of times. And with the WPPS program, the training is all to the same State Dept. standard. So of course guys are going to be able to jump back and forth to whomever is hiring or paying the most.


The Iraqis now seem prepared to accept the prospect that many or even most of the former Blackwater employees will remain on the job as Triple Canopy employees. “It doesn’t matter who they are, what their names are, or what uniform they wear,” said Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry, “as long as they are subject to Iraqi law and their company follows Iraqi laws.”


The perception here on the ground is that, with a few exceptions, the Iraqis really *don't* have a problem with the WPPS operational and logistics personnel. Their issue is with the company itself, plus the on-the-ground management, who, let's face it, whisked that idiot out of here after he drunkenly shot a VP guard on XMAS 06', failed to pay the guards family the agreed on amount, and did everything they could to cover up the problems of September 07'. BW has to go, and their PMs, DPMs etc have to go. The non-management types can stay. That seems to be the message most folks here are getting.

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