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House Oversight: Blackwater Liveblog Four

waxman.jpgSarbanes: if firing is the only deterrent in terms of people working at high level, They only face firing.

Prince: we get their security pulled. They’ll never work in security again.

Sarbanes: not same deterrent as set of consequences.

Someone (Burton?) interrupts. Waxman, says, You read a blasphemous statement about Democrats.

Prince: we welcome that level of accountability.

Sarbanes: I’d like to leave aside the question of whether you should be in this space. You’re saying you’d be happy to this person who committed a homicide prosecuted. I’d like to encourage you to be an advocate. You indicated that UCMJ didn’t reach as far as they could. I’d like you to speak to whether it extends as far as it should.

Prince: I believe Price has been trying to change this language.

Welch: Going over growth of contracts.

Prince: Some of the later years of that report aren’t quite accurate.

Welch: According to the report 50% were non-competitive contracts. Since war began, your contracts have exceeded $1 billion.

Prince: there’s stuff in the Committee’s report that’s not entirely accurate.

Welch: Blackwater benefits from taxpayer-financed training of military personnel.

Prince; blah blah blah.

Welch: Contracts have surged since the war began.

Prince: Nature of security has changed since that time.

Welch: Donations to Republicans. Petraeus, paid $180,000 for serving in Iraq. Blackwater 860 personnel in Iraq. Petraeus paid $180,000. How much were you paid?

Prince: I’ll get back to you.

Welch: An estimate?

Prince: More than a million dollars.

Welch: you said that more than 90% of your contracts come from the govt. If Blackwater has had $1 billion in contracts since the war began, 10% profit, that’s $100 million in profits.

Prince: some we make money on, some we don’t make money on.

Welch: This is the kind of question a CEO pays real attention to. I’m doing the math.

Prince: Some contracts we lose money on. Losing three helicopters is beyond the scope of math.

Murphy: Certainly you can tell us what the profit has been in the last several years.

Prince: We’re a private company.

Murphy: You won’t disclose what the profit.

Prince: that’s not what I said.

Murphy: I’m a new member of Congress, it’s difficult that when taxpayers pay 90% of your salary, of the salary of your employees.

Prince lawyer: May I have a minute with the witness, please?

Murphy: Let me ask again, after your consultation. You don’t believe it’s in the interest of your company or this committee to have this discussion.

Prince: I’m not prepared today to have that discussion.

Murphy: I’m looking for an approximation.

Prince; I’m not sure of that number. How can I calculate depreciation of assets? There is a whole host of variability.

Murphy: I find it hard to believe you can’t give an approximation of your profits.

Prince; My finance will tell you, I’m not a financially-driven guy.

Murphy: The memo says 243 of Blackwater people in Iraq are third country nationals. What percentage are third country nationals. By our numbers, it’s 1/3. It sounds like more than a handful.

Lynch: Percentage of contractng out. Those people protecting us did a very good job. If I have a problem criticizing Blackwater, what about the State Department? You protect them every single day. I’m sure there’s a debt of gratitude on behalf of the State department, but they’re responsible for holding you accountable.

[Reads from email, with someone saying a high settlement would set a bad precedent.]

Lynch: doesn’t it make sense to have an independent IG reviewing these cases?

Norton: However you serve your country, whether as member of Armed Forces, or as contractor, the American people are indebted to you. However you use mercenary armies, some countries have long used mercenary armies to do unpleasant tasks. The more we become dependent on mercenary armies, the more we risk falling off a cliff. I want to ask you about contract with State. You employ people as independent contractors. You don’t provide benes as a result.

Prince: Each has a robust insurance package.

Norton: You can avoid making Social Security contributions. By contrast, DynCorp treat their personnel as employees. Why do you treat your people differently?

Prince: We have the highest retention in the industry. The men and women seem to feel very well treated.

Norton: One of them is in the bene package. Does Blackwater hire people as contractors to avoid legal responsibility.

Prince: It’s what the men prefer. They like the flexibility of being able to sched off time around other events.

Prince: we also have a 401K like program.

Norton: My main concern is not what private employees decide to do. My concern is these Blackwater contractors are supervised by Prince. My biggest question is whether these employees are subject to law.  I believe we need a GAO investigation to see what law, if any, these people should answer to.

Prince; FBI investigation proves there is some accountability in place. When working overseas, we provide the trained person with equipment. When they get to Iraq, they work for RSO.

Schakowsky: I will be introducing Leg to end use of private contractors.  Want to recognize mother of Blackwater guy killed in Fallujah. We need conversation in Congress about that. You stated all Blackwater were veterans. Is it true the hire foreign security personnel.

Prince: Yes. Static locations are third country soldiers.

Schakowsky: In 2004, hired former commandos from Chile. Did Blackwater use any Chilean contractors with ties to Pinochet.

Prince; Yes, we did hire Chileans. Any foreign national has to have a high public trust clearance to be sure they have no criminal background.

Schakowsky: One of your associates was indicted in Chile?

Prince: He was a vendor.  Our contractors in Iraq need a clearance.

Schakowsky: Job fair, recruiting some linked to atrocities committed in Bosnia.

Prince: To my knowledge, we’ve never employed anyone from those countries. Some Romanians from a contract we took over. We use Latin Americans now.  A High Public Trust is required to make sure no human rights abuses.

Schakowsky: You said you would not work overseas if the US did not approve. Chile has not agreed to participate. Do you have any qualms about hiring Chileans.

Prince: We don’t hire any Chileans now.

Schakowsky: Did you ever?

Prince: The persons of that country have a free right to contract.

Waxman acknowledging folks involved in the Fallujah attack. An example where corporations could make money was not have fully trained personnel.  We have an unprecedented experiment. It raises issues about cost, and whether it interferes with our objectives. We’ve never had anything of this magnitude.

I’m going to hand this over to Jane for the State Department employees. It’s not beer thirty, but it’s time for a break.

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