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House Oversight: Blackwater Liveblog Six

waxman.jpgChris Shays: Is there a difference between protecting an ambassador where there is not a threat to their lives, and to the challenge that one is in Jordan and other areas in the middle east, is there not a big difference?

Griffin: Some of the people…

Shays: I want you to move the mic closer…

Griffin: I’m sorry..

Shays: MOVE THE MIC CLOSER!

Griffin: Some of the people that are posted around the world are part of our local guard force, and those local guards…

Shays: (cuts him off) You know, you’re not answering the question. I asked is there a difference. You can say yes or no.

Griffin: There’s a huge difference.

Shays: Yes! There is a huge difference. Case closed.

Griffin: Okay

Shays: Let me take the next question, I only have five minutes. It’s an easy answer, THERE’S A BIG DIFFERENCE! Now Mr. Satterfield, isn’t it true the ambassador has responsibility in Iraq for those security personnel.

Satterfield: Indeed he does.

Shays: Would YOU move the mic closer please?

Satterfield: Indeed he does.

Shays: Thank you. If there were sufficient military personnel to provide security, would you still use private contractors?

Griffin: If they received training, then they certainly would be capable of…

Shays: THAT’S NOT WHAT I ASKED! These are basic, simple questions. Would you like to use outside contractors, or the resources of the military? Do you want state department employees to go around in Humvees, or people who aren’t in army uniforms? If you prefer the army, tell me!

Griffin: If they weren’t in humvees and uniforms.

Shays: Do you command them, or would the army command them? Wouldn’t they be under the command of the army? I don’t want to put words in your mouth.

(Griffin looks like he doesn’t know what to say.)

Shays: As a peace corps volunteer, I can say that you don’t want to bring in a high profile military presence. You don’t want to come in in tanks.

Satterfield: Um…yeah…

(everyone looks relieved that “the gentleman’s time has expired.”)

Cooper: Seen “No Way Out?”

Satterfield: Doesn’t describe standards for our contractors.

Cooper: How about the time Blackwater crashed into 18 vehicles for no apparent reasons? State department employees say their statements were “dishonest.” But when we asked the State Department about it, you wouldn’t tell us about it.

Griffin: There were a number of incidents the committee asked about 6 days ago, sorry we couldn’t get them for you.

Cooper: We requested them 6 months ago. Are you saying Blackwater’s record keeping is better than yours?

Griffin: We’ll get ’em to you.

Cooper: Do you take it as an insult that you have to have so much extra help? Have you requested the money or the resources to train your people for Jerusulem or Basra or Haiti?

Griffin: We do have people there, but we don’t have the numbers to staff — or the areas of expertise — to do so.

Cooper: Have you asked for those resources?

Griffin: We’ve asked for resources, but the question is do you hire a full time government employee for 25 years when the mission might only last for two years.

Cooper: So the State Department is saying we’re going to be out of Iraq in 2 years?

Griffin: No.

Issa: This is a model that would be reasonable if we were going to be in Iraq for the next 20 years.

Griffin: Yes.

Issa: Do you have or are you working out plans for places like Haiti, Bosnia etc. to increase the number of contract personnel to increase domestic participation and reduce out of country expensive personnel?

Lynch: June 25, 2005 Blackwater operator shot and killed an Iraqi citizen in Alhilla. Blackwater failed to report it. The State Department has no record of an investigation. Did you investigate?

Satterfield: We’ll get back to you on that.

Lynch: This is 2005. Was there an investigation? That’s not heavy in detail.

Satterfield: I’d prefer to answer in writing.

Lynch: I’m just looking for a yes or no.

Satterfield: (angry) I’m not able to confirm the details.

Lynch: I cannot recall.

Waxman: The documents have asked for documents regarding Blackwater, which would presumably include shooting civilians and covering it up. We got a better response from Blackwater. Does that bother you as much as it bothers me?

Lynch: The State Department works hand-in-hand with personnel in Iraq. Blackwater is protecting these folks every day. Friendships and alliances develop. Not possible for people who are being protected to do an objective job of reviewing the conduct of the people who are protecting them. Don’t you think it would be good if there was a special inspector general reviewing it? Take a crack at answering that one.

Satterfield: We do take an objective view.

Schakowsky: I would think the State Department would care whether these private contractors were making it harder or easier to achieve our mission over there.

Griffin: Realizing the environment in Iraq, just this calendar year Blackwater has been involved in 3073 missions on behalf of the State Department.

Schakowsky: That’s the Blackwater talking point. I’ve heard all that.

Griffin: This is a SD talking point. This year, there have been 6000 attacks per month. That is the environment that they are trying to perform their mission in.

Schakowsky: I’m not questioning the level of violence. What I’m commenting on is that they are damaging what we’re doing in Iraq. I heard you say, Ambassador Satterfield, that you were going to review, 4 years later, CPA order 17.

Satterfield: CPA 17 applies to a lot more than just contractors — diplomatic and non-diplomatic.

Schakowsky: Can they be court marshalled?

Satterfield: It’s being investigated now.

Schakowsky: Do you think it’s a problem that 4 and a half years into the war, that only 2 of the 160,000 contractors now serving have been prosecuted?

Satterfield: No because I don’t know if there are a pool of indivuals who should be prosecuted.

Cummings: This no-bid contract thing was bunk.

Moser: We only do that reluctantly.

Shays: Was this in 2004? Under Mr. Bremer.

Moser: No, 2003 was I think made under Bremer.

Waxman: How high did it go for review up the State Department?

Moser: Deputy Assistant Secretary.

Issa: The terrorist are really scary — what does that mean to your people?

Griffin:  Makes it more difficult.

Shays:  As I wrestle with this issue, it seems we’re debating whether we want contractors or do we want the army, or do we want the State Department to have their own security?  Thank you for your service, Mr. Satterfield.

Waxman:  I think it’s interesting that at the end of the hearing the question is being discussed as to whether we should be contracting out or not.  We’ve heard from the State Department that the contracted out because we thought we were only going to be in Iraq for 18 months, yet we were building a $600 million embassy.  And I don’t understand why a Blackwater employee gets paid two to three times  what our military does.  And why do we need Blackwater to organize former military personnel?  The taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth.  And it’s unclear when people are getting shot if it’s even being investigated because the State Department isn’t answering our questions.

We’re going to continue to ask the questions until we get those answers.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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