Saturday, March 06, 2010

Taking steps

To start undoing what has been done in our name:
Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), the chairman of the House intelligence committee, introduced an amendment to the 2010 intelligence authorization bill imposing a 15-year criminal sentence on any “officer or employee of the intelligence community” who tortures a detainee. (Twenty years if the torture involves an “act of medical malfeasance”; life if the detainee dies.)
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates is concerned about possible misconduct in Afghanistan by the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater and has promised to review the issue, the Pentagon said.
So what does Blackwater do?
A Code Pink protester claimed a high-ranking Blackwater official threatened his life during a break of a Senate Armed Services hearing focused on the military contractor's actions in Afghanistan.

Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin reported that the threat was made by Johnny Walker, a program manager with one of Blackwater's subsidiaries. Walker testified at the hearing about the role his company, Paravant, played during its mercenary deployments to the Middle East.
But then this is going on:
In an interview with the Pakistani TV station Express TV, Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirmed that the private security firms Blackwater and DynCorp are operating inside Pakistan. “They’re operating as individual companies here in Pakistan,” Gates said, according to a DoD transcript of the interview. “There are rules concerning the contracting companies. If they’re contracting with us or with the State Department here in Pakistan, then there are very clear rules set forth by the State Department and by ourselves.”
And the realization that if we didn't have mercenary groups, we'd be unable to fight the wars we're in. We don't have the troops.

Yet the court sides against Rumsfeld:
CHICAGO � A federal judge refused Friday to dismiss a civil lawsuit accusing former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of responsibility for the alleged torture by U.S. forces of two Americans who worked for an Iraqi contracting firm.

U.S. District Judge Wayne R. Andersen's ruling did not say the two contractors had proven their claims, including that they were tortured after reporting alleged illegal activities by their company. But it did say they had alleged enough specific mistreatment to warrant hearing evidence of exactly what happened.

Andersen said his decision "represents a recognition that federal officials may not strip citizens of well settled constitutional protections against mistreatment simply because they are located in a tumultuous foreign setting."

Andersen did throw out two of the lawsuit's three counts but gave former contractors Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel the green light to go forward with a third count alleging they were unconstitutionally tortured under procedures personally approved by Rumsfeld.
Update 3/7:UPDATE:
A Xe spokesman has told Talking Points Memo that they are unaware of any plans for the RNC to hold a fundraiser at their Moyock, N.C. facility. The spokesman said he was unsure why there was a slide in an RNC fundraising presentation that suggested otherwise. RNC Communications Doug Heye also told Politico's Ben Smith, who broke the story, that "No such Blackwater event ever existed," despite the calendar entry.

The Republican National Committee plans to hold an April fundraiser at a Moyock, N.C. compound owned by the military contracting firm formerly known as Blackwater, Politico reports.

According to an RNC fundraising document uncovered on Wednesday, RNC "Young Eagles" -- party major donors under 40 -- will meet at the facility in the spring.

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