Influence mercenary in Colombia

By Juan Diego Restrepo E. *

OPINION The case of Colombia in Abu Dhabi and training in military units demanding answers about who has control over the mercenaries who arrived in the country over the past 30 years.

The latest news on the production of Colombian mercenaries arrived from Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE. According to accounts of the New York Times, that country arrived in November 2010, dozens of fellow hired by Erik Prince, founder of the renowned U.S. firm Blackwater, to provide various security services, including “defend oil installations and attacks skyscraper terrorists “and” control of internal unrest. “

This information was complemented by the revelations of journalist Daniel Coronell, who in his regular column in Semana magazine, said that the mercenaries brought to this country were trained Colombian military facilities, in a sort of alliance between military officers and private companies security has not yet been explained satisfactorily by military commanders or by the Ministry of National Defense.

The controversy over Colombian mercenaries in the Arab country is a good excuse to ask critically how did the country to “export” those “skilled labor in the war” before the inferiority complex that characterizes us lead us to feel proud that a Colombian security pays an Arab sheikh. It is also an opportunity to ask those who have arrived in the country under the euphemism of contractors: what is your true nature?, Who exercises control over them?, What are the implications of this outsourcing of services related to security? what are the implications that the State has met the function of maintaining the monopoly of force by public transport?

Several analysts of contemporary armed confrontations, including Darius Azellini warn that the “new wars”, both intrastate and interstate, are conducted by various actors, often non-state without any legal regulation. In this area are part of private military corporations (PMCs), private firms, for profit, offering both governments and private companies security services, logistics, transportation, telecom and data analysis, among others.

Colombia has not been left out of these activities and given the dynamics of war has become, according Azellini in a private laboratory for the conduct of the war in the last thirty years, making our country a preferred destination of the CMP.

According to this research, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United States in 2007 issued a report requested by the U.S. Congress which lists all the private military corporations (PMCs) contracted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense to work in Colombia. These are the following companies: Lockheed-Martin, Lockheed-Martin Technology Services, Lockheed-Martin Mission Support, Lockheed-Martin Integrated Systems (LMIS), LMIS-Optec, DynCorp International, Olgoonik, ARINC, Oakley Networks, Northrop-Grumman Mission Systems, Mantech, Mantech International, ITT, ARINC, Telford Aviation, King Aerospace, CACI Inc., Tate Incorporated, Chenega Federal Systems, PAE Government Services, Omnitempus, Construction, Consulting & Enginneering – CCE, U.S. Naval Mission Bogota Riverine Plans Officer and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).

To that list, according Azellini, we would not have the CMP directly hired by the Colombian government through its armed forces and other U.S. institutions and multinational companies. Among them would be Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Risk Control, Global Risk, Colombia and Spearhead Defense System Ltd (owned by the Israeli mercenary Yair Klein, who coached dozens of paramilitaries in the Magdalena Medio region in the decade of the eighties).

The services of several of the companies listed were paid with funds from the so-called Plan Colombia. Companies like DynCorp, one of the largest, would be among those that lobbied for the allocation of U.S. resources to the plan, but not out of altruism but because they compete to win and retain security markets.

The CMP is composed of former members of elite units of U.S. and other countries ex-military, military veterans or U.S. assets temporarily assumed limited missions during their holidays. Although since the end of the Cold War such entities provided various services, became commercial companies offering military services ranging from combat to military training, through the advice and logistical support in a global market violence.

Use these specialized security services has several advantages: their activities fall outside the control of public and political because the mercenaries are employed than military evade national laws and international agreements, and sprains to succeed him the rules imposed by the U.S. Congress, which has regulated the presence of military personnel in Colombia, hiring non-American. Azellini estimated that by 2008 the country had at least 2,000 people in mercenary activities of different interests, whose responsibilities are diluted and hide them as “contractors.”

Such as “contractors” was given, for example, Thomas Howes, Keith Stansell and Marc Gonsalves, three U.S. citizens kidnapped by the FARC on February 12, 2003 and released on July 2, 2008 in Operation Jaque. They arrived in the country hired by the firm California Microwave Systems, which provides technical services to the Northrop-Grumman Mission Systems, in charge of controlling several radars in the south and east.

One of the key issues on the recruitment of the CMP is the guarantee of impunity should be given to these companies so that their actions are not punished in the country legally. These agreements are provided for those who are part of these private security companies include clauses which has ruled that its members will not be subject to military justice, as they are not officially members of military equipment or tried by civilian courts. That is, their work is done “in areas of immunity.”

It is not free because hundreds of Colombians are now in the service of PMCs, because in the last thirty years we have had a strong presence and influence of this type of security firms in the country.But beyond asking what these compatriots in Abu Dhabi, which is urgent is to demand the authorities of our country clear answers to many questions that arise when analyzing this case: how many CMP operating in the country, how many people the integrated and what nationality they are?, what is the amount of contracts? What state agency regulates their activities?, where are they concentrated?, what do they do? Someone in government should know something and it is necessary in the interests of transparency, go out to give explanations of the case.

(*) Journalist and university professor

Blackwater’s Colombian Mercenaries In Abu Dhabi

Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder

Adam Ferguson/VII Network

Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, has a new project.

By  and 

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Late one night last November, a plane carrying dozens of Colombian men touched down in this glittering seaside capital. Whisked through customs by an Emirati intelligence officer, the group boarded an unmarked bus and drove roughly 20 miles to a windswept military complex in the desert sand.

Multimedia
Doug Mills/The New York Times

Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi hired Erik Prince to build a fighting force.

The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder ofBlackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom.

Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times.

The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest in their crowded labor camps or were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.

The U.A.E.’s rulers, viewing their own military as inadequate, also hope that the troops could blunt the regional aggression of Iran, the country’s biggest foe, the former employees said. The training camp, located on a sprawling Emirati base called Zayed Military City, is hidden behind concrete walls laced with barbed wire. Photographs show rows of identical yellow temporary buildings, used for barracks and mess halls, and a motor pool, which houses Humvees and fuel trucks. The Colombians, along with South African and other foreign troops, are trained by retired American soldiers and veterans of the German and British special operations units and the French Foreign Legion, according to the former employees and American officials.

In outsourcing critical parts of their defense to mercenaries — the soldiers of choice for medieval kings, Italian Renaissance dukes and African dictators — the Emiratis have begun a new era in the boom in wartime contracting that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And by relying on a force largely created by Americans, they have introduced a volatile element in an already combustible region where the United States is widely viewed with suspicion.

The United Arab Emirates — an autocracy with the sheen of a progressive, modern state — are closely allied with the United States, and American officials indicated that the battalion program had some support in Washington.

“The gulf countries, and the U.A.E. in particular, don’t have a lot of military experience. It would make sense if they looked outside their borders for help,” said one Obama administration official who knew of the operation. “They might want to show that they are not to be messed with.”

Still, it is not clear whether the project has the United States’ official blessing. Legal experts and government officials said some of those involved with the battalion might be breaking federal laws that prohibit American citizens from training foreign troops if they did not secure a license from the State Department.

Mark C. Toner, a spokesman for the department, would not confirm whether Mr. Prince’s company had obtained such a license, but he said the department was investigating to see if the training effort was in violation of American laws. Mr. Toner pointed out that Blackwater (which renamed itself Xe Services ) paid $42 million in fines last year for training foreign troops in Jordan and other countries over the years.

The U.A.E.’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, declined to comment for this article. A spokesman for Mr. Prince also did not comment.

For Mr. Prince, the foreign battalion is a bold attempt at reinvention. He is hoping to build an empire in the desert, far from the trial lawyers, Congressional investigators and Justice Department officials he is convinced worked in league to portray Blackwater as reckless. He sold the company last year, but in April, a federal appeals court reopened the case against four Blackwater guards accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

Mark Mazzetti reported from Abu Dhabi and Washington, and Emily B. Hager from New York. Jenny Carolina González and Simon Romero contributed reporting from Bogotá, Colombia. Kitty Bennett contributed research from Washington.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 19, 2011

An article on Sunday about the creation of a mercenary battalion in the United Arab Emirates misstated the past work of Executive Outcomes, a former South African mercenary firm whose veterans have been recruited for the new battalion. Executive Outcomes was hired by several African governments during the 1990s to put down rebellions and protect oil and diamond reserves; it did not stage coup attempts. (Some former Executive Outcomes employees participated in a 2004 coup attempt against the government of Equatorial Guinea, several years after the company itself shut down.)

Belarus devaluation spreads panic

Belarus devaluation spreads panic

Belarus devaluation spreads panicBelarusians queue to buy foreign currency outside an exchange booth in Minsk, Belarus, Tuesday, May 24, 2011.AP

Associated Press

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — A sharp devaluation of the Belarusian ruble has spread panic throughout the country, with people sweeping store shelves and queuing up at currency exchange offices on Wednesday in a desperate attempt to protect their savings.

President Alexander Lukashenko promised that the national currency will remain stable following the devaluation enacted a day earlier, but experts warned the Belarusian ruble will continue its nosedive if Russia doesn’t provide a quick bailout.

The ruble lost nearly half of its official value against the dollar Tuesday, when the National Bank ordered a devaluation.

The new official rate is 4,930 rubles per dollar, up from the previous 3,155 but the perceived value of the local currency is much lower — on the black market it takes 6,000 rubles to buy a dollar.

To make matters worse, there is a physical shortage in the country of dollars and euros, which companies and households desperately want to own to protect themselves from a worse devaluation in the future.

The government has tightly regulated sales of hard foreign currency and its own reserves are badly depleted.

Exchange offices have run out of foreign currency because they are allowed only to sell what they buy from clients.

Andrei Krylevich, 42, has spent a week in lines outside an exchange booth in downtown Minsk without a chance to buy a single dollar.

The computer company he works at has sent its employees on an unpaid leave, and he urgently needs to pay back a $9,000 loan to a bank.

“In just one month, I have virtually turned bankrupt, the entire country has gone bankrupt,” Krylevich said.

Most Belarusian industries are state-owned, and the government has tried to keep its scarce currency reserves for vital imports.

On Tuesday, it set tight limits on interbank currency trading, effectively stifling the market.

The flamboyant Lukashenko, in power for nearly 17 years, has kept an unusually low profile in recent weeks as his government has been pleading Moscow for a vital loan.

Russia has been reluctant to provide it, pushing Belarus to sell its industrial assets.

Russia’s Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Tuesday that Belarus can get the total of $3 billion in loans from an economic alliance of several ex-Soviet nations over the next three years, including the first $800 million disbursement that could be delivered next month.

Kudrin added that Belarus could earn another $7.5 billion by privatizing its industries, most of which remain in state hands.

Arizona Attempts To Pass First “Fat Smoker” Penalty

Under an Arizona Plan, Smokers and Obese Would Pay Fee for Medicaid

By 

Arizona, like many others states, says it is no longer able to adequately finance its Medicaid program. As part of a plan to cut costs, the state has proposed imposing a $50 fee on childless adults onMedicaid who are either obese or who smoke. In Arizona, almost half of all Medicaid recipients smoke; while the number of obese people is unclear, about one-in-four Arizonans is overweight, according to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention. The state’s plan must ultimately be approved by the federal government. Monica Coury, spokeswoman for Arizona’s Medicaid program, discusses.

Q. What is the current status of the state’s Medicaid program?

A. “In Arizona, there has been an increase of 30 percent in the number of people on Medicaid and a 34 percent decrease in general fund revenue since 2007. We are one of just a few states that cover childless adults in Medicaid. We want to change the nature of eligibility for that program from an open-ended entitlement program to one that the state manages based on available funding, which means we can freeze the program and then open the program back up for enrollment should we come into additional funds. But that is just one of the things we are seeking to do. We also want to reform the payment system for Medicaid. Currently, Medicaid is structured such that we are a purchaser of ‘widgets,’ if you will. So, providers are incentivized to do more — since they get paid for quantity. There is no financial incentive for a provider to reduce the number of hospital admissions, for instance, because that drives down the bottom line. We want Medicaid to move away from that concept to one that supports and financially rewards health plans and providers for supporting quality.”

Q. Why is it a good idea to charge people a fee for being overweight or for smoking?

A. “The issue is this: we can’t keep complaining about the rising cost of health care and not drill down to what that means on the individual level. Maricopa County (where Phoenix is located) has started a program among its employees where smokers have to pay $450 more for health insurance than non-smokers. They take a swab to detectnicotine. The bottom line is that there’s plenty of evidence and studies that show there is an undeniable link between smoking and obesity and health care costs.”

Q. What has been the response from critics?

A. “Some people have suggested it is discriminating against obese people. To me, it is a matter of fairness. We have an obligation to provide health care coverage to 1.35 million people. And we’ve got a budget crisis, so if there’s something you can do to help out — we’re just asking you to put a little more back into the system. What we want to test is whether making people pay is going to affect behavior. We think it will.”

Q. How would disabled people be affected?

A. “We’re not talking about the disabled, the elderly, pregnant women, or children, and certainly there would be exceptions for certain conditions, like cancer. We are talking only about able-bodied people who have the capacity to manage their weights.”

Q. How did you arrive at the amount of $50? Would that be sufficient to offset the fund’s costs?

A. “We’ve talked about $50 once a year. We haven’t done the math, but it’s not about how much we would collect. It is totally about testing the efficacy of this strategy. Obesity is costing us billions in health care costs, so our thought is ‘let’s test some of these strategies.’

The Law of Unintended Consequences and the Zionist Conspiracy To Strangle Gaza

Gaza crossing to stay open

Cairo

Egypt will permanently open its border crossing with the Gaza Strip from tomorrow.

Egyptian authorities have informed the Hamas movement that governs the Gaza Strip that they will open the Rafah crossing from 5am to 9pm daily. Most residents of Gaza will not be required to get a visa or undergo security checks, the Hamas government said. Opening the crossing would ease the blockade imposed after Hamas took control of the strip in 2007.

A report by Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency said the move aimed to ”end the status of the Palestinian division and achieve national reconciliation”. Israel warned that reopening the crossing could allow Hamas to build its arsenal.

There’s a Secret Patriot Act, Senator Says

There’s a Secret Patriot Act, Senator Says

You may think you understand how the Patriot Act allows the government to spy on its citizens. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) says it’s worse than you’ve heard.

Congress is set to reauthorize three controversial provisions of the surveillance law as early as Thursday. But Wyden says that what Congress will renew is a mere fig leaf for a far broader legal interpretation of the Patriot Act that the government keeps to itself — entirely in secret. Worse, there are hints that the government uses this secret interpretation to gather what one Patriot-watcher calls a “dragnet” for massive amounts of information on private citizens; the government portrays its data-collection efforts much differently.

“We’re getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says,” Wyden tells Danger Room in an interview in his Senate office. “When you’ve got that kind of a gap, you’re going to have a problem on your hands.”

What exactly does Wyden mean by that? As a member of the intelligence committee, he laments that he can’t precisely explain without disclosing classified information. But one component of the Patriot Act in particular gives him immense pause: the so-called “business-records provision,” which empowers the FBI to get businesses, medical offices, banks and other organizations to turn over any “tangible things” it deems relevant to a security investigation.

“It is fair to say that the business-records provision is a part of the Patriot Act that I am extremely interested in reforming,” Wyden says. “I know a fair amount about how it’s interpreted, and I am going to keep pushing, as I have, to get more information about how the Patriot Act is being interpreted declassified. I think the public has a right to public debate about it.”

That’s why Wyden and his colleague Sen. Mark Udall offered an amendment on Tuesday to the Patriot Act reauthorization.

The amendment, first reported by Marcy Wheeler, blasts the administration for “secretly reinterpret[ing] public laws and statutes.” It would compel the Attorney General to “publicly disclose the United States Government’s official interpretation of the USA Patriot Act.” And, intriguingly, it refers to “intelligence-collection authorities” embedded in the Patriot Act that the administration briefed the Senate about in February.

Wyden says he “can’t answer” any specific questions about how the government thinks it can use the Patriot Act. That would risk revealing classified information — something Wyden considers an abuse of government secrecy. He believes the techniques themselves should stay secret, but the rationale for using their legal use under Patriot ought to be disclosed.

“I draw a sharp line between the secret interpretation of the law, which I believe is a growing problem, and protecting operations and methods in the intelligence area, which have to be protected,” he says.

Surveillance under the business-records provisions has recently spiked. The Justice Department’s official disclosure on its use of the Patriot Act, delivered to Congress in April, reported that the government asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for approval to collect business records96 times in 2010 — up from just 21 requests the year before. The court didn’t reject a single request. But it “modified” those requests 43 times, indicating to some Patriot-watchers that a broadening of the provision is underway.

“The FISA Court is a pretty permissive body, so that suggests something novel or particularly aggressive, not just in volume, but in the nature of the request,” says Michelle Richardson, the ACLU’s resident Patriot Act lobbyist. “No one has tipped their hand on this in the slightest. But we’ve come to the conclusion that this is some kind of bulk collection. It wouldn’t be surprising to me if it’s some kind of internet or communication-records dragnet.” (Full disclosure: My fiancée works for the ACLU.)

The FBI deferred comment on any secret interpretation of the Patriot Act to the Justice Department. The Justice Department said it wouldn’t have any comment beyond a bit of March congressional testimony from its top national security official, Todd Hinnen, who presented the type of material collected as far more individualized and specific: “driver’s license records, hotel records, car-rental records, apartment-leasing records, credit card records, and the like.”

But that’s not what Udall sees. He warned in a Tuesday statement about the government’s “unfettered” access to bulk citizen data, like “a cellphone company’s phone records.” In a Senate floor speech on Tuesday, Udall urged Congress to restrict the Patriot Act’s business-records seizures to “terrorism investigations” — something the ostensible counterterrorism measure has never required in its nearly 10-year existence.

Indeed, Hinnen allowed himself an out in his March testimony, saying that the business-record provision “also” enabled “important and highly sensitive intelligence-collection operations” to take place. Wheeler speculates those operations include “using geolocation data from cellphones to collect information on the whereabouts of Americans” — something our sister blog Threat Level has reported on extensively.

It’s worth noting that Wyden is pushing a bill providing greater privacy protections for geolocation info.

For now, Wyden’s considering his options ahead of the Patriot Act vote on Thursday. He wants to compel as much disclosure as he can on the secret interpretation, arguing that a shadow broadening of the Patriot Act sets a dangerous precedent.

“I’m talking about instances where the government is relying on secret interpretations of what the law says without telling the public what those interpretations are,” Wyden says, “and the reliance on secret interpretations of the law is growing.”

Site: Oregon.gov