Today, the Iraqi government announced that it has revoked the license of North Carolina-based private security firm Blackwater USA, barring them from working anywhere in the country. The government took this unprecedented step in response to Blackwater’s alleged involvement in the deaths of eight civilians in a firefight that followed a car bomb explosion near a State Department motorcade in Baghdad over the weekend. The Interior Ministry will also refer the matter to Iraqi judicial authorities.
Blackwater is one of the most prominent of the many private security firms operating in Iraq. These contractors’ murky legal status has been debated and criticized.
Blackwater has an estimated 1,000 employees in Iraq, supported by its own fleet of attack helicopters. This secretive company, founded in 1997 by a former U. S. Navy SEAL, made international headlines in 2004 when four Blackwater guards were killed and gruesomely mutilated by a mob in Fallujah. Its nearly $600 million in federal contracts in FY 2006 also guarantees Blackwater at least one more spot of unwanted publicity – an appearance in POGO’s planned update of the Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (FCMD), which will be expanded to include the top 100 contractors.
The FCMD stands as the only information resource to compile the types of misconduct that companies like Blackwater are regularly accused of committing. Neither the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS) nor the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) contain this kind of data.
POGO supports the Contractors and Federal Spending Accountability Act of 2007 (H.R. 3033), introduced in July by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), which orders the creation of a similar contractor performance and responsibility database to ensure that taxpayer dollars are awarded only to responsible contractors.
-- Neil Gordon