R.J. Hillhouse points us to an important but neglected feature of the Blackwater scandal:
The Blackwater shooting incident has provided the Pentagon an opening
in the turf wars because the CIA’s paramilitary arm, the Special
Activities Division is heavily outsourced,
particularly in Iraq. If all security contractors fell under the DoD,
the Pentagon could not only monitor the Agency, but could control their
operations by denying them ground and particularly air assets. In one
simple move, putting all security contracting under the control of the
Department of Defense would effectively hand over control of most CIA
paramilitary activities to the DoD, ending CIA unilateral offensive paramilitary capabilities in Iraq. (The Spy Who Billed Me)
If the State Department retains control of its own mercenaries, the most likely beneficiaries of any move to phase out Blackwater may be the Department’s other current contractors, Dyncorp and Triple Canopy.
There is no doubt, however, that the Department of Defense has responded to the Blackwater issue with remarkable alacrity. As Hillhouse points out, if the Pentagon takes control, the obvious beneficiary is its key contractor, Tim Spicer’s Aegis.
Aegis may already be positioning itself to benefit from Blackwater’s woes. A Times piece on Monday presented a stark contrast between the two companies, and made no mention of the trophy video episode.
“As we are going along we are not aggressive, unlike some of the security
firms. We operate under military rules of engagement,” said Steven Lloyd,
the team leader for the convoy run by Aegis Defence Services, the largest
British private security contractor in Iraq…
…“Doing this job for me is an opportunity to get ahead because of the amount of
money that you earn,” one South African security contractor said.
Insisting that he performed with consideration for the local population, he
conceded that not all guards acted in the same way. Noting Blackwater in
particular, he said: “You can’t tell those guys anything because they think
that they know best.”
Mr Spicer defended the industry’s role, noting that Aegis, as a contractor to
the US Department of Defence, adheres to about 15 layers of regulatory
control and constraint to ensure that it is fully accountable. (Times)
I wonder whether Aegis’s PR company had any input into that article:
We begin with the strategy – what is required and which is the shortest route to achieving the commercial objectives of our clients. This includes the sign-off of the key messages which are central to all our activity. We develop the angles that will maximise the strategy and then we take it to the media. Except we do that differently too. No mass mail-outs – in fact nothing is sent cold. All media activity begins with a phone call and is only ever followed up with written material. And size does matter. We want BIG pieces of coverage because only then will there be scope to deliver the messages and effectively influence the target audiences. For added client comfort and maximum agency focus – we guarantee our levels of coverage against our fee. So if we fail we feel it.
Coverage is our measure but not any old coverage. It must meet three tough criteria:
# 1. Be an original piece set up by the Agency
# 2. Be in the agreed media
# 3. Carry a minimum of 2 of the 3 agreed messages
THe treatment of Aegis in the wake of the trophy video episode begs the question, how much would we have heard about the Blackwater shootings if the company had been a Pentagon contractor?