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Killed Your Wife or Husband? That's Between the PSC and You

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Hopefully, at some point in a magical future, we will really have full transparency on the activities of private security contractors as they go about their business. By that I mean the public will get to see all the after action reports, incident reports, weekly, monthly, semi-annual, and annual reports that such firms are required under contract language to produce. And both companies and the government won't be able to use the old it's "proprietary business information" excuse to withhold them.

But right now we don't have that. And until the PMC or PSC equivalent of WikiLeaks appears, we are forced to reply on whatever dribs and drabs of information leak out, or if some soul is brave enough, their personal recollection of past incidents.

For example, earlier this week I wrote about the payments made both by the U.S. government and Blackwater to the families of those Iraqis killed by Blackwater guards at Nisoor Square back in September 2007.

But, it should be pointed out that Blackwater was not the only company that had to deal with issues like this. Nor was it the only one which had problems.

Yesterday someone who used to work with the Armed Contractor Oversight Division (later renamed the Armed Contractor Oversight Bureau), which was established by the Multi-National Force - Iraq to serve as MNF-I's overall point of contact on policies that govern PSCs working for the Pentagon and notify the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior when an incident involving PSCs and Iraqi civilians occurs, emailed me about what I wrote. Here is their comment:

I think the general feeling was that DOS stuck their neck out on the line by getting involved at all. Quick segue, your article sites from a cable, "the representatives said that Blackwater has hired a number of Iraqi attorneys, including one who has had significant experience dealing with MNFI on Iraqi claims cases."

I find that hard to believe because MNF-I didn't get involved with negotiation of condolence payments. We expected the companies to take care of this themselves between the families and MoI [Ministry of Interior]. The only instance where I got remotely close was an issue with the Olive Group. Olive Group on a mission for Corps of Engineers (GRD) shot up a SWAT team (they are actually Iraqi special forces). Their investigation stunk from the get-go and after the GRD took three shots at a 15-6 to finally say it was a he-said, she-said affair. I endorsed the GRD CG's endorsement, did not concur, and pulled the arming authorization for the shooter essentially ending his employment. 11 months later MoI was holding up their license because they didn't pay condolence. So my team went to MoI with Olive to meet with the injured SWAT guys to work out a deal. We didn't get involved with the negotiation, just add weight to the issue and that Olive having a license was needed. Back to DoS potentially paying. Their was an MNF-I order restricting MNF-I subordinate commands from making payments for damages caused by a PSC. I remember GRD wanted to do so for an Aegis incident and we told them absolutely not!

Okay, if my memory is correct, $5k would settle a death. The issue isn't so much the money, but how quick the company honored the family and removed the pain of their loss with a small payment. The longer you wait, the more it will cost. I think Olive paid ~$50k to a few guys.

Olive Group is a British PSC. 15-6 refers to Army Regulation 15-6 which is the Investigation Guide For Informal Investigations.

GRD stands for Gulf Region District. On January 25, 2004, various Army individual engineering efforts were brought under one command with the formation of the Gulf Region Division (GRD). In September of 2009, the Gulf Region Division was inactivated as part of the drawdown leaving the Gulf Region District in its place. Gulf Region District is headquartered at Camp Liberty just west of downtown Baghdad near the Baghdad International Airport.

So, aside from Olive Group's performance or lack thereof, the main point of the above is that the U.S. military should not be making condolence payments for any injuries caused by a PSC. Did that, in fact, ever happen? I do not know. But if it did then that could be viewed as a subsidy by the U.S. taxpayer to a PSC.

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