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As Noted By Joshua Holland On Alternet:

Things are going gang-busters for Blackwater, the world's premiere private army. They've got a nice chunk of the booming security business in Iraq -- the estimated 180,000 private contractors now exceeds the number of troops in the country and, as Jeremy Scahill points out on the front page, firms like Blackwater are "flush with profits."

But that's only a tiny slice of the pie: Blackwater recently introduced its own armored vehicle, the Grizzly Armored Personnel Carrier; Blackwater Airships is building a remotely-piloted vehicle; the company's global air service, Presidential Airways, holds a secret facility clearance from the DoD -- I'm sure they have nothing to do with any extraordinary rendition -- and the mercenary outfitrecently announced that it was starting a private intelligence firm to rival the CIA.

Thus one of the greatest dreams of Rumsfeld, Cheney et al continues to evolve, namely, the privatization of all military operations.

Even as they use the fact that captured fighters are not in state-issued uniforms to strip them of their Geneva Convention rights, they are increasingly relying on fighting forces which, strictly speaking, belong to no nation, but are — like all corporations — in it for the profit margin and benefit to shareholders.

Technically, these private fighting forces are covered under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000, but there's a catch, as Human Rights First notes:

One possible problem with application of MEJA to crimes committed in Abu Ghraib and other U.S. detention centers in Iraq or elsewhere is that it does not extend to members of, or contractors to, non-military agencies such as the CIA. Only those working with or accompanying the U.S. military are covered by MEJA.

Even as the contractors may be constrained from engaging in questionable interrogation techniques while in the employ of the military, the same rules won't apply if they happen to be working for the CIA at the time. Perhaps that's where the Privatised Intelligence comes in.

The notion of a "private intelligence firm to rival the CIA" raises a whole host of troubling questions, furthermore. Should a corporation have the right to engage in even all of the methods that the CIA legally uses? In order to be an effective intelligence agency, one must assume that there will be considerable surveillance of, and collection of private information from, citizens and non-citizens alike. This is not a private dick tailing a cheating husband — we're talking about serious snooping here. We're also, presumably, talking about the permanent collecting of said data in the hands of Blackwater, and probably detention and interrogation, and possibly long-term imprisonment of, suspects and sources. Don't we create agencies like the CIA or the NSA — ostensibly — to keep such practices under the purview of the government and governmental oversight? Of course, we all know how well THAT works, but if you think its hard to keep an eye on intelligence services — and the money they spend — now, just imagine how hard it will be when the black-ops are being conducted by the employees of a private corporation, with offshore acounts and shell companies and classified — because THEY say they're classified, not because any governmental official of any kind, not even Dick Cheney, declared  them so — employment records.

"But Brooklynmatt, there are other private intelligence companies, how is this any different?" you might ask. Well, in one key way: Blackwater will be an Intelligence company with its own private fighting force in the employ of the U.S. Military. For example, if both Blackwater Intel and Blackwater Defense Contractors are working in Iraq, will the latter have the right to detain suspects and deliver them to the former? Where will the line be drawn between them?

Lord knows the Dems have enough on their plates up in D.C., but the question of the privatization of the military will need to come on to their radar in due time. The last seven years have seen such an erosion of the line between the military as defense force for a nation vs military as mercenary force, and it will only grow worse if we don't stop it.

Originally posted to brooklynmatt on Wed Aug 15, 2007 at 07:14 AM PDT.

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