OUTSOURCING THE "WAR ON DRUGS"
HOW NORTHROP-GRUMMAN EMPLOYEES CAME TO BE POW's
COLUMBIAN REVOLUTIONARY ARMY (FARC) HOLDS D.O.D. CONTRACTORS FOR YEARS
FARC HOSTAGE BETANCOURT FREED
NORTHRUP-GRUMMAN MERCENARIES FREED
The Contractors Were Carrying Out Covert Military Operations Without Benefit Of Soldier Status
As students of the American Revolution will tell you, if you're not in the uniform of the country you're fighting for, officially, on the battlefield, you're a spy. Unlike a soldier in uniform, laws and military customs do not apply to those out of uniform: A spy expects to be shot. Ask Patrick Henry or Benedict Arnold, when you see them in Hell.
Even the Hessian's outside of Trenton, NJ were treated as fellow soldiers by Washington and his men on Christmas Eve of 1776. Those who were not shot during combat were taken prisoner. According to the rules of the day, they might have then been sent back to their commands, perhaps even retaining their weapons. Honor dictated this sort of behavior among soldiers, though it was not always observed.
Spies, by definition, have no honor. They can be shot on sight, after a lengthy imprisonment and trial, or any time in between, depending upon the laws and customs of their adversaries. CIA and KGB operatives in the field during the Cold War expected no less. They could not even expect recognition or acknowledgement by their own governments, and might rot in prison, under torture, for years. If they were killed, their bodies would probably never be returned for burial in their home ground. Everyone knew this, everyone knew that both sides employed these unacknowledged soldiers without uniforms. But everyone pretended they didn't exist. And that was the system.
Now, how do we deal with a new system of private contractors, wearing no uniform, acting as soldiers and spies, support troops and security forces, working for American and foreign corporations, in countries all over the world, with whom we may or may not be officially at war? Many of them do the job of soldiers, but they are not members of our military. They may carry American military weapons, but they do not wear American military uniforms or hold rank in any U.S. Service. Some of them act as spies, most of them are more like soldiers. They do get a little more attention, officially, than spies. But they do not get the attention that a captured soldier would get. And they do not have the rights of a captured soldier, under the Hague and Geneva Conventions. In the end, they do not have, nor do they receive, the honor of soldiers. Technically, legally, diplomatically, they are private contractors, no more.
Still, they have served their country. They have family and friends back in the States. They are human beings who have fallen into unfortunate circumstances; American citizens, withal. They are no more responsible for the US Government policies they were hired to implement than any grunt in the U.S. Army or the Marine Corps. But they did choose to become civilian contractors, and accept positions in covert wars. Many of them are ex-military. What responsibility do they bear, exactly? What honor, if any, is due them?
As the United States comes to rely more and more upon civilian contractors to carry out its' policies, what recognition do we owe these soldiers of fortune? There are now more of them in Iraq than there are U.S. military combat personnel. Some of them are clerks and truck-drivers. Many of them are acting as soldiers, spies, assassins and policemen. In Iraq, they are beyond all laws. In other countries, their status varies.
With the release of these "defense contractors" in Columbia, we must become cognizant of the fact that we are being represented by men of no honor all around the world, by the design of the dishonorable men in the Bush White House. With the upcoming election, it is time to decide what to do about that. Honor demands it.
[MORE on the phony hostage rescue at Democracy For California.]
"Protecting people or profit? "
" America's privatized military machine is at the heart of the war on drugs in Colombia. Defense corporations hired by the US government enjoy extremely lucrative contracts, but who is responsible when something goes wrong? Why were these apparent "civilians" kidnapped and held captive for nearly two years? Marc Gonsalves was employed by Northrop Grumman - the fifth biggest multinational defense corporation in the US - to help fight the war on drugs in Colombia. Political heavyweights, both in Colombia and the US - including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - suggest that it is more economical to use contractors, rather than regular troops, because the army is stretched beyond capacity. An alternative opinion held by other US politicians is that "corporate soldiers" make it possible for the government to avoid responsibility.This view is echoed by Congresswoman Janice Schakowsky. 'Are we outsourcing in order to avoid public scrutiny, controversy or embarrassment?' she said. "
"Private U.S. Operatives on Risky Missions in Colombia "
" The number of Americans working in Colombia for private contractors has nearly doubled in two years to 400, the congressional limit. Hundreds more are citizens of Colombia and other countries. American law also allows up to 400 military officials in Colombia. There are now two dozen American companies here, with the contracts for anti-drug programs worth $178 million last year. They spray coca fields, operate eavesdropping devices, organize alternative development programs, repair airplanes, assess intelligence and advise the Colombian Defense Ministry. In Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 70 American companies and private individuals have won up to $8 billion in contracts in the last two years, according to the Center for Public Integrity in Washington. Much of their work is shielded from the public, critics say, noting that their deaths are not even added to the American body count. American officials, here and elsewhere, say using contractors saves money, provides essential services and specialists and frees military forces that are already stretched thin. They also say the three men taken captive were working within the legal limits set by the Congress. But critics say that for American policy makers, the political risks surrounding Washington's deepening involvement in Colombia's conflict made using contractors preferable to placing American forces or intelligence officers in similar jeopardy. The men were part of a team of a dozen or so pilots and technicians overseen by the American military mission in Latin America, the Southern Command, based in Miami. Their operation was dubbed the Southcom Reconnaissance System, and Northrop Grumman held the $8.6 million contract for the work. As the program became increasingly successful, several former pilots and others familiar with the program said civilian managers pushed flight crews farther over the jungles, often at night and sometimes 300 miles from their base. Their mission expanded, too, from locating targets in the illegal drug trade chosen by the American Embassy to keeping a look out for leftist guerrillas, including those of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Family members also remain confused about the contractual obligations of the men's employers. All of the pilots and crew members had begun working for California Microwave Systems, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman. After the first crash, the program was transferred to a newly created company, CIAO Inc., former pilots and family members said. Family members, former pilots and a high-ranking official who worked with contractors for years in Colombia contend that the contract switch was aimed at shielding Northrop Grumman from liability. 'There are veils,' said John McLaughlin, the former head of the State Department's airborne program in Colombia, in charge of the spraying of coca crops. 'If you have to go through this company and that company to try to recover, it puts some people off.' 'We hear that Butch went to work for CIAO three days after he was assigned to Colombia,' said Betty Oliver, the mother of Mr. Oliver, who is known as Butch. 'And consequently CIAO does not recognize who is working for them. Grumman does not recognize he worked for them. So who did he work for?' Mr. Schmidt's wife, Sharon, and Mr. Ponticelli's parents said they had since been trying, with no luck, to obtain $350,000 death benefits. Both families received notices from an insurance adjuster saying they could not be paid benefits because the men had not worked for Northrop Grumman when they were killed. 'They say they terminated him and so therefore they have no legal responsibility,' Ms. Schmidt said. 'The reason they had done this is because they had been made aware, in writing, that serious concerns had been raised about the use of single-engine planes.' "
SAN DIEGO UNION
"Military rescue could kill U.S. hostages in Colombia, families fear"
" Current and former U.S. officials say the U.S. government has failed to engage in routine negotiations or take other diplomatic steps of the kind used in similar hostage situations. Additionally, the Justice Department refuses to consider exchanging the Americans for two Colombian guerrillas held by the United States. Steps not taken: Current and former officials closely involved with the hostage situation spoke of administration shortcomings in numerous interviews with the AP over the past two months. They agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, either because they were not authorized to talk publicly or for fear of retribution from their employers. They say the administration has failed to: --Deploy Foreign Emergency Support Teams to Colombia. The Washington-based special squads are made up of counter-terror experts and crisis workers from the departments of State, Justice, Defense, and the 16-agency intelligence community. They are routinely deployed when a U.S. citizen is taken hostage overseas. The State Department said the teams were not deployed because there wasn't enough information about the hostages' location or whether they were alive. --Aggressively gather intelligence in Colombia about the physical and mental health of the three men, where the FARC might be holding them, how frequently they are moved and other information that would help the administration decide how to proceed. Intelligence resources are limited in Colombia, the officials say, because of the administration's focus on disrupting terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. In a Jan. 23 letter to Northrop Grumman vice president James F. Pitts, National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley said the Bush administration has “increased resources devoted to this issue in Bogota,” including “fully leveraging all intelligence and available national resources.” A copy of the letter was obtained by the AP. --Regularly send FBI negotiators to Colombia to work with third-party intermediaries – like the International Red Cross or the Catholic Church – who might appeal to the rebels. The United States generally does not negotiate directly with terror organizations. FBI spokesman Rich Kolko said the negotiators were in Colombia shortly after the hostages were captured and have since provided guidance to U.S. and international officials. FBI negotiators and investigators, as well as agents in Bogota, “have been engaged in this case since the beginning,” Kolko said. Family members of the hostages say their pleas for help from their elected representatives in Congress have gone unheeded. 'There was nothing they could help us with, is the impression they gave us,' said Marc Gonsalves' father, George Gonsalves, 59, of Hebron, Conn. George Gonsalves said he repeatedly asked for help from Connecticut's lawmakers in Washington, 'and of course, they never did anything with it. Can't see anything, up to even today, where they've done anything.' Throughout the saga, Northrop Grumman has found itself in the uneasy position of trying to push the administration to do more for the hostages without risking its own government contracts. The Los Angeles-based defense and technology company relies heavily on contracts to maintain annual revenues of over $30 billion. Shortly after the men were captured, the Justice Department warned Northrop Grumman against sending backpacks of sneakers, medication and other items to the hostages, according to several people familiar with the conversations. The government cautioned that if the items ended up in the hands of the rebels, it would violate the USA Patriot Act's ban on providing material support to terrorists, the people said. "
"Northrop Grumman gets anti-drug contract"
" Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) said on Wednesday it was one of five companies awarded a five-year contract by the U.S. Defense Department worth up to $15 billion. As part of the so-called the indefinite deliver/indefinite quantity contract, Northrop will compete with the other companies to provide 'technology development' for agencies engaged in counter-drug and counter-narco-terrorism operations. "
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