Posts Tagged Blackwater

Legal News: Erik Prince Statement On Raven23 Court Of Appeals Ruling

     I am heartened by the Court of Appeals ruling today and am grateful the Court finally recognized the unique nature of a Blackwater Contractor’s relationship with the federal government. These men volunteered to serve their country in deadly environments not once, but twice. Each of them served in the Armed Forces, then volunteered to serve again as contracted security professionals. They served our nation with distinction and have always deserved better treatment. At trial, the US Attorney steadfastly maintained that our men initiated the firefight in Nisour Square without provocation. I was shocked when the US Attorney finally admitted, on the record, that was not the case. I hope the attorneys who appear to have deliberately misrepresented the evidence before the trial court face investigation and appropriate disciplinary action. -Erik Prince

Folks, this is hopeful news and that statement up top is an exclusive statement from Erik Prince for the Feral Jundi readership. I also posted a statement below from the Free Raven23 Facebook Page below. That page is managed by the friends and family of these men. Below that, I was also able to get a statement from Christin Caveness Slough.

My own commentary on this is that this whole deal has been incredibly political and these men have suffered because of that. This is also significant to the discourse out there, because every article or book or commentary that references the Nisour Square incident, will now have to include this history. That is if they care about the truth, or telling the whole story. –Matt

PLEASE READ ALL AND SHARE!

We received a decision today. It is not true justice, but it is a SMALL step closer to reuniting our families. But we have a LONG road to go and humbly ask for your prayers.
Nick’s conviction was overturned (because his jury did not hear evidence of his innocence), but the government has the ability to retry him. We don’t yet know if that will happen, how long it will take to decide, or what will happen to Nick during the interim (kept in custody or released).
One of Evan’s convictions was overturned.
He, Paul, and Dustin will be re-sentenced due to the misapplication of the federal weapons law to secure their 30-year mandatory minimum sentences. We don’t yet know when their resentencing will be held.
We need prayer warriors more than ever:
(1) release and no retrial for Nick; and (2) time served at re-sentencing for Dustin, Evan, and Paul SOON. 

Free Raven 23 website here.
Free Raven 23 Facebook Page here.

Christin Cavness Slough statement.

While I am thrilled that Nick Slatten’s completely erroneous conviction has been vacated, the remaining convictions being upheld is why I no longer trust, or respect, our federal judicial system. There was an opportunity here for the court to finally show that it could deliver justice within the clearly framed boundaries of the law and failed to even issue a coherent or unified opinion. It is an additional small victory that the court finally recognizes that the federal weapons law, used to force 30 year mandatory minimum sentences, was woefully misapplied however calling it a tragedy that it was applied in the first place would be a gross understatement. We remain hopeful that all four of these men will be home where they belong sooner rather than later, but this was not the firm step in that direction that we had hoped or that the law required.

Ex-Blackwater contractor gets murder conviction tossed by federal appeals court
August 04, 2017

A federal appeals court Friday overturned a former Blackwater security contractor’s first-degree murder conviction in connection with a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that killed 14 Iraqi civilians and injured 17 others.
In a split decision, the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit ruled a lower court erred by not allowing Nicholas Slatten to be tried separately from his three co-defendants in 2014.
Slatten, 33, had been sentenced to life in prison for his role in the shooting, in which prosecutors claimed he had fired the first shots.
The court also ordered new sentences for the three other contractors — Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Herd — who were each found guilty of manslaughter and firearms charges carrying mandatory 30-year terms.
The judges determined those sentences were “grossly disproportionate to their culpability for using government-issued weapons in a war-zone.” Prosecutors had charged the men with using military firearms while committing another felony. That statute, typically employed against gang members or bank robbers, had never before been used against overseas security contractors working for the U.S. government.
It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors planned to try Slatten again for murder.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is reviewing the opinion and has no further comment at this time,” spokesman William Miller told Fox News
At the weeks long trial three years ago, federal prosecutors and defense lawyers presented very different versions of what triggered the September 2007 massacre in Nisour Square.
The government described the killings as a one-sided ambush of unarmed civilians, while the defense said the guards opened fire only after a white Kia sedan seen as a potential suicide car bomb began moving quickly toward their convoy. After the shooting stopped, no evidence of a bomb was found.
In issuing their ruling benefiting the defendants, the judges said they were in no way excusing the horror of events they said “defies civilized description.”
“In reaching this conclusion, we by no means intend to minimize the carnage attributable to Slough, Heard and Liberty’s actions,” said U.S. Circuit Judge Karen L. Henderson, writing for the court. “Their poor judgments resulted in the deaths of many innocent people.”
Fox News’ Jake Gibson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Story here.

 

 

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Industry Talk: The Historic Implications Of Erik Prince’s Plan For Afghanistan

So folks, I have been waiting a bit to post on this because so much has been written about it and I wanted to see where it goes. Basically Erik Prince came up with a plan for Afghanistan that would have historic implications for this industry and country if implemented. Already, contractors are a part of the history of this war, with great sacrifice and from many partner nations over the last 16 years. But this….this is an entirely different level.

At this point in time, we have a standing US President that is actually considering a plan conceived by a contractor. Actually two, because Stephen A. Feinberg of Cerberus Group and owner of Dyncorp came up with a plan as well. But I will focus on the Prince plan because of how much traction it is getting. I say traction, because the media and the naysayers of this industry have been writing this off as insignificant or risible. But I say not so fast….because from what I have heard on the grapevine, this is getting much more serious consideration than what is reported.

About the plan. It is basically modeled after what the US did in post war Japan, using a viceroy to command over the effort and an army of contractors. US Special Operations would still have a presence in the country to counter the Taliban and the various jihadists. It is a long term, cost saving answer to providing presence in that country. A solution that would dramatically lessen the contractor footprint in Afghanistan according to Prince, and send most of the troops home (minus the special operations folks). Please read the plan below.

I would also suggest listening to Erik Prince talk about the plan in his media blitz, ever since November of last year. This too is historically significant. Since Prince donated to the Trump campaign, as did his sister Betsy DeVos (who is now Secretary of Education), Erik has had the ear of the President of the United States. He also speaks the language of business, which is familiar to Trump. This interaction between an Administration and a private contractor reminds me of Claire Lee Chennault and his dealings with the Roosevelt administration for the formation of the Flying Tigers in China. The Flying Tigers were the only game in town after Pearl Harbor, and they were the rock star private air force that was sticking it to the Japanese in China. Claire made Time magazine’s man of the year back then, and several movies were made about what he did with his motley crew.

Another point as to the historical significance. The war in Afghanistan has become the longest war in US history. The Erik Prince plan would effectively end US troop involvement there, and switch that involvement to a private model focused on supporting and working with Afghan troops and police to wage war and provide security. It is a plan aimed towards providing a long term presence, yet with a much smaller, less expensive and efficient footprint. It would also entail consolidated, longterm leadership in that country. Prince compared the position to more of a bankruptcy trustee. That leader would also work with Afghanistan to get them on a better financial footing. Meaning mining laws and a means to invigorate investment there. If Prince is not able to implement this plan in Afghanistan, he will definitely be able to play around with the pieces of similar process in Somalia for the FZIA contract. That will be very interesting to see how it works. Afghanistan is in a similar boat, and they need to get their finances and industry in order so they can actually pay for their wars and security.

Further more, what is really interesting here is that President Trump is questioning what we are doing in Afghanistan. We have been there for 16 years, our Secretary of Defense clearly stated that we are not winning there, and the Taliban have taken over 40 percent of the territory by force. This war has been expensive, and will continue to be expensive on the current track and also with legacy costs. It will also cost lives, and the President is right to question what are we doing there? Currently the President is seeking plans from both his military, and now significantly, private contractors. The message to his generals is pretty clear to me. Give me a good plan and right the ship, or I will go with the EP plan. To be in this position where a private contractor plan is actually competing with a military based plan, is historically significant in modern times. Even if they go with the military plan, this is quite the moment for this industry.

Having listened to most of Prince’s interviews, the best guess as to what he wants to set up is similar to what Blackwater did with the Afghan Border Patrol contract. Basically train and mentor forces. As to a Close Air Support model, that too has been done. Dyncorp had their version of air support or armed Huey gunships to cover down on the Poppy Eradication Force contract in Afghanistan. Blackwater also did paracargo resupply missions in Afghanistan using CASA 212’s back in the day. Blackwater also used Little Birds as air support for their WPS contract, and their efforts were hugely successful there.

Other models outside of Afghanistan, is what STTEP did in Nigeria. That was a training and mentorship type contract that did very well for the Nigerians against Boko Haram.  I mention all of these examples, because contractors have already performed similar functions as to what Prince is talking about both in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the modern era. A contractor mentor or trainer would not be a shock to the ANA or ANP and would actually be quite familiar to them. Hell, there are thousands of contractors in Afghanistan as I write this and they have been working hand in hand with Afghans for the entirety of the war.

I should also note that Prince’s FSG company just won a contract in Somalia to basically set up a mini-Dubai there! The Free Zone Investment Authority of the South West State of Somalia to be specific. Talk about a busy guy! Between OBOR, Somalia, and meetings with the US administration for an Afghanistan plan, I would say that he is keeping busy.

Finally, I want to recommend some good podcasts and video of the EP plan. He has been busy presenting the plan in the news, at universities, and in social media/podcasts.  We will see how this develops, but no matter how it turns out, this has been historic and fascinating to watch and write about. Here are a couple of good sources below to check out to further get educated on the plan. –Matt

Erik Prince at Oxford University.  (significant, because this kind of kicked off the campaign for the EP plan)

Tucker Carlson interview.  (large conservative audience)

Podcast where Prince debates with Sean McFate. (I liked this, because Prince really dug into the history of contracting and won the debate -in my opinion)

David Isenberg’s take on the concept.

Deborah Avant article.

Sean McFate article.

Tim Lynch’s post at Free Range International here and here. (Tim wrote an excellent deal on this and is a very experienced contractor in Afghanistan)

Fox and Friends interview. (the President is said to be a big fan of this show, and this is the most recent interview Prince did)

* I will add more to this group as more good ones pop up.

The MacArthur Model for Afghanistan

Consolidate authority into one person: an American viceroy who’d lead all coalition efforts.

By Erik D. Prince
May 31, 2017
Afghanistan is an expensive disaster for America. The Pentagon has already consumed $828 billion on the war, and taxpayers will be liable for trillions more in veterans’ health-care costs for decades to come. More than 2,000 American soldiers have died there, with more than 20,000 wounded in action. For all that effort, Afghanistan is failing. The terrorist cohort consistently gains control of more territory, including key economic arteries. It’s time for President Trump to fix our approach to Afghanistan in five ways.

First, he should consolidate authority in Afghanistan with one person: an American viceroy who would lead all U.S. government and coalition efforts—including command, budget, policy, promotion and contracting—and report directly to the president. As it is, there are too many cooks in the kitchen—and the cooks change shift annually. The coalition has had 17 different military commanders in the past 15 years, which means none of them had time to develop or be held responsible for a coherent strategy.

A better approach would resemble Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s leadership of postwar Japan. Given clear multiyear authority, MacArthur made bold moves like repealing restrictive speech laws and granting property rights. Those directives moved Japan ahead by centuries. In Afghanistan, the viceroy approach would reduce rampant fraud by focusing spending on initiatives that further the central strategy, rather than handing cash to every outstretched hand from a U.S. system bereft of institutional memory.

Second, Mr. Trump should authorize his viceroy to set rules of engagement in collaboration with the elected Afghan government to make better decisions, faster. Troops fighting for their lives should not have to ask a lawyer sitting in air conditioning 500 miles away for permission to drop a bomb. Our plodding, hand wringing and overcaution have prolonged the war—and the suffering it bears upon the Afghan population. Give the leadership on the ground the authority and responsibility to finish the job.

Third, we must build the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces the effective and proven way, instead of spending billions more pursuing the “ideal” way. The 330,000-strong Afghan army and police were set up under the guidance of U.S. military “advisers” in the mirror image of the U.S. Army. That was the wrong approach.

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Legal News: Free Raven 23

Well it is good to be back home and I have been playing catch up on the latest news coming from the PMSC world.  On Facebook and Linkedin I have been able to connect with lots of great people and friends, and I have been getting some outstanding information from the community.

For my first post on the blog I found this outstanding organization being run by the friends and family of Raven 23 and I wanted to get their message out there. For those that do not know who Raven 23 are, here is a quick run down of what happened to them from their support website.

Paul Slough, Dustin Heard, Nick Slatten and Evan Liberty set out with 15 of their Blackwater teammates as part of Tactical Support Team Raven 23, to secure a busy square in Baghdad’s Red Zone. Blackwater, under contract with the U.S. Department of State, was responsible (among other things) for diplomatic security in the country of Iraq.

Raven 23 was responding to a distress call from another team which had been attacked on venue. In the distance, they could see the large plume of black smoke where a VBIED (vehicle-born improvised explosive device) had been detonated. They were to secure a route of egress through Nisour Square, which was a task they had completed numerous times previously; a seemingly straightforward task. Unfortunately, things haven’t been straightforward since.

After all four vehicles in the convoy had taken up their positions in the square, a white Kia lurched out of stopped traffic towards the convoy, and the security team used escalating force to stop the vehicle. They had to consider the risk of this vehicle also being a VBIED very seriously, as coordinated attacks were on the rise. There was a pattern developing where enemy forces would make an attack for the sole purpose of perpetrating a second, larger attack on responding forces. Eight team members, not including the four defendants, testified that they either perceived the white Kia to be a threat, or that they agreed that from other points of view in the convoy that it could be perceived a threat. No one should have been convicted of anything related to the white Kia based on this testimony alone, but that is only a fraction of the story.

The four vehicles were set up in a moon shape stretching along the southern side of the traffic circle. The third vehicle (the Command Vehicle), which contained three of the defendants (Liberty, Slatten & Slough) was facing directly into the south of the square, broadside to all oncoming traffic in that direction.

Almost simultaneously to the white Kia threat, the convoy began receiving incoming small arms fire (AK-47), disabling the Command Vehicle which subsequently had to be towed. The side of the vehicle was pock marked by the incoming fire, and a teammate in the vehicle behind began yelling that they were taking contact (fire) from people dressed as Iraqi Police. Whether or not they were actually employed as Iraqi Police we will never know, as IP uniforms are as readily available in the street markets of Iraq as fake designer bags are on the side streets of Washington, D.C.

All of the incoming fire, and the fact that it was coming from people dressed as Iraqi Police, was documented on the team’s contact logs. To believe that the team was not under attack would be to believe that multiple individuals either scripted the entire thing in advance or that they ad-libbed an entire attack while simultaneously participating in a one-sided gunfight, both of which are entirely ludicrous, and contrary to eyewitness testimony and physical evidence.

A complicated firefight ensued as the team hooked up a tow rope from one vehicle to the other, and tried to exit the circle to the north. The exit was made even more complicated by the fact that part of the circle was closed to traffic due to repairs being made from a VBIED just a few months prior. Eventually, almost ten minutes later, the team was able to exit the circle and return to the Green Zone.

What I wanted to share was the touching and impactful video that the friends and family put together, to present their side of the case.  To highlight the politics, and the inconsistencies presented by the prosecution. The full weight and force of the US government legal system was brought to bear on these men, and I feel it is only right to present their side of the whole deal.

If you feel like supporting Free Raven 23, I have provided some links to their website and FB page. From there you can sign petitions and donate money to help out the families.  –Matt

 


 

Website for Free Raven 23 here.

Facebook page for Free Raven 23 here.

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Legal News: Leahy, Price Reintroduce CEJA Bill

Interesting news on the legal front. The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act has been brought up before in the past to give DoJ the jurisdiction necessary to prosecute non-military related contractors. Which is a significant portion of US government contractors. This group would include DoS or ‘other government agency’ type contractors, and this legislation would close that gap. Currently the MEJA covers military related contractors.

Why this is important, and especially now, is that contractors currently work in countries where they are not covered by a SOFA or have immunity. They are basically at the mercy of the local judicial process.  CEJA, like MEJA, would give the US government jurisdiction over contractors that it hires for work in these countries that have no SOFA in place to cover them. Iraq is an example of such arrangement and WPS guys and embassy protection forces are there, currently working for DoS.  CEJA would give jurisdiction for prosecution to the US government.

In other words, if you ran into trouble, would you rather be tried in a US legal system or some overseas third world court run by corrupt officials?

Another point with the CEJA is that it further legitimizes the PMSC industry. It helps to take away that argument that we are somehow ‘above the law’ or untouchable. Clients of our services will benefit from having a protective force that can be held accountable.

It will also contribute to a speedier trial. Just ask the contractors involved with the Nisour Square incident, that have been in a legal mess for years. The legal jurisdiction has been a factor.

So we will see where this goes. One critique I do have in regards to this press release is the mention of Jamie Leigh Jones and her case. Whereas the jurisdictional questions about her case are valid to bring up, I find it disingenuous to not mention the fact that she lied about the whole thing.

To read up on the past issues with the CEJA, check out David Isenberg’s commentary on it over the years. Here is a copy of the latest bill and the Congressional Research Service wrote a report on the particulars of why a CEJA is the right thing to do. We will see how the committee treats this one. –Matt

 

Senator Patrick Leahy in a committee.

 

Leahy, Price introduce legislation to hold American contractors overseas accountable
News Release — Sen. Patrick Leahy

July 14, 2014
Contact:?Jessica Brady (w/Leahy) – 202-224-7703?Andrew High (w/Price) – 202-225-1784
Also helps lay groundwork for eventual preclearance arrangements in restoring Vermont-to-Montreal passenger rail service??WASHINGTON (MONDAY, July 14, 2014) – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Congressman David Price (D-N.C.) renewed their partnership on bicameral legislation to provide accountability for American contractors and government employees working abroad.
The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA), which the lawmakers introduced Monday, would close a gap in current law and ensure that government employees and contractors working overseas can be prosecuted for criminal acts they commit abroad. The two lawmakers have worked together on the legislation for years.
The legislation allows the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute government contractors and employees for certain crimes committed overseas. Tragedies like the 2007 killing of unarmed civilians in Baghdad by private security contractors with Blackwater underscore the need for clear jurisdiction and trained investigative and prosecutorial task forces able to hold wrongdoers accountable. Four Blackwater guards involved in the Nisour Square shooting are currently on trial.
“The Blackwater trial is only just now under way, seven years after this tragedy, and the defendants continue to argue in court that the U.S. government does not have jurisdiction to prosecute them,” Senator Leahy said. “This bill would also provide greater protection to American victims of crime, as it would lead to more accountability for crimes committed by U.S. government contractors and employees against Americans working abroad.”

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History: The Battle For Najaf, By Travis Haley

This is an excellent story on this famous battle, fought by the contractors and military assigned to protect the CPA in Najaf, Iraq back in 2004. By now, most folks familiar with the battle have seen this video of the battle circulating around the net, and it gives a snapshot of what these guys were up against. Travis has added more detail to the big picture of what was happening at the time, to include lessons learned.

You can also read more about Travis and his history and contribution to the training industry over at his website. –Matt

 

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Books: My Review Of Civilian Warriors

I finally got a chance to read this book and I was not disappointed. Much of the book went over material that I was already familiar with because I have been blogging about this industry for quite awhile now. But it is cool to finally hear Erik Prince’s version of events and his thoughts on the industry.

So what I did with the book is make footnotes on things that I thought were interesting that I was not aware of. Like did you know that the guy that threw a shoe at President Bush during a press meeting, was tackled by a Blackwater guy and not the Secret Service? Or that it was BW that rescued Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry on a snowy mountain top in Afghanistan? That is crazy, and it is stuff like that, that I will bring up in my notes. I will also mention the books that Prince was influenced by or thought important enough to mention in his book.

The first book mentioned by Prince that inspired him for building Blackwater was called Entrepreneurs Are Made, Not Born–By Lloyd Shefsky. Prince read this book while posted on the ship USS America, and the ideas that came from this book helped him to formulate a plan on what he wanted to do when got out of the Navy. He was a businessman/entrepreneur at heart, just like his father, and he wanted to be closer to his family–hence why he wanted out of the Navy. This is where he got the idea for building a world class training facility that could fill a need for the government, and especially his Navy SEALs, whom were constantly on the road for training. What Prince wanted to do was get a centralized training facility in Moyock, North Carolina for multiple government and private clients that would have everything they needed to train. The courage and drive to take the risk to do this, came from the motivation Prince got from reading this book.

As to the name of the company, did you know that the original names being thrown around were the ‘Tidewater Institute for Tactical Shooting’ or the ‘Hampton Roads Tactical Shooting Center’? They went with Blackwater because as they built the ranges on their new property, they were constantly slogging through the peat stained black water mud. It had a better ring and meaning for them at the time I guess.

In the beginning of their business, training was not their big money maker. It was their targets they constructed and they used a tougher steel combined with a pop up mechanism to make targets that folks all over the US wanted. These targets accounted for 50 percent of their revenue in the early days of the company.

He also makes mention of the pride he had in his contractors and employees. One story he mentioned was about a wounded contractor in his company that I did not know about, but thought was really cool. His name is Derrick and his blog is called Small Victories, and it is about the process he has gone through as a severely wounded contractor.

The second book mentioned was Unrestricted Warfare, written by a couple of Chinese colonels back in 1999. This book documented the coming future of terrorism, and it is what woke up defense insiders–to include Prince, as to what was coming. What happened on 9/11 was not surprising to those who foresaw this type of unrestricted warfare or terrorism.

Prince made mention of Frank Gallagher as the first detail leader BW assigned for the task of guarding Bremmer in Iraq. That 36 man detail later grew to a massive operation protecting a multitude of DoS folks in Iraq and later Afghanistan. What is interesting though is that Frank and company were the guys making the innovations on the ground in Iraq when it came to close protection in war zones. (Frank is also coming out with a book)

Frank’s group were so good that their protection schemes would later be adopted by the US Government for protecting it’s highest risk personnel. Not only that, but Osama Bin Laden at the time was extremely frustrated that none of his clowns were able to get a shot at Bremmer. So OBL fired up some offense industry, and put a bounty out on Bremmer and his protective detail. Bremmer was worth 22 pounds of gold, and anyone on the PSD team was worth $30,000 dollars according to the book.

Another interesting aspect of the way Prince did business was in order to show capability, he would build it first with the hopes that clients would see how useful or important it is, and then contract it out. Prince would put his own money down on the venture as well.

A good example of this is Presidential Airways and the advent of using smaller scale paracargo in Afghanistan. In the early days of the war, the Air Force did not have a small scale paracargo capability. They would use large aircraft to drop 600 lb pallets, and do it way too high up in the air. It was Presidential Airways that recognized a deficiency–that the military needed small scale paracargo, and lots of it in order to meet the demand out there. They would go on to do a proof of concept and supply outposts, and then the government later set up a contract to continue using this service. This would later be called LCLA or Low Cost, Low Altitude and I have talked about this on the blog in the past. Thanks to Presidential Airways, I am sure many outposts received life saving ammunition supply drops or food drops. (Cofer Black’s son was actually resupplied by Presidential Airways when he was at an outpost, serving in the military in Afghanistan)

Then there are the other projects that Prince funded that did not get off the ground. Like the armored vehicle called the Grizzly or their blimp. Or the 1700 man peace keeping force called Greystone.

According to Prince, Greystone would have had it’s own air force, helicopters, cargo ships, aerial surveillance, medical supply chain, and combat group. It was Prince’s alternative to the ineffectual UN peacekeepers that we continue to see deployed all over the world. I remember he was wanting to send these guys to Darfur, Sudan if DoS was ok with it. They were not, and this project never got off the ground.

According to the book, Prince spent about 100 million dollars on various BW projects that never went anywhere. He had the attitude of if you build it, they will come. With his creations, he felt eventually someone in the government or in private industry would want this stuff, and he mentioned that if he threw enough darts at the board, they were bound to hit the bull’s eye. He said this is the price of continually innovating. Whatever the government needed, or what they might suddenly realize they needed, Prince would provide it. (kind of reminds me of Steve Jobs with his drive to create products that people didn’t know they wanted, but when made, they absolutely wanted and needed them)

And really, this is at the heart of what he was all about. His father was the same way, and I kind of got the impression that Prince was constantly trying to live up to what his father was all about. His father was very successful and had the same attitude of seeing a need or potential need, and filling it. He is the one that invented lighted mirrors in vehicle sun visors. But his father also had a lot of failures before that lighted mirror took off as a viable concept. Both men were visionaries and risk takers, and that is what you need in order to create something new. To create something that people want, or didn’t know they wanted, but do now.

In the book, Prince also talked about Executive Outcomes and how successful they were. So EO was an inspiration and it is always cool to hear about visionaries getting inspired by other visionaries and their creations.

Prince also made mention of his Libertarian roots and his ideas on contracting and free markets. He was a big fan of fixed cost contracts, versus cost-based or cost-plus. He felt that a contractor should be able to put their money where their mouth is when they say they can deliver something for a certain price. With cost based or cost plus, you are basically giving a contractor an open check to spend whatever they want to get the job done.

You see this theme throughout the book, and that Prince was all about funding a project in order to show proof of concept and viability, or that BW was interested in providing a good value for the tax payer’s dollar.

Speaking of which, BW funded their own rescue operation of folks off of roofs during the Katrina Hurricane disaster back in 2005!  BW also went on to provide effective security in the region after that disaster.

Another business unit that Prince mentioned was Total Intelligence Solutions. TIS was BW’s private intelligence firm that offered services to not only the government, but to private institutions. The Walt Disney Company was mentioned as one of those institutions.

TIS also had Cofer Black in it, and he was very much impressed with the way it operated compared to the government. Black mentioned that ‘every mid-level government official should spend a two-year sabbatical there to learn about efficiency and effectiveness’. My opinion on that is duh, private industry can be very efficient and effective compared to the government.

The third book mentioned was On War by Carl von Clausewitz. Prince’s father was the one that recommended this book to him before he joined the Navy. As to what lessons he learned from this book is hard to say. He mentioned a Clausewitz quote on courage and that is about it.

Moving along through the book, he mentioned stuff about the An Najaf attack. Travis Haley was mentioned multiple times in regards to this attack and it is cool getting some info on what happened during that deal. Travis was brought in by little bird after the attack began, and he was definitely a force multiplier during the fight. The video he and his team posted of the event has received many views over the years. One thing mentioned that I did not know is that his team did receive mortar fire that day. Accurate mortar fire, as we saw with the Benghazzi attack, can be very bad for the defense.

It is also interesting that General Sanchez did not want to acknowledge that Blackwater was so heavily involved with the defense of this facility. The reality is that if it wasn’t for the actions of BW, they would have lost that consulate in An Najaf. It would have been very embarrassing to Sanchez’s command, for it to get out that a contractor did so well, and in his AO.  Or that the US military was not in a position to defend it because it had so many other things going on at the time. This incident was also unique because there were military folks there, but BW was running the show.

It was interesting to find out how much WPS made for BW. Prince quoted well over a billion dollars. At the peak, BW had over a thousand men on the ground in Iraq performing the WPS mission. I am sure Frank Gallagher and others were pretty amazed at how big this thing got.

There was mention of BW’s perfect record of protection, and the most significant injury of a principal at the time was a ruptured ear drum. BW used Mamba armored vehicles in Iraq, which were manufactured in South Africa. An EFP was used by the enemy against one of BW’s Mambas, and everyone survived, to include that principal mentioned. A BW guy lost his arm in the deal as well. I have to say that is some serious luck and EFPs are no joke. I actually drove these same vehicles in Iraq and I can attest to the protective qualities of it–and that is awesome that these guys actually survived an EFP.

Prince also wrote a lot about the CPA’s Order 17, which was the 16 page document that outlined the rules and laws that folks were to follow in Iraq. In absence of a working country, the CPA had to come up with some rules to operate by until Iraq got itself in order. Contractors were often charged with having immunity in Iraq or not having any accountability for their actions because of what was in Order 17. Prince argues just the opposite, and that Order 17 did provide legal accountability.

Many critics of BW pointed to this so called lack of accountability, and because of the non-disclosure agreements BW signed with DoS and other clients, that they could not defend their position or correct the record. So Prince dedicated some space in this book to explaining why they were legally accountable.

The myth of pay rates was also dispelled in the book. You often heard about this $1,000 dollar a day contractor pay that everyone was getting in the company, in various books and articles. But that was not true with this company. According to Prince, the pay ranged from $450 a day to $650 a day, and averaged about $500 per day across the entire contractor force. He also goes on to compare the military’s ‘total military benefit’, which adds up to about $99,000 dollars a year for an enlisted member. The point here was to compare the compensation of soldiers versus contractors, and I have seen the same CBO stuff that he is talking about. Matter of fact, I blogged about it awhile back.

After the Nisour Square deal, Prince had to do a congressional hearing and that thing is floating around on youtube. What is interesting is that according to the book, Prince actually got advice from Oliver North on the whole process. North had to go through 45 hearings back in the day during the Iran Contra deal.

Prince made mention of the company’s process for growth. Gary Jackson was quoted as saying that they were always searching for the 80 percent solution now, as opposed to the 100 percent solution later. This is interesting to me because it is about being faster to market than the other guy. Get it out now and own that business, despite it not being perfect. Then work to continuously improve it later. Or something like that. Jackson was actually named by Harvard Business Review and Fast Company for his leadership and for the growth of the company. The 80/100 solution scheme is part of the reason for that rise.

Finally, at the end of the book Prince talked about the future of the industry, which I really liked. He also talked about another inspirational book that is significant for a number of reasons.

The book’s name is The Machine That Changed The World, By James Womack, Daniel Jones, and Daniel Roos. Prince was very much inspired by this book and he was in awe of Toyota’s managerial system of lean production. He referred to BW as a sort of factory that produced security specialists, much like how factories produced cars. The client requests ‘X’ amount of contractors, and the BW factory provides that amount just in time. Their ability to get the job done and deliver that product–be it a human or weapon or aircraft, to where the client needed it, and on time, was what made them successful.

Which is cool because I too am heavily influenced by Toyota and it’s concepts. I have a category called Kaizen, in honor of the continuous improvement principals that Toyota was so famous for. Kaizen is also mentioned in my Jundism page.

All in all, I really enjoyed the book and highly recommend it. My one take away with this is that Prince was a visionary and had the courage to go forth and make Blackwater happen. It is also a tragic story, because he basically had to let go of that in which he built and loved so much–all because of politics… Check it out and you will find his book in my book store on Amazon here. –Matt

Edit: 04/04/2014- Travis Haley just wrote about his experiences during the Battle of Najaf and you can read this story over at OAF Nation. Pretty cool and it expands upon what was said in Prince’s book. Especially the part about General Sanchez not sending a relief force to help, and how Ambassador Bremmer instructed Frank Gallagher to assemble a relief force to come to the rescue. Here is a quote from Travis’ story.

There was heated discussion between Ambassador Bremmer and General Sanchez, Commander of Coalition Ground Forces in Iraq. In the end, the Army was unwilling to dispatch a relief force to the Najaf compound. Bremmer then instructed Frank, “I am authorizing you, by any means necessary, to get our people out.”  With that, Frank sent me to round up the air team and to start pulling together weapons and munitions to bring on the flight. I hit the ready room and started pulling kit. My M4, magazines and a CS Rifle. The Counter Sniper Rifle was more of a moment of opportunity thing than a plan and Terry, one of our detail’s Counter Snipers, quickly fished through his gear to give me his dope card as I headed down to the air strip where the Little Birds were spooling up.

Edit: 04/07/2014- A blog named CIMSEC did a podcast with Prince that was interesting. Prince mentioned two more books that he has read recently and recommends. The first is Invisible Armies by Max Boot. The other is To Dare And To Conquer by Derek Leebaert.

 

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