Blackwater Provided 'Unauthorized' Training in Colombia
US State Department Claims Blackwater Corporation Gave Military Training in Colombia Without Agency's Permission
Blackwater, a corporation that specializes in providing military-style training and support to other businesses and governments, recently entered into a $42 million civil settlement with the State Department this month after the agency found that the company violated international arms trafficking and export regulations no less than 288 times.
The settlement is mainly focused on the company's business dealings in Iraq and Afghanistan, but within a 41-page document (PDF) of the State Department's findings on the case, the agency also claims that Blackwater provided at least one unauthorized military training in Colombia in 2005, allegedly in violation of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).
According to the findings, Blackwater (which changed its name to Xe Services in 2009 after earning an ugly reputation for its mercenary work in Iraq) provided “military training to foreign persons from Colombia” before “obtaining required authorizations” through the State Department.
The company failed to get approval of what is called a DSP-5 license, which specifies key details (PDF) about trainings that are to be conducted abroad, the findings say. This fact was not confirmed by the State Department until the agency sent out "disclosure requests" to Blackwater in October 2008, according to the State Department document. Such a license would describe the location and subject of the training.
What is known is that the 2005 training was related to an agreement between Blackwater and the agency in Colombia, where “foreign persons were trained and deployed as third-country nationals in support of a contract with the US Department of State.” Blackwater responded to the State Department by stating that the training was held without the agency's permission due to a “general misunderstanding” over licensing, although the department notes that there were many violations committed while Blackwater was “servicing US Government programs or providing training to US allies.”
Also in the document, under the heading “Unauthorized export of technical data and provision of defense services involving Military/Security training (conducted internationally),” the State Department goes into more detail about the training, stating that “between April 2005 and May 2005” Blackwater “without authorization provided security training to Colombian foreign persons.”
The details of this “unauthorized” training are made more disturbing when considering how the Colombian military and paramilitaries in the country continue to participate in well-documented human rights abuses, including assassinations, massacres, and political intimidation, mostly by using the drug war or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC in Spanish initials) guerillas as an excuse.
There were “aggravating factors in determining what charges to pursue” according to the agency document, including the findings that Blackwater's “historic inability to comply with ITAR controls were systemic failings,” when considering “the frequency and nature of [the company's] violations.”
In other words, the revelation that Blackwater was actively training forces in Colombia, and the fact that the company allegedly went rogue on the State Department to provide an unauthorized military training to unspecified forces in Colombia, raises more serious human rights questions for a corporation that is still considered to be one of the US government's top contractors.