Senate Inquiry Shows Contractor Signed for Rifles Using ‘South Park’ Alias
Employees of the CIA-connected private security corporation Blackwater diverted hundreds of weapons, including more than 500 AK-47 assault rifles, from a U.S. weapons bunker in Afghanistan intended to equip Afghan policemen, according to an investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee. On at least one occasion, an individual claiming to work for the company evidently signed for a weapons shipment using the name of a “South Park” cartoon character. And Blackwater has yet to return hundreds of the guns to the military.
A Blackwater subsidiary known as Paravant that until recently operated in Afghanistan acquired the weapons for its employees’ “personal use,” according to committee staffers, as did other non-Paravant employees of Blackwater. Yet contractors in Afghanistan are not permitted to operate weapons without explicit permission from U.S. Central Command, something Blackwater never obtained. A November 2008 email from a Paravant vice president named Brian McCracken, obtained by the committee, nevertheless reads: “We have not received formal permission from the Army to carry weapons yet but I will take my chances.”
As a result of Blackwater’s disregard for U.S. military restrictions on contractor firearms, four employees of Paravant — which held a subcontract from defense giant Raytheon to train Afghan soldiers — under the influence of alcohol opened fire on a car carrying four Afghan civilians on May 5, 2009, wounding two. That incident, occurring less than two years after Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, prompted the committee’s investigation.
“In the fight against the Taliban, the perception that the Afghans have of us is critical,” Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the committee, told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “It’s clear to me that if we’re going to win that struggle, we need to know that contractor personnel are adequately screened, they’re adequately supervised and they’re adequately held accountable.” Levin will hold a hearing on Blackwater’s Afghanistan contracts Wednesday morning.
The committee’s investigation points to the contrary. Blackwater personnel appear to have gone to exceptional lengths to obtain weapons from U.S. military weapons storehouses intended for use by the Afghan police. According to the committee, at the behest of the company’s Afghanistan country manager, Ricky Chambers, Blackwater on at least two occasions acquired hundreds of rifles and pistols from a U.S. military facility near Kabul called 22 Bunkers by the military and Pol-e Charki by the Afghans. Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of all U.S. military forces in the Middle East and South Asia, wrote to the committee to explain that “there is no current or past written policy, order, directive, or instruction that allows U.S. Military contractors or subcontractors in Afghanistan to use weapons stored at 22 Bunkers.”
On one of those occasions, in September 2008, Chief Warrant Officer Greg Sailer, who worked at 22 Bunkers and is a friend of a Blackwater officer working in Afghanistan, signed over more than 200 AK-47s to an individual identified as “Eric Cartman” or possibly “Carjman” from Blackwater’s Counter Narcotics Training Unit. A Blackwater lawyer told committee staff that no one by those names has ever been employed by the company. Eric Cartman is the name of an obnoxious character from Comedy Central’s popular “South Park” cartoon.
Blackwater personnel invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when approached by the committee to explain the weapons acquisitions from 22 Bunkers, according to committee staff. Sailer, who is still deployed to Afghanistan, told the committee that he thought Blackwater was signing for the weapons to train Afghan police, a task it has never conducted.
Hat Tip: FreeWestRadio