Colombia: Blackwater busted for “unauthorized” military training

Private security firm Blackwater violated US arms trafficking regulations when training Colombian military personnel in 2005, a State Department report indicates. The controversial firm, renamed Xe Services LLC in 2009, is to pay $42 million for violating US law, including the unauthorized military training of Colombian soldiers—evidently for private service in Iraq and Afghanistan—in April and May 2005.

On Aug. 18, Xe Services entered into a civil settlement with the Department of State for alleged violations of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). The Department notes that “many of the alleged ITAR violations occurred while Xe was providing services in support of US Government programs and military operations abroad between 2003 and 2009.”

Most of the 228 violations covered in the $24 million settlement concern on the company’s business dealings in Iraq and Afghanistan, but within a 41-page document on the State Department’s findings in the case are claims that Blackwater provided at least one unauthorized military training in Colombia in 2005. According to the findings, Blackwater provided “military training to foreign persons from Colombia” before “obtaining required authorizations” through the State Department.

The company failed to obtain a DSP-5 license, which specifies key details 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.

The 2005 training was related to an agreement between Blackwater and the State Department 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 official 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.”

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 State Department finds that Blackwater’s “historic inability to comply with ITAR controls were systemic failings,” when considering “the frequency and nature of [the company’s] violations.” (El Tiempo, Aug. 28; Narco News, Aug. 24; State Department press release, Aug. 23)

Halliburton has also been involved in recruiting Colombian military veterans for security work in Iraq. There have been similar revelations in Honduras, Peru and Ecuador.

See our last posts on Colombia and the Blackwater scandals

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