Thursday, August 27, 2009

Philippines serves as major U.S. mercenary (read: Blackwater/Xe) base

The Philippines has emerged as a major base for the operations of U.S. private military companies, including Xe (formerly Blackwater). Recent revelations by Blackwater insiders point to a little-known subsidiary of Erik Prince's McLean, Virginia-based Prince Group, Satelles Solutions, operating a recruitment and training center in the Philippines that can simultaneously train up to 1000 paramilitary personnel.

The Xe base is located in the former U.S. Navy base at Subic Bay and operates pursuant to a 2006 three-year lease agreement inked between Blackwater and the Subic May Metropolitan Authority that permits Xe/Blackwater to use five acres of land and facilities to train Blackwater private security personnel from the Philippines, India, Nepal, and Fiji. When the agreement was signed, some Philippines senators objected, claiming the agreement violated the constitutional prohibition against the stationing of foreign troops on Philippines soil. Since Blackwater/Xe is not an actual uniformed military service, it appears that the firm made an end-run around the spirit of the Philippines Constitution.

There have been sketchy reports on a similar training center linked to Blackwater that operates in Guatemala and trains mercenaries from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Chile, and Colombia. There ais some informed speculation in Central America that some of these mercenaries, many of whom have served in Iraq, took part in the recent right-wing Honduran miltary coup against President Manuel Zelaya. It is noteworthy that one of five Blackwater Worldwide's five security personnel charged in the 2007 shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, Evan Liberty, served with the Marine Security Detachment at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City prior to joining Blackwater Worldwide.

Blackwater's international marketing arm, Greystone, Ltd. of Barbados, has been charged by ex-Blackwater employees with money laundering and tax evasion. Other observers believe Greystone was set up to give Blackwater plausible deniability from involvement in foreign operations designed to prop up U.S. clients and target opponents of U.S.-supported regimes for elimination.

Blackwater/Xe's training operations abroad have also been linked to its aviation operations, including the renditioning and detention of individuals captured around the world. Two of Prince's aviation companies, Presidential Airways, Inc., and Aviation Worldwide Service, Co., have received lucrative contracts from the United States Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, some of which were laundered through the Air Force to cover contracts with the CIA. Presidential Airways has been active in renditions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Some of the aviation firms' contracts extend through 2013. Blackwater has also been linked to the CIA's targeted assassination programs in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries. Other Prince aviation companies are EP Aviation LLC, Air Quest, Inc., and STI Aviation Inc.

Blackwater/Xe is also active on the borders of the United States. The firm trains U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents at facilities at Glynco, Georgia; Artesia, New Mexico; Cheltenham, Maryland; and Charleston, South Carolina.

Blackwater's links to the Philippines is noteworthy in light of a major espionage scandal involving a group of Philippines agents that was centered in Vice President Dick Cheney's office. On December 14, 2005, WMR reported:

Vice President Dick Cheney's old company, Halliburton, has some interesting partners in its work in occupied Iraq. On Dec. 11, WMR reported on links between Halliburton/Kellogg, Brown & Root and a Viktor Bout-owned airline based in Moldova, Aerocom/Air Mero. Bout's airlines have also reportedly been involved in flying low wage earners from East Asia to Dubai and on to Iraq where they work for paltry salaries in sub-standard living conditions. Halliburton/KBR has sub-contracted to a shadowy Dubai-based firm, Prime Projects International Trading LLC (PPI), which "trades" mainly in workers from Thailand, the Philippines, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and other poor Asian nations.

In 2004, after a Filipino PPI worker was killed in a mortar attack on Camp Anaconda in Iraq, the Philippines government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered PPI, which is based at P.O. Box 42252, Dubai, UAE, to send overseas Filipino workers OFWs) home from Iraq and Kuwait and banned it from further recruiting in the Philippines. Some of PPI's recruiting included running ads on the Internet. In addition to the other south Asian employees, the Philippine workers were employed by PPI under a Pentagon sweetheart umbrella contract let to KBR under the LOGCAP (Logistics Civil Augmentation Program) III program.

Although little is known about PPI, it reportedly has been linked to Halliburton/KBR for a number of years and has been associated with Halliburton contracts in the Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Balkans during the time when Dick Cheney headed the firm. PPI has also been involved in operations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where Filipino workers were involved in building the prison housing suspected "Al Qaeda" prisoners.

Inside sources report that PPI has some high level financial partners, including the al Nahayan royal family of the United Arab Emirates and Vice President Cheney. And there are connections to President Macapagal-Arroyo's ordering the repatriation of hundreds of Filipino workers home from Iraq and Kuwaitand the discovery that U.S. Marine Corps and FBI spy Leandro Aragoncillo, a Filipino-American who worked as a Marine security aide inside Cheney's office until early 2002 and who was arrested by the FBI this past October, had stolen dossiers from Cheney's office that were considered damaging to Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo. Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in as President on January 20, 2001 (the same day George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were sworn in) after a popular revolution ousted Joseph Estrada. Macapagal-Arroyo, the daughter of past Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal.

Aragoncillo passed Cheney's reports on Macapagal-Arroyo, some of which were obtained from National Security Agency intercepts, to Estrada, a political opponent of Macapagal-Arroyo and an ally of former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos. Estrada was planning a coup against Macapagal-Arroyo with U.S. support. Aragoncillo was linked to another U.S.-based Filipino spy -- former Philippine National Police officer Michael Ray Aquino -- who was also involved in passing Cheney's classified documents to Estrada. Aquino, who is wanted in the Philippines for involvement in murder, kidnapping, and drug trafficking, was also arrested by the FBI.

More importantly, Aquino's close friend, Estrada, is also a business associate of indicted GOP lobbyist/reputed gangster Jack Abramoff. Another high-level Filipino-American in the White House, Karl Rove's Assistant and Assistant to the President, Susan Bonzon Ralston, also served as Abramoff's personal assistant at the law firms Preston Gates & Ellis and Greenberg Traurig. Ralston has been called to testify before the grand jury and special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who is investigating Karl Rove's involvement in leaking the name of CIA covert agent Valerie Plame Wilson to the media.

Aragoncillo allegedly passed over 100 documents from a classified FBI computer system at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey while working there as an intelligence analyst for the FBI after he left the Marine Corps. It is significant that Aragoncillo admitted to spying while only working as an aide to Cheney and not when he worked for Vice President Al Gore during 1999 and 2000.

It now seems apparent that Aragoncillo and Aquino were part of an illegal Cheney covert operation to topple Macapagal-Arroyo in retaliation for her stopping PPI's recruiting efforts in the Philippines. That decision by Manila dealt a severe financial blow to the Halliburton/KBR LOGCAP profits in Iraq. It is also of note that Aragoncillo worked with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

On June 9, 2009, WMR reported on another link between U.S. private military firms and the Philippines related to the May 22, 2009, murder in Baghdad of U.S. contractor James Kitterman. It is noteworthy that two former Blackwater employees stated in an affidavit filed in the Alexandria, Virginia federal court that Blackwater has murdered and planned to murder anyone who threatened to expose the firm's wrongdoing. The June 9 report follows:

James Kitterman, the President of Janus Construction Corporation, which had contracts for the scandal-plagued new U.S. embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone and who was found stabbed to death on May 22, spent a number of years working for Kellogg, Brown & Root/Halliburton, the company once headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Kitterman's was found blindfolded and bound with his throat slit and with multiple stab wounds in an SUV parked inside the Green Zone. Kitterman, a former U.S. Navy chief petty officer, lived in Houston and was due to return to the United States a week after his murder.

Four American employees of Corporate Training Unlimited (CTU) of Fayetteville, North Carolina, including its president, were arrested by Iraqi law enforcement authorities under a new U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that strips U.S. contractors of immunity under Iraqi law. A fifth American, who works for another firm was also arrested by the Iraqis in connections with Kitterman's death. According to CTU's website, "In 2003, CTU provide PSD 'Personal Security Detail' service to Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR MER Baghdad) top executives."

According to the Fayetteville Observer, the same day that Kitterman's body was found another CTU contractor, Larry Young, was found dead in the Green Zone from what was "suspected" to have been a rocket attack.

CTU's president is Donald Feeney, Jr., and former Delta Force, was, according to the Fayetteville Observer, arrested along with his son, Donald Feeney III, and two other CTU employees, Micah Milligan and Mark Bridges. The fifth man, Jason Jones, is reported to have worked for "another firm."

Feeney's other son, John Feeney, told the Fayetteville paper that his father was in the Philippines when Kitterman was killed, adding the two were friends but never business partners. The son also stated that two of the CTU employees arrested with his father were at the U.S. embassy at the time of Kitterman's murder.

CTU has had contracts to train the Fayetteville police department in hostage rescue tactics and other emergency responses. CTU also was contracted to provide security for the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserves in Louisiana and Texas, as well as providing specialized training to the security forces of Peru and Ecuador.

Kitterman's brother, Cliff, told the New York Daily News after his brother's murder, "I know some things, but it's speculation right now."

The elder Feeney has been in the news before as a professional "kidnapper." His CTU firm, composed of ex-Army commandos, was paid $200,000 by a Texas woman to snatch her daughter from her Jordanian ex-husband from a school bus in an Amman suburb in January 1988. The kidnapping caused a diplomatic incident between the United States and Jordan and a U.S. diplomat at the embassy in Amman, believed to have assisted in the kidnapping, was recalled to Washington to answer questions. The Reagan administration was forced to apologize to Jordan over the kidnapping incident.

CTU was back in the news again in 1993 when CTU mercenaries, claiming to work for Sylvester Stallone's Carcolo film production company, lured a five year-old girl and her older step-sister away from their Icelandic mother as part of an elaborate hoax and were set to spirit them out of Iceland along with the five-year old's American father who had contracted with Feeney's CTU to conduct the kidnapping. The older girl was to be returned to her American father who was previously married to the same Icelandic mother. Both American fathers were ex-U.S. servicemen. The five-year old's parents had been divorced in 1991 and the older daughter's father had been divorced from her mother in 1986.

Arrested by Icelandic police at Keflavik International Airport were the elder Feeney, who was masquerading as Stallone's film director, and his American client James Grayson. The little girl was returned to her mother, who had been promised a role in the production of a Stallone movie and was slipped a knockout pill by Jacqueline Davis, who claimed to be Stallone's location manager and who was in cahoots with Judy, Feeney's wife. Davis and Judy Feeney were arrested by Luxembourg police after leaving Iceland. The Feeneys also used Swiss and German soil to perpetrate their kidnapping endeavor, an indication of what little regard the ex-Delta Force commando holds the laws of foreign nations from Iceland and Jordan to Iraq. CTU also snatched children away from the foreign ex-husbands of American mothers in Bangladesh, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia.

The Kitterman murder does not stop with CTU. Kitterman, before starting Janus Construction in 2008, worked for Peregrine Development International, a Kuwaiti-financed firm whose president is Dennis Wright, Kitterman's former boss. Kitterman was known to be an "expert" in Iraq and served, according to Wright in an e-mail to The Washington Post, "more days on the ground in Iraq than any other American." Kitterman had been a contractor in Iraq since 2003, the year of the U.S. invasion and occupation. Part of that time was spent by Kitterman working for Kellogg, Brown and Root.

The alibi that CTU president Feeney had been in the Philippines when Kitterman was murdered is also noteworthy. Last year, KGL Investment Company of Kuwait, was selected by Clark International Airport Corporation, with the blessing of the scandal-plagued Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, to build a major air transportation logistics complex at the former U.S. Air Force base at Clark on the island of Luzon. The project is worth some $2 billion. Selected by KGL to develop the project was Peregrine, Kitterman's old firm.Part of the development work is the construction of storage facilities for the Malampaya gas field, northwest of Palawan island. The work was contracted to KBR/Halliburton in 2001. KGL maintains operations in Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Syria, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates.

On August 25, 2008, the Manila Standard reported, "Mrs. Arroyo and KGL officials led by president Mark Williams, Evan McBride and Kevin Krucik will witness the laying of the time capsule by [Clark Airport President Jose] Luciano and project contractor Peregrine Development International represented by its president Dennis Wright."

CTU's website also links to the Clark Eagle Sooting Range and Club website, described as "a multi-million peso state of the art firearms training facility located 80 kilometers north of Manila via the newly refurbished North Luzon Expressway, within the massive Clark Freeport (formerly Clark Air Base) situated adjacent to Angeles City in the province of Pampanga." CTU describes the Clark Eagle Range as the "CTU Training Facility in the Pilippines [sic]."