Katrina Update: "Mercenaries" in Louisiana?

Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill and Daniela Crespo report the presence of armed patrols from Blackwater in Louisiana. (Some call Blackwater a private security firm; others use the term "mercenaries." You decide.)

The name Blackwater might ring a bell thanks to its operations in Iraq. A Blackwater press release outlines the firm's contributions to the relief effort. Scahill writes of conversations with Blackwater personnel and others in New Orleans that confirm that the company is involved in law enforcement activities. The Blackwater release emphasizes the help it is providing in the areas of communications and insurance assessments.

The issue has been discussed over at Daily Kos. I'm still trying to figure the whole thing out. Anyone have additional information? Thoughts?

By Emily Messner |  September 15, 2005; 11:27 AM ET  | Category:  Issue Updates
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Homeland Security's National Response Plan has an ESF #13 Annex (in the ESF Annexes) that describes how the President can use the military and National GUard to take over law enforcement from the state governors.

This is allowed under the Constitution -- but only after Congress transfers command of the militia from the State Governors to the President. Unfortunately, COngress gave away this Constitutional control about 50 years ago (in the National Guard Act) and gave the President the power to take command of the National Guard away from the State Governors at will. This is now enshrined in US Code Title 10 section 333. (US Code is available online --google)

Note that members of Blackwater, like all other US males citizens 17-45 years of age, are members of the militia . (as stated in the US Code.)

The real problem is that Congress assumes it can step in and restrain a President who overreaches. But during Sept 11, the airliner which crashed in Pennsylvania --due solely to the efforts of the Passengers -- was headed to the US Capitol. Congress could have been destroyed that day, with no check left to restrain the President.

Congress should take back its power to control who commands the militia/National Guard -- as a check on Presidental actions.

Posted by: Don Williams | September 15, 2005 02:05 PM

Needless to say , all this makes the NRA leadership look like a pack of horses asses. Do you see any of them now waving firearms and chanting "From My Cold Dead Hands"? Or yelling against the "jackbooted thugs" of the federal government as they did during Clinton's administration?

Especially after Attorney General Gonzales has ruled that (a) federal officials can torture US citizens and (b) the Republican Supreme Court has ruled that the Republican Congress has given our Republican President the power to imprison any US citizens for years without a trial by jury?

Actually, the 14th Amendment requires the President to use federal troops if need be to prevent state or local governments from infringing the constitutional rights of US citizens. The Bush Administration argued in Supreme Court Case US vs Emerson that the Second Amendment gives US citizens a right to keep and bear firearms. Yet the WHite House is refusing to intervene as that right is being systemically destroyed in New Orleans. Maybe we should have NRA leaders ask the Congress to impeach the President for not living up to his oath to protect and defend the Constitution.

Posted by: Don Williams | September 15, 2005 02:12 PM

What about companies such as Halliburton that are getting big governmental contracts concerning Katrina clean-up, and are getting such because they now have the guy that put Michael Brown in charge lobbying for them? Now THAT'S mercenary.

Posted by: ErrinF | September 15, 2005 03:23 PM

The Blackwater Security forces scare me because they remind me of Hitler's Brown Shirts, i.e., his "stormtroopers."

At least now, there is hope for the Democratic Party:



Posted by: Concerned Democrat | September 15, 2005 04:37 PM

Blackwater security is comprised of mercenaries who work for the highest bidder. They did their job quite "efficiently" in Iraq where nobody seems to care even to keep count of civilians and insurgents dying at the hands of these mercenaries.What New Orleans and the Gulf Coast need in the wake of the Katrina disaster is a healing touch, and not an indiscriminate flooding of the area with assorted weapons in the hands of unscrupulous individuals ready to kill and make a kill.

Posted by: Lea | September 16, 2005 12:02 AM

"At least now, there is hope for the Democratic Party:"; I doubt it. I am sure those fools will find a way to blow it again. I would love to see a realistic third party arise, a party that represents the people of this nation and not some ideology. I would love to see representatives that cared more about us and less about getting re-elected. What ever happened to people who "do the right thing because it is the right thing to do?"

Posted by: Sam I | September 16, 2005 12:57 PM

Right on, Sam. With our nation in decline the past five or so years (the un-election of 2000, 9/11, the Iraq War, and now Katrina), I think there is a realistic chance for a third party to emerge on the scene in 2008. In fact, Joe Trippi, the man behind the internet campaign that brought Howard Dean to the forefront last year (before Dean spazzed out), has talked extensively about putting his internet campaign expertise behind a third party candidate in 2008. And who knows how many failures of the Republican-Democrat government will continue to occur until 2008 rolls around.
The problem is that the American people (mainly the older generations) are SO programmed against the notion of a third party (Gee, I wonder why, with a media that only focuses on those already in power, and those already in power doing all they can to stay in power). Americans have got to realize that our country was designed to re-invent it's own government every election cycle; If we vote it so, any third party can come into power. There is nothing in the Constitution that says Republican, Democrat, or even two party system. If we empower ourselves and stop handing our votes over to the powers-that-be, America can only get better from it. Instead, we let our votes get curtailed year after year due to demagoguery, media manipulation, and a reactionary need to blindly cling on to tradition even though those very same traditions are driving our country into the ground.
Hell, I'd vote for Blackwater security at this point rather than supporting our current Republican-Democrat government of failure and ineptitude.
p.s. There is also a third party debate currently in the Tom Coburn section of 'The Debate'.

Posted by: ErrinF | September 16, 2005 04:00 PM

"Mercenary" has a specific meaning under the Geneva Conventions. Blackwater does not qualify when it serves in Iraq, because its members are citizens of a party to the conflict.

The distinction is a very important one, for two reasons: First, "mercenaries" are not protected by the Geneva Conventions, and may not claim the rights of prisoners of war if captured. People, such as your Kos, who advocate applying the term are advocating that American citizens performing contracted work for our government ought to be shot without trial.

Second, the term is also applied even to American servicemen by the Taliban and other US enemies. It is unwise to appear to lend credibility to their argument by adopting the position that 'at least some' American fighters are mercenaries. They are not. The terms of the Conventions are clear.

The situation in New Orleans does not fall under the Conventions, but rather under the Constitution. However, the need to preserve a clarity of language in our foreign affairs ought to inspire us to choose carefully how we speak of these security services both at home and abroad.

Posted by: Grim | September 20, 2005 02:12 PM

You hateful liberals do realize that a lot of Blackwater employees are ex-US servicemen/women right?

Posted by: Repub | September 20, 2005 03:02 PM

Additionally the NRA did complain about authorities trying to confiscate weapons from persons defending their lives and properties from looters.

Posted by: Repub | September 20, 2005 03:04 PM

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