January 21, 2010

Rachel Maddow talks to Jeremy Scahill about the latest revelations that private military contractors are being used for security services in Haiti and will likely end up getting contracts for reconstruction as well.

MADDOW: A CIA-linked private security contractor called Evergreen Defense and Security Services E-mailed Oregon County elections director offering to provide private for-profit security at every county election office on voting day tomorrow.

Quote, “EDSS proposes to post sentries at each voting center on November 4th to assure that disputes among citizens do not get out of control. All guards will be unarmed but capable of stopping any violence that may occur and detaining troublemakers until law enforcement arrives.”

Do you guys know that Oregon‘s the only vote-by-mail state, right?

You‘re going to post a guard at every mailbox?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

That was last election eve. Today, that same company, Evergreen, is making news again. “Aviation Week” reporting that they are flying a surveillance drone over Haiti. “Wired.com” followed up on that. They were told by the company that it did not, in fact, have any drones in Haiti.

So then, we followed up with the company and they split the difference telling us that the drone was on its way there today and that the drone‘s battery is expected to arrive tomorrow. These are not armed drones or anything. There‘s nothing wrong with this type of equipment being used in surveying and planning relief efforts.

But since Evergreen rang the cookie contractor bell big time with its offer to detain troublemakers on Election Day in a state where people vote by mail, it got us wondering, who else in the contracting world is in Haiti.

Jeremy Scahill reports for “The Nation” that just a few days after the earthquake, a Florida-based company called All Pro-legal Investigations registered the URL, “Haiti-Security.com.”

Here‘s what the company claims it can provide. Quote, “Professional security against any threat to prosperity in Haiti. Job sites and supply convoys will be protected against looters and vandals. Workers will be protected against gang violence and intimidation. And if you order now, you get armed cargo escorts, dealing with worker unrest and high threat terminations.”

The company that registered “HaitiSecurity.com” is literally offering that on their Web site - high threat terminations.

Joining us now is Jeremy Scahill, reporter for “The Nation,” author of the book, “Blackwater: The Rise of the World‘s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.” Jeremy, thanks for joining us.

JEREMY SCAHILL, REPORTER, “THE NATION”: Thank you.

MADDOW: Do security contractors currently have a presence in Haiti?

What do we know about what they‘re doing there.

SCAHILL: Yes, I mean, security contractors have been in Haiti since the 1990s. Bill Clinton, in fact, started sending in this company, Dimecorp(ph), and that kind of created this paramilitary program that Bush then put on steroids and unleashed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So there‘s been a longstanding presence of contractors there. But what we‘re seeing now - you just mentioned this Florida company. I mean, these guys are nobodies in the security industry. But they saw a moment to make a buck. They buy this URL and hope, you know, for the best.

But some of the kingpins of the mercenary industry like Dimecorp(ph) and Triple Canopy are hiring right now guys for deployment in Haiti. So I would predict that a month from now, when reconstruction starts happening, we‘re going to see more of these companies coming into Haiti.

And private businesses will hire them also. And there‘s going to be serious questions about who oversees them. What law do they fall under? Is the United States going to be monitoring U.S. citizens that are working for private companies, on contract with other private companies? It seems like the last thing Haitians need - yet more unaccountable people with guns in their country.

MADDOW: What‘s the alternative? What‘s a way to fill the vacuum so that private security companies don‘t do it if they‘re inevitably going to do it in an unaccountable way?

SCAHILL: Well, I think, first of all, we have to look at the whole disaster profiteering industry right now. I mean, we saw it start in New Orleans where Blackwater and others got all these contracts. They show up literally on the scene.

And then, after they‘re working, then they get some kind of legitimate government contracts and make a killing off of these operations. I think that the primary concern here is there has to be some rule of law. And if there‘s one thing these companies are known for around the world, it‘s operating in a lawless environment.

So I think that it should be a Haitian-led initiative. The Haitian government‘s sovereignty should be respected. Haiti should call the shots on who comes into the country. If Haiti says, “We don‘t want mercenaries here,” there shouldn‘t be mercenaries there.

MADDOW: Jeremy Scahill, reporter for “The Nation,” author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World‘s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,” whenever I read stories like this even when you don‘t write them, I think of you.

SCAHILL: Can I tell you one thing though? The looting - when they talk about looters - and this is how they benefit because they hype up the looting. The looting was what happened in Iraq on the part of war corporations. People struggling to find food after an earthquake is called survival. The real looters are the companies.

MADDOW: Jeremy Scahill, thank you for being here.

SCAHILL: Thank you.

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