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The Washington Post Sunday Edition has a feature article today titled Four Hired Guns in an Armored Truck, Bullets Flying, and a Pickup and a Taxi Brought to a Halt. Who Did the Shooting and Why?

The article focuses on four security contractors working for a company called Triple Canopy.  

The article goes on to describe two incidents that occurred on July 8th, 2006 as these security contractors went to the airport to pick up a VIP and as they returned.  The incidents involve allegations of random shootings that were not reported, predicated upon an alleged statement made by the Team Leader, Jacob Washbourne, that "I want to kill somebody today."

The article also focuses on how there is a lack of accountability for these mercenaries security contractors.

The U.S. military has brought charges against dozens of soldiers and Marines in Iraq, including 64 servicemen linked to murders. Not a single case has been brought against a security contractor, and confusion is widespread among contractors and the military over what laws, if any, apply to their conduct. The Pentagon estimates that at least 20,000 security contractors work in Iraq, the size of an additional division.

Private contractors were granted immunity from the Iraqi legal process in 2004 by L. Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. occupation government. More recently, the military and Congress have moved to establish guidelines for prosecuting contractors under U.S. law or the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but so far the issue remains unresolved.

This incident is the only investigation under consideration and it seems to be focused more on the fact that reporting rules were not followed than on the possibility of attempted murder or even murder.

The only known inquiry into the July 8 incidents was conducted by Triple Canopy, a 3 1/2-year-old company founded by retired Special Forces officers and based in Herndon. Triple Canopy employed the four guards. After the one-week probe, the company concluded that three questionable shooting incidents had occurred that day and fired Washbourne and two other employees, Shane B. Schmidt and Charles L. Sheppard III.

Lee A. Van Arsdale, Triple Canopy's chief executive officer, said the three men failed to report the shootings immediately, a violation of company policy and local Defense Department requirements for reporting incidents. He said Triple Canopy was unable to determine the circumstances behind the shootings, especially since no deaths or injuries were recorded by U.S. or Iraqi authorities.

"You have to assume that, if someone engages, he is following the rules and that he did feel a threat," Van Arsdale said, adding that conflicting accounts, delays in reporting the incidents and lack of evidence made it impossible to determine exactly what provoked the shootings. Triple Canopy officials said they have lobbied for more regulation of contractors since 2004 to better define how incidents such as the July 8 shootings are reported and investigated.

Additionally, the article points out how Washbourne, as the lead made $600 per day and the other U.S. contractors made $500 per day.  The TCN's (Third Country Nationals) such as Fijian army veteran Isireli Naucukidi, make a paltry $70 a day although he faces the same dangers and does the same job.

There have been many well written diaries here pointing out the rise of mercenary class vis-a-vis the security contractor business.  The article points out that security contractors number near 20,000, approximately the size of another division.  That is a spurious distinction though since they are not utilized as a division.  They follow the agenda of their corporate sponsors.

Moreover though, these contractors offer a disturbing glimpse on a macro level, as well as a micro level, into our war for profit consciousness.

The demand for trained and willing people means that our country is being represented by people who have little to no regard for human life.  The Iraqi's, far from seeing the Americans as liberators, look at these people and see bullies, murderers and paid thugs.  What will there reaction to that be?  I think even George Bush should be able to figure that out.

As for the lack of accountability, the lack of ownership for governance of these companies, is appalling. The Congress must set strict rules and there must be firm mechanisms in place to ensure that any and all misconduct is addressed and strict guidelines are followed.  Individuals should be held to account for their actions and their companies should also bear responsibility for what their employees do.  

Originally posted to JEB on Sun Apr 15, 2007 at 10:17 AM PDT.

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