Blackwater blackshirts patrol New Orleans


Richard Moore

Date: Sat, 10 Sep 2005 22:24:40 -0500 (CDT)
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Subject: Blackwater blackshirts patrol New Orleans
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Blackwater Mercenaries Deploy in New Orleans 

By Jeremy Scahill and Daniela Crespo
Saturday 10 September 2005

New Orleans - Heavily armed paramilitary mercenaries from the
Blackwater private security firm, infamous for their work in
Iraq, are openly patrolling the streets of New Orleans. Some
of the mercenaries say they have been "deputized" by the
Louisiana governor; indeed some are wearing gold Louisiana
state law enforcement badges on their chests and Blackwater
photo identification cards on their arms.

They say they are on contract with the Department of Homeland
Security and have been given the authority to use lethal
force. Several mercenaries we spoke with said they had served
in Iraq on the personal security details of the former head of
the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer and the former US ambassador
to Iraq, John Negroponte.

"This is a totally new thing to have guys like us working
CONUS (Continental United States)," a heavily armed Blackwater
mercenary told us as we stood on Bourbon Street in the French
Quarter. "We're much better equipped to deal with the
situation in Iraq."

Blackwater mercenaries are some of the most feared
professional killers in the world and they are accustomed to
operating without worry of legal consequences. Their presence
on the streets of New Orleans should be a cause for serious
concern for the remaining residents of the city and raises
alarming questions about why the government would allow men
trained to kill with impunity in places like Iraq and
Afghanistan to operate here. Some of the men now patrolling
the streets of New Orleans returned from Iraq as recently as 2
weeks ago.

What is most disturbing is the claim of several Blackwater
mercenaries we spoke with that they are here under contract
from the federal and Louisiana state governments.

Blackwater is one of the leading private "security" firms
servicing the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. It has
several US government contracts and has provided security for
many senior US diplomats, foreign dignitaries and

The company rose to international prominence after 4 of its
men were killed in Fallujah and two of their charred bodies
were hung from a bridge in March 2004. Those killings sparked
the massive US retaliation against the civilian population of
Fallujah that resulted in scores of deaths and tens of
thousands of refugees.

As the threat of forced evictions now looms in New Orleans and
the city confiscates even legally registered weapons from
civilians, the private mercenaries of Blackwater patrol the
streets openly wielding M-16s and other assault weapons. This
despite Police Commissioner Eddie Compass' claim that "Only
law enforcement are allowed to have weapons."

Officially, Blackwater says it forces are in New Orleans to
"join the Hurricane Relief Effort." A statement on the
company's website, dated September 1, advertises airlift
services, security services and crowd control. The company,
according to news reports, has since begun taking private
contracts to guard hotels, businesses and other properties.

But what has not been publicly acknowledged is the claim, made
to us by 2 Blackwater mercenaries, that they are actually
engaged in general law enforcement activities including
"securing neighborhoods" and "confronting criminals."

That raises a key question: under what authority are
Blackwater's men operating? A spokesperson for the Homeland
Security Department, Russ Knocke, told the Washington Post he
knows of no federal plans to hire Blackwater or other private
security. "We believe we've got the right mix of personnel in
law enforcement for the federal government to meet the demands
of public safety." he said.

But in an hour-long conversation with several Blackwater
mercenaries, we heard a different story. The men we spoke with
said they are indeed on contract with the Department of
Homeland Security and the Louisiana governor's office and that
some of them are sleeping in camps organized by Homeland
Security in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

One of them wore a gold Louisiana state law enforcement badge
and said he had been "deputized" by the governor. They told us
they not only had authority to make arrests but also to use
lethal force.

We encountered the Blackwater forces as we walked through the
streets of the largely deserted French Quarter. We were
talking with 2 New York Police officers when an unmarked car
without license plates sped up next to us and stopped. Inside
were 3 men, dressed in khaki uniforms, flak jackets and
wielding automatic weapons. "Y'all know where the Blackwater
guys are?" they asked. One of the police officers responded,
"There are a bunch of them around here," and pointed down the

"Blackwater?" we asked. "The guys who are in Iraq?"

"Yeah," said the officer. "They're all over the place."

A short while later, as we continued down Bourbon Street, we
ran into the men from the car. They wore Blackwater ID badges
on their arms.

"When they told me New Orleans, I said, 'What country is that
in?,'" said one of the Blackwater men. He was wearing his
company ID around his neck in a carrying case with the phrase
"Operation Iraqi Freedom" printed on it. After bragging about
how he drives around Iraq in a "State Department issued level
5, explosion proof BMW," he said he was "just trying to get
back to Kirkuk (in the north of Iraq) where the real action

Later we overheard him on his cell phone complaining that
Blackwater was only paying $350 a day plus per diem. That is
much less than the men make serving in more dangerous
conditions in Iraq. Two men we spoke with said they plan on
returning to Iraq in October. But, as one mercenary said,
they've been told they could be in New Orleans for up to 6
months. "This is a trend," he told us. "You're going to see a
lot more guys like us in these situations."

If Blackwater's reputation and record in Iraq are any
indication of the kind of "services" the company offers, the
people of New Orleans have much to fear.


Jeremy Scahill, a correspondent for the national radio and TV
program Democracy Now!, and Daniela Crespo are in New Orleans.
Visit for in-depth, independent,
investigative reporting on Hurricane Katrina. Email:


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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland

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