Despite news reports that the security contractor formerly known as Blackwater has seen its contracts dry up and its influence wane, the company continues to do brisk business in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and the Obama administration may be too afraid of the firm to do anything about it, says investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill.
"You know who's guarding Hillary Clinton in Afghanistan right now? Blackwater," Scahill told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Tuesday night. "You know who guards members of Congress? Blackwater. They have half a billion dollars in contracts in Afghanistan right now. CIA, State Department, Defense Department. Why is President Obama keeping these guys on the payroll? There has never been a company in recent history that made the case that corporations are corrupt, evil organizations [better] than Blackwater."
Scahill was on The Rachel Maddow Show discussing the New York Times' revelation that senior Blackwater executives allegedly arranged for bribes of up to $1 million for Iraqi politicians in a bid to retain its contracts and silence criticism of the company in the wake of the Nissour Square massacre in 2007, in which 17 Iraqi civilians died after Blackwater guards opened fire.
Though the Times report stated that it's unknown if the approved bribes ever reached their targets -- Iraqi politicians -- Scahill drew a connection between the alleged bribes and the fact that, after the Nissour Sqaure massacre, the Iraqi government first decided to bar Blackwater from operating in the country, and then reversed its position.
"You had the Iraqi government saying Blackwater was banned from that country, then suddenly doing an about face, and Blackwater remains in Iraq to this day," Scahill said.
That sentiment was echoed by Spencer Ackerman at the Washington Independent, who also suggested a link between the alleged bribes and Blackwater's continued presence in Iraq. "Now we have some inkling of why the Iraqis allowed the firm to stay," Ackerman blogged.
Scahill suggested that the security firm's deep and continued involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars means the company could potentially embarrass any administration with the things it can reveal.
"Another way of looking at this is Blackwater knows where a lot of bodies are buried," Scahill told Maddow. "These are guys who worked on the CIA assassination program, the drone bombing campaign, and regarding all of the senior officals, they know a heck of a lot about what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those are not guys that you want on the other side of the fence if you're running Washington."
Scahill dismissed as "nonsense" the idea that Blackwater continues to have contracts because its services can't be carried out by regular military forces.
This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Nov. 10, 2009.