Contract comes despite Sec. Clinton's pledge to ban 'private mercenary firms'

The State Department has awarded part of a $10-billion embassy protection contract to the company formerly known as Blackwater, but you wouldn't know it by looking at government documents.

On Thursday, the State Department announced the winners of a tender to protect security services to diplomatic missions around the world, including the US's massive embassy in Iraq. The name Xe Services -- Blackwater's current name -- doesn't appear in the contract, but the name International Development Solutions does.

Spencer Ackerman reports at that International Development Solutions is a shell company set up by Blackwater in partnership with engineering firm Kaseman to run US Training Center, a Blackwater subsidiary.

"No one who looks at the official announcement of the contract award would have any idea that firm is connected to Blackwater," Ackerman writes.

It's not clear how much of the $10-billion value of the contract will go to Blackwater. Nor is it clear whether Blackwater's share of the contract would require any work to be done in Iraq. That could be problematic, as the Iraqi government banned Blackwater from operating there earlier this year.

The method by which Blackwater acquired the State Department's "Worldwide Protective Services" contract, as it is known, appears to fall in line with the company's strategy to set up shell companies for the purpose of winning government contracts.

And it also comes despite past pledges by State Sec. Hillary Clinton to ban "private mercenary firms" from winning government contracts.

In early 2008, five months after Blackwater guards reportedly killed 17 civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square, then-Sen. Clinton promised to end the practice of hiring private security companies.

"From this war's very beginning, this administration has permitted thousands of heavily-armed military contractors to march through Iraq without any law or court to rein them in or hold them accountable," Clinton said in a statement. "These private security contractors have been reckless and have compromised our mission in Iraq. The time to show these contractors the door is long past due."

That year Clinton also co-sponsored a bill with independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Stop Outsourcing Security Act, which would have required "government personnel" to be used for security services.

But little has come of that promise since Clinton took the reins at the State Department. In June, it was reported that Blackwater had won a $120-million contract from the State Department to provide security services in Afghanistan.

In his report, Ackerman notes that the bid process "included a 'review' to ensure that companies met 'minimum criteria' for eligibility," including a check to see if the company had been barred from being awarded government contracts.

"Despite Blackwater guards killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007; killing two Afghan civilians on a Kabul road in 2009; and absconding with hundreds of unauthorized guns from a US military weapons depot in Afghanistan using the name of a South Park character, federal contracting authorities have never suspended or debarred Blackwater," Ackerman writes.