Blackwater in Trouble in San Diego

by: Matt Stoller

Sun Apr 27, 2008 at 19:13

One of the key parts of the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq is phasing out the use of private security contractors (ie. mercenaries).  John Amato at Crooks and Liars got the ball going by pointing to HR 4102, Rep. Jan Schakowsky's Stop Outsourcing Security Act, which would effectively impose restrictions on and eventually phase out the use of companies like Blackwater for armed security services.

But Blackwater is facing trouble not just from the Federal government, but from its attempt to militarize the border with new training facilities in California.

San Diego officials will challenge Blackwater Worldwide's permit for an indoor military training facility in South County, saying the public didn't know about the plan.

"Residents deserve to know when a facility like this is approved - before it is approved," San Diego City Council President Scott Peters said.

The North Carolina company received a permit in March for a training site in Otay Mesa, an industrial section of south San Diego, shortly after abandoning its controversial proposal to build a larger facility in Potrero in East County.

The city Development Services Department granted the permit without public hearings. The site was already permitted for a vocational school, and city staff members decided Blackwater's training of Navy personnel qualified. The facility will have a shooting range, a simulated Navy ship and classrooms.

Brian Bonfiglio, a Blackwater vice president, said the opposition seems to originate from anti-war sentiment, not animosity toward the facility itself.

Bonfiglio said the company has been conducting military training for five years at several facilities in San Diego County, including the American Shooting Center on Ruffin Road in Kearny Mesa.

"If they go after our range, they are getting ready to take on every other firearms business in the county," he said. "They're asking something of us that they are not asking of any other business, and quite frankly it's inappropriate."

Yesterday, Peters, San Diego Councilman Ben Hueso and Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, held a rally in Otay Mesa to oppose the permit. They were joined by about 30 community activists.

Mary Ussery of Coronado wore a "Stop Blackwater" T-shirt. She said military activity belongs on military bases, not private property.

"Although it's not my backyard, it's close enough," Ussery said. "It's still my country."

Peters said Blackwater wasn't upfront about its plans to operate out of a 61,600-square-foot building owned by Los Angeles company Hometex in a business park on Siempre Viva Road, just south of Brown Field.

"They filed for a permit under the name of a subcontractor as a deliberate dodge to keep our city and community in the dark," Peters said.

The excellent Courage Campaign in California has a web site 'BlockBlackwater' up to fight Blackwater's domestic mercenary base.  Ultimately, this company needs to stop getting Federal contracts.

Matt Stoller :: Blackwater in Trouble in San Diego

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It's critical to note the border location (4.00 / 1)
There are any number of completely isolated places where Blackwater could build and utilize a facility with less complaint, but the choice of something so close to the border should be regarded suspiciously.  

Blackwater is clearly the mercenary of choice for the federal government, and to have them so closely positioned to the border, it being such a contentious issue, will only pour fuel on that fire, and quite needlessly so.

Blackwater (4.00 / 1)
The thing that worries me about Blackwater is that fact that as a company they can move their headquarters, if not their entire operation offshore. This way they can not only avoid taxes, but once the Iraq war winds down they can offer themselves for hire to any rogue country or organization.

After all, the most important thing a company can do is to remain in business. Diversifying your customer base is the best way to do just that.

They should be broken up and outlawed. This is what Germany did after WWII with the brownshirts. (If anybody is too young to know about them, look them up on Google).

Thanks (0.00 / 0)
for posting this. It's so important for us to stay on top of all this Blackwater/ private "security" shit. And it's up to the bloggers to do it, because the corporate media sure as hell isn't gonna do it.

In addition, what I feel is really needed is a coordinated  effort at generally educating the public on the dangers of these private security companies, why they are a threat to our Democracy, and (on a related note) why we have laws against the military engaging in domestic policing.

I know it may sound stupid and obvious to most readers here, but it's important to keep in mind that most Americans don't know these things. Any successful effort to curtail Blackwater and the like really has to include some ground level education.  


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