December 11, 2009

Horrors! NT Times Slams CIA/Blackwater for... Poor Project Managment Skills

The New York Times is still deeply involved in fighting the ghosts of President's past, trumpeting the headline, Blackwater Guards Tied to Secret Raids by the C.I.A.

Considering the hype, I was expecting something explosive—maybe they helped snatch potential terrorists off the streets of Cairo, or maybe even here in the U.S.—or at least something mildly titillating.

Instead, the Times delivers this:

Private security guards from Blackwater Worldwide participated in some of the C.I.A.’s most sensitive activities — clandestine raids with agency officers against people suspected of being insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and the transporting of detainees, according to former company employees and intelligence officials.

Really? This is the big story? While the confirmation that Blackwater operatives might have participated in raids in combat zones is newsworthy, it isn't exactly surprising, is it? That they've also escorted detainees being transported from one location to another is frankly boring.

But maybe there's more too this story than the lede suggests.

The raids against suspects occurred on an almost nightly basis during the height of the Iraqi insurgency from 2004 to 2006, with Blackwater personnel playing central roles in what company insiders called "snatch and grab" operations, the former employees and current and former intelligence officers said.

Now, that is a bit more interesting. They were engaging almost nightly, and played central roles. The C.I.A. partnering with mercs... sounds like a thousand B-rated action movies, but hey, I like those.

Let's see what else they've got.

Several former Blackwater guards said that their involvement in the operations became so routine that the lines supposedly dividing the Central Intelligence Agency, the military and Blackwater became blurred. Instead of simply providing security for C.I.A. officers, they say, Blackwater personnel at times became partners in missions to capture or kill militants in Iraq and Afghanistan, a practice that raises questions about the use of guns for hire on the battlefield.

Okay, NYT. You had me, and then you lost me.

If I understand this right, the Blackwater guys weren't originally a planned part of the raids, but were there playing security for the C.I.A. guys much as they did the State Department. At some point, there was the need for an extra active participant or more in the raid, and the Blackwater guys, being former military and there were the obvious and logical choice to step in.

I can see a logical (and quite human) progression from being an impressed team member who stepped in as part of his overarching mission to protect his principle (which seems to arguably still be within the scope of his assignment), to the more murky and politically problematic normalized use of Blackwater guards in these missions. There is certainly what the project managers among us with recognize as "scope creep," but the Times still isn't giving us much meat. Were the guards involved in overwatch roles, setting up a perimeter? Or were they intimately active in the actual door-kicking, room-clearing, Tango-bagging searches themselves? If so, to what extent? Did they shoot anyone the shouldn't have? Did they shoot anyone, at all?

The Times doesn't tell us. That seems to be a very important distinction to make if the newspaper is going to level charges of wrong-doing. Lacking that, the story seems to fall flat.

Indeed, a close reading of the story leaves the reader more perplexed than informed. The Times writers certainly set a dark and ominous tone, but what they delivered was anti-climatic.

Other than vague insinuations of wrong-doing and the rehashing of historical events involving the company—stories the paper has already covered ad nauseum—there seems to be very little actual substance in what the authors present .

Scope creep? Really? That is the big story?

If I didn't know better about the Times stellar reputation for politics-free, objective reporting, I might be tempted to offer up an allegation of my own. If I were so inclined, I might suggest they were offering up a red herring to their readers... perhaps to distract them from the sort of things the editors might not want their readers thinking about.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at December 11, 2009 11:09 AM

Somewhat interesting but I notice the lack of citations to laws actually violated.

Posted by: Roy Lofquist at December 11, 2009 04:58 PM

This was a very well written article. Great job, CY. I noticed that ABC was running this story on the front page of their website around noon today.

They must have gotten the memo. Their logic is weird.

1. Blackwater doing Security with CIA.
2. ???????
3. Evil!

This garbage would barely pass for a plotline on the syfy channel. Yet it's considered the tops in the MSM.

Posted by: brando at December 11, 2009 06:18 PM

The NYT's influence is declining as it reader base declines.Articles like this,resurrecting the evil Bush effigy, are aimed at keeping its loyal liberal readers who expect nothing less than an endless stream of them. You will never ever see any real time "exposes" from the Times as long as Obama is in office. He is giving them the all important early access they lost under Bush. The fire wall between the money men at the NYT and its "journalists" has desolved.

Posted by: mytralman at December 11, 2009 08:18 PM

Once again, children wade into adult territory. what if blackwater was guarding cia operatives and get shot at, than they would have to react. is this part of the "participation" in clandestine missions the nyt seems to be reaching for? just as well, the cia has a long history of partnership with local civilian security in dangerous parts of the world. in the middle east, who would you rather have your back, ex american special forces operatives or your local iraqi gunfighter?Just as well, contractors aren't hamstrung by the multitude rules of engagement that makes the military so ineffective. also, noted is the nugget that the nyt, although they keep on digging, hasn't one iota of proof that blackwater has solely gone in, with guns blazing to kill or snatch and grab terrorists. this seems to be a byline to implant the suggestion of a hypothetical problem of blurring civilian, cia and military duties. once again the nyt has their panties in a bunch over nothing.

with the nyt, you learn to disregard their version of the story and , instead, read it to learn about their agenda. this is just another series of hit pieces on blackwater, of which nyt is at war with, and the agenda is to force congress to investigate and eventually defund the "evil" blackwater. shameful just shameful. instead of trying to bring down blackwater,they should spend a quarter of this research into the activities of acorn-- the center of the hurricane when it comes to graft and corruption.

Posted by: befuddled at December 12, 2009 06:40 AM

actually the times should go ahead and die all ready.

or become the "pbs" of news print.

that way the mask is off the hag and everyone will know its a leftwing government propaganda tool.

not that everyone with two brain cells doesnt know that allready.

Posted by: rumcrook® at December 12, 2009 10:04 AM

Rut-Roh. Best NOT to be askin me what I was doin in '04 'round about Baghdadland... might get in trouble!!!!!

Posted by: Big Country at December 12, 2009 11:57 AM

I'll really lose sleep over this. NOT.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at December 12, 2009 05:16 PM

Blackwater == mercenaries. Mercs == soulless bastiches who kill for money. Ergo, they're evil. Screw 'em.

The inconvenient fact that the great majority of Blackwater operatives are honorably discharged former members of the United States armed forces is ... irrelevant.

That's how things work in Times-land.

Posted by: Casey at December 16, 2009 01:45 AM