Blackwater USA yesterday pulled out of one of the few Washington-based industry associations for private security companies, a move that distances the embattled firm from one of its staunchest advocates.
The move comes at a time of intense scrutiny for the Moyock, N.C., security company. Drawing attention at the highest levels of the U.S. and Iraqi governments, multiple investigations into Blackwater's State Department security work in Iraq are focused on a Sept. 16 shooting that the Iraqi government said left 17 people dead. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is taking a lead role in the State Department's examination of the incident. Already, the State Department plans to increase monitoring of Blackwater's protection teams by mounting video cameras in vehicles.
The International Peace Operations Association confirmed that the company had withdrawn its membership. Blackwater, which joined in 2004, is no longer listed as a member on the association's Web site.
By leaving the association, Blackwater is taking a step back from the group's activities and self-governance programs, as well as the work those entail.
"We have decided to take a hiatus from the [association]," said a Blackwater spokeswoman. "We, like many other organizations engaged in this type of work, are pursuing other aspects and methods of industry outreach and governance."
For Blackwater, the association and its founder, Doug Brooks, have been advocates of the private security industry and the role that companies play in Iraq. In the aftermath of the Sept. 16 shooting, Mr. Brooks did scores of media interviews. Blackwater largely kept mum as required by its State Department contract.
Courtesy Sharon Weinberger, the kinder, gentler Blackwater:
notorious merc outfitstability operations contractor, seems to be striking off in a new area with a warm, fuzzy sounding "Blackwater Peace and Stability Operations Institute."
This fits with Blackwater's long stated goals to participate or run peace operations in troubled regions, such as Darfur. To me, they are more qualified than the mercenaries wearing the Blue Helmets now.
Two educational side notes, as I went on recent screed on reporters not understanding what they're reporting. First, Aegis has been denied membership to IPOA multiple times. If you're wondering about IPOA, contact them directly. Doug is very accessible and willing to talk about the organization, especially if you buy him lunch because he does need to eat. Apparently his clients are cheap.
Second, if you're really curious, IPOA is very different than the other two organizations for private security companies. To start, IPOA isn't just for security operators as the name implies nor is it just for American companies. Second, the British Association of Private Security Companies is, well, read the name again and you'll understand the different. Ambassador Andy Bearpark runs BAPSC and is relatively accessible as well, but he's not putting his neck out like Dougie of IPOA (who runs this YahooGroup to discuss and criticize the private military industry). There's a third group, the Private Security Company Association of Iraq, which is obviously limited in geography, industry, and, in truth, influence. Unlike the other two, I don't know the guy running PSCAI, but I hear he's less accessible.