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Stephen Losey – (Federal Times) – April 29, 2011 – Wired’s Danger Room has the fascinating — and bizarre — story of @PrimorisEra, an alleged online temptress whose mysterious, sexy photos and national security know-how may have enticed military and intelligence officials to spill the beans in flirty social media conversations.
PrimorisEra (whose real name is apparently either Shawna or Shawn Gorman) claimed to be a Defense Department employee or contractor when talking to some men. To others, she allegedly claimed to work for the CIA’s weapons and arms control center. Some found her habit of pushing for information on their contacts and deployments “creepy.”
Last Friday, a fed-up female Defense contractor accused Gorman (on Twitter, no less) of being a social networking “honey pot,” or someone who uses sex appeal to trick men into leaking information. Almost immediately, Wired reported, Gorman shut down most of her social media accounts and largely disappeared from view. The Pentagon has now opened an investigation to see if anyone broke security rules when talking to her.
A woman claiming to be Gorman denied to Wired that she is a spy or trying to gather intelligence. Her numerous chats on Twitter, Facebook and other instant messaging services were simply friendly, flirtatious conversation, she said. Gorman’s defenders say she was, at worst, a wannabe who puffed up her contacts to get attention, and that she was unfairly ganged up on.
Whatever the truth is, this weird case should at least remind everyone handling sensitive information to be careful about what they say on the Internet — even when chatting with a sexy avatar. (Click HERE for original article)
Afghan troops to provide security for US supply convoys in Afghanistan? What?
By HEIDI VOGT (AP) – August 17, 2010
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan’s president issued a decree Tuesday formalizing a four-month deadline for private security companies to disband — a move likely to dismay NATO and the U.S. military that rely on such firms to protect convoys and bases.
Security operators — both Afghan and foreign — have become a point of contention between the government and coalition forces and the international community as complaints have mounted that the firms are poorly regulated, reckless and effectively operate outside local law.
According to the decree, security contractors currently working in Afghanistan will have to either join the Afghan police force or cease operations by the deadline.
It does provide an exception for private security firms working inside of compounds used by international groups, including embassies, businesses and non-governmental organizations.
“They will have to stay inside of the organization’s compound and will have to be registered with the Interior Ministry,” the decree states.
All security outside of these compounds will be provided by Afghan security forces, as will all security for supply convoys for international troops, the decree says.
The deadline was first announced Monday by Karzai’s spokesman but no details were available until the decree was formally issued. Read the remainder of this entry »
06/19/10 12:20 PM PDT
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — Part of the company once known as Blackwater Worldwide has been awarded a more than $120 million contract to protect new U.S. consulates in the Afghan cities of Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif, the U.S. Embassy said Saturday.
The United States Training Center, a business unit of the former Blackwater, now called Xe Services, was awarded the contract Friday, embassy spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
The company won the contract over two other American firms — Triple Canopy and DynCorps International, she said. The one-year contract can be extended twice for three months each for a maximum of 18 months.
Under the name Blackwater, the Moyock, North Carolina-based company provided guards and services to the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere but came under sharp criticism for its heavy-handed tactics in those missions.
It has been trying to rehabilitate its image since a 2007 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square that killed 17 people, outraged the Iraqi government and led to federal charges against several Blackwater guards.
The accusations later were thrown out of court after a judge found prosecutors mishandled evidence. The Justice Department has appealed that ruling.
In the wake of the ruling, Iraq ordered hundreds of private security guards linked to Blackwater to leave the country. Iraqi officials said the order applied to security guards who were working for Blackwater at the time of the Nisoor Square shooting.
Xe eventually lost its license to operate as protector of U.S. diplomats in Iraq and the State Department when its contract expired last year. Nine months later, the State Department temporarily extended a contract with a Xe subsidiary known as Presidential Airways to provide air support for U.S. diplomats. (click HERE for the original article)
By RICHARD LARDNER (AP) – June 14, 2010
WASHINGTON — The State Department is quietly forming a small army to protect diplomatic personnel in Iraq after U.S. military forces leave the country at the end of 2011, taking their firepower with them.
Department officials are asking the Pentagon for heavy military gear, including Black Hawk helicopters, and say they will also need substantial support from private contractors.
The shopping list demonstrates the department’s reluctance to count on Iraq’s army and police forces for security despite the billions of dollars the U.S. invested to equip and train them. And it shows that President Barack Obama is having a hard time keeping his pledge to reduce U.S. reliance on contractors, a practice that flourished under the Bush administration.
In an early April request to the Pentagon, Patrick Kennedy, the State Department’s under secretary for management, is seeking 24 Black Hawks, 50 bomb-resistant vehicles, heavy cargo trucks, fuel trailers, and high-tech surveillance systems. Kennedy asks that the equipment, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, be transferred at “no cost” from military stocks.
Contractors will be needed to maintain the gear and provide other support to diplomatic staff, according to the State Department, a potential financial boon for companies such as the Houston-based KBR Inc. that still have a sizable presence in Iraq.
“After the departure of U.S. forces, we will continue to have a critical need for logistical and life support of a magnitude and scale of complexity that is unprecedented in the history of the Department of State,” says Kennedy’s April 7 request to Ashton Carter, the Defense Department’s under secretary for acquisition and technology.
Without the equipment, there will be “increased casualties,” according to attachments to Kennedy’s memo detailing the department’s needs.
The military equipment would be controlled by the department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, according to the information Kennedy sent to the Pentagon. During the Bush administration, the bureau was heavily criticized by members of Congress for its management of Blackwater Worldwide and other private security firms working in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The military has about 7,500 of the bomb-resistant vehicles — known as MRAPs — in Iraq. So shifting 50 to the State Department could be easily handled as the troops depart.
But handing over two dozen Black Hawks, which cost between $12 million and $18 million depending on the model, would be more problematic. The aircraft are in short supply and heavily used by military forces in Afghanistan, where the primitive roads heighten the need for transportation by air.
The Defense Department has not formally responded to Kennedy’s memo.
Spokesmen for both departments said the two agencies are discussing the request. “Both agencies recognize the importance of a smooth transition,” Brian Heath, the State Department spokesman said.
About 90,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, and that number is expected to fall to 50,000 by the end of August under Obama’s plan to remove all combat troops from the country. All American forces are scheduled to leave by the end of 2011.
Departing, too, will be key crucial missions they performed, such as recovering downed aircraft, convoy security, bomb detection and disposal, and the ability to counter rocket and mortar attacks.
By September 2011, the 22 U.S.-led reconstruction teams spread throughout Iraq will be replaced by five “Enduring Presence Posts,” according to the documents Kennedy sent to the Pentagon. The State Department will be responsible for all the costs of operating these stations, including security, until at least 2015.
State wants to use an existing Defense Department contract in Iraq to support these posts and the U.S. embassy in Baghdad with essential services, including meals, mail delivery and laundry.
If State can’t use that contract, known as “LOGCAP,” the department “will be forced to redirect its resources towards developing, implementing and overseeing a massive new life support infrastructure throughout Iraq,” the documents state.
The Black Hawk, manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, Conn., is designed to carry a crew of four and 11 fully equipped infantryman. The helicopters are armed with two machine guns.
The MRAPs — pronounced M-Rap — the State Department wants are called Caimans. The vehicles are nine-feet tall, weigh 19 tons and are made by BAE Systems in Sealy, Texas. Each Caiman costs more than $1 million. The vehicles have a special armor designed to deflect the most potent roadside bombs. (click HERE for original article)