One of the great obscenities of the government response post-Katrina is that, while officials failed to provide food, evacuation buses, and other assistance, they somehow found the ability to deploy massive security detachments.
The feds proved especially adept at getting money to North Carolina-based corporate security outfit Blackwater International. Jeremy Scahill has an excellent piece in the lastest issue of The Nation detailing how Blackwater made out:
According to Blackwater's government contracts, obtained by The Nation, from September 8 to September 30, 2005, Blackwater was paid $409,000 for providing fourteen guards and four vehicles to "protect the temporary morgue in Baton Rouge, LA." That contract kicked off a hurricane boon for Blackwater. From September to the end of December 2005, the government paid Blackwater at least $33.3 million--well surpassing the amount of Blackwater's contract to guard Ambassador Paul Bremer when he was head of the US occupation of Iraq. And the company has likely raked in much more in the hurricane zone.
Perhaps most surprising, the days of disaster profiteering for Blackwater and other security outfits -- while critical services go unfixed -- don't appear to be stopping anytime soon. When confronted with the company's lavish contracts last fall, Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner said the money will keep flowing:
Skinner admitted that "the ongoing cost of the contract...is clearly very high" and then quietly dropped a bombshell: "It is expected that FEMA will require guard services on a relatively long-term basis (two to five years)." Two to five years? Already most of the 330 federally contracted private guards in the hurricane zone are working for Blackwater, according to the Washington Post. Another firm, DynCorp, is also trying to grab more of the action, offering its security services for less than $700 per day per guard.
Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky is not amused:
Schakowsky charges that the Administration has written Blackwater "blank checks," saying that the internal DHS review of the company "leaves us with more questions than answers." She points out that the report fails to address the major issues stemming from deploying private forces on US streets. In her testimony this past September, Schakowsky said, "Ask any American if they want thugs from a private, for-profit company with no official law-enforcement training roaming the streets of their neighborhoods. The answer will be a resounding NO."
Read the whole piece here, it's good.