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February 24, 2010
Contact: Medea Benjamin, 415-235-6517
Former Blackwater Employee Threatens to Kill CODEPINK Activist in
Senate Hearing Room
CODEPINK calls on Congress to support the Schakowsky/Sanders ‘Stop Outsourcing Security’ Act
On Wednesday, February 24, at the Senate Armed Services hearing on Blackwater, a former Blackwater employee known as Johnnie Walker threatened to kill CODEPINK activist Tighe Barry.
The hearing, entitled Contracting and Counterinsurgency: An Examination of the Blackwater-Paravant Contract and the Need for Oversight, was convened by Senator Carl Levin to look into Blackwater personnel’s reckless use of unauthorized weapons, its failure to adequate vet its personnel, and the lack of government oversight into the behavior of the contractors.
Johnnie Walker was a program manager in Afghanistan hired by Paravant, a front company for Blackwater. According to program manager Hugh Middleton, Mr. Walker was fired on May 6, 2009 for repetitively drinking on the job and cultivating an environment that led to the May 5, 2009 shooting incident in Kabul which two Afghan civilians were killed.
CODEPINK activist Tighe Barry was attending the hearing and was shocked about the criminal behavior of Blackwater contractors that included stealing weapons, reckless use of weapons, drinking on the job, violating rules of their contracts, defrauding the US government and disregarding local Afghan laws. “During the recess in the hearing, I spoke out about the shameful actions of Blackwater personnel that led to the death of Afghan civilians and their own fellow employees. Johnnie Walker, as he was leaving the hearing room, turned to me—within earshot of the U.S. Capitol Policeman Angel Morales–and said, “I’m gonna kill YOU.”
Barry shouted out to the police and Blackwater management, “Do you see the kind of people you hire–such loose cannons that they’d threaten me in a Senate hearing room?” Barry filed a complaint with the Capitol Police.
The hearing also exposed that in 2008, Raytheon told Blackwater that if it wanted to get a subcontract to train Afghans in arms safety, it should apply under a different name because Blackwater had such a bad reputation. So Blackwater, which later rebranded itself as Xe, created a shell company called Paravant.
The hearing revealed the urgent need to support the bill introduced on February 23 by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Senator Bernie Sanders called the “Stop Outsourcing Security Act.” This legislation would phase our private security contractors in war zones. “If Blackwater employees would threaten to kill a member of the US public in Washington DC, imagine what they do to Afghans thousands of miles away,” said Barry. “We’ve got to stop these people from committing criminal acts with our taxdollars.”
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