Sunday, October 24, 2010

Worlds Meet

TV Points Finger At Contractors

When the new FOX series Nikita premiered in September, it became the sixth series to feature the idea of a contracting industry that grows uncontrollably beyond government constraints. We dare to ask if fiction writers see this threat, why many government policy people and most media continue to ignore the problem.

In the climax of the opening episode, Nikita, a former operative of the Division rescues an African leader from an assassination attempt by her former employer. Nikita told the African leader that he was the target of a rogue department created by the government, which no longer maintained that control. The Division started as a Blackwater-like secret ops organization with specialized ninja-like rangers.

Contracting firms like Blackwater, now called Xe, are hired by the government to handle protection as bodyguards, accompany convoys of trucks and even gather intelligence from areas like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nikita became the sixth series recognizing contracting firms as a threat. The CBS series Jericho (which ran from 2006 to 2008), showed the culprit of a contracting firm called J&R that could destroy US towns in order to preserve national security. The season before it ended, 24 (FOX) presented a contracting firm that decided the national interest called for smuggling nuclear material into Washington D.C. along with a seizure of the President. Both Flash Forward (ABC) and The Unit (CBS) demonstrated the ability of those rogue corporations to subvert the FBI, CIA and national security forces. This year’s The Event (NBC) casts a president kept out of the loop by such a threat.

Yet the problem of such corporations is being ignored by most people. Blackwater was temporarily banned from working in Iraq when a series of citizen killings alienated the Iraqi government. But the ban was short lived and the company was called back because the Pentagon considered its work necessary for national security. When a key writer for The Nation detailed how Blackwater’s founder was implicated in murder in an August 4, 2009 article, the warning produced little attention. One court even suggested that the black ops people were outside of any US jurisdiction. We should dare to ask if these corporations are exerting even more unseen influence and perhaps exert power to suppress information.

Blackwater or Xe, or Blackwater Worldwide, which it was before becoming Xe, lies at the tip of a threatening iceberg. The Center for Public Integrity reported that since 1994, the Defense Department entered into 3,601 contracts worth $300 billion from 12 corporations like Xe. Arguments claim these corporations are an inevitable measure to save money. However, those comments don’t explain how paying a Xe contractor $600 a day while billing the government for $900 day compares to using standard army personnel.

A recent NPR report described the death of a Taliban leader during a strike. Oddly, the report also indicated the Taliban leader code-named White, was a black ops contractor. So when we see reports like that spotlighting our supposed enemies as those we placed to protect us, maybe departments like the Division, or Jack Bauer’s foe, might not be as fictional as we think.

The threats abound. Is the cloak of protecting the country’s national security a massive cover for deciding the course of history without giving the public a voice in the decision? Dare we ask if the average Roman worried about seeing the Praetorian Guard around his leader? Did he fear that those guards might one day seize power without regard for democracy?

- Tom Pope

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