Citizens’ Oversight Projects
CONTACT: Raymond Lutz, COPS Coordinator
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 16, 2009
Blackwater-Xe Contract Canceled by Southwestern College
College Board responds to Ten Months of Protests and Public Resistance
CHULA VISTA, CA (Oct. 16) – Southwestern College District Governing Board approved the cancellation of their agreement with Blackwater-Xe in their October 14, 2009 board meeting. The agreement had students from Southwestern College enrolled in law enforcement training programs using shooting ranges in the Blackwater-Xe Otay Mesa mercenary training facility.
The agreement, first disclosed in January, 2009, allowed law enforcement students to use Blackwater-Xe's facility in Otay Mesa, and originally included provisions that compensated Blackwater for staff time, allowed Blackwater to use SWC on-campus conference rooms for any purpose and for an unlimited period of time (perhaps for mercenary soldier recruiting) and included a “gag-order” in which the board could not say anything about the agreement to the public without the prior written approval of Blackwater, among others. Nine changes were made to the agreement after these issues were brought to light through a written complaint by COPs – Citizens' Oversight Projects – the changes eliminating the most egregious provisions. However, the college continued to use the Otay Mesa facility despite other facilities being available.
“I went to every shooting range in the county and gave them a list of alternatives,” Veronica Lavarello, a Stop Blackwater activist. “There were several options that were not considered by the college, and those were free or almost free to use.”
“To save a few bucks, you basically sold out your souls and made a pact with the devil,” Congressman Bob Filner said at the April 15 2009 board meeting. “These are bad guys. These are bad guys. They have killed innocent civilians in Iraq, and they lost their contract with the State Department for so doing. When they have one of their employees wounded or killed, you should see what they do to the parents. They don't give them any information. They lock them out of any knowledge. This is not a good company.”
“Blackwater's goal was to sanitize their soiled reputation by changing their name to Xe-Systems LLC and partnering with the College,” Ray Lutz said, coordinator of COPs. “They wanted students to come to their facility and see how glamorous a life as a mercenary could be, the free use of the facility serving as a way to advertise their own training programs and perhaps convince the students to give up a career as a police officer or Sheriffs deputy and instead pursue a career path as a mercenary soldier war profiteer.”
Volunteers from around the county attended every meeting of the college board since January 2009 adamantly requesting that the contract be canceled, videotaped the meetings, and protested outside, sometimes interrupting the meeting with the chants to “Stop Blackwater.”
The cancellation was approved by the board just after the two-year anniversary of the Nisour Square massacre, where on September 16, 2007, Blackwater contractors ruthlessly murdered 17 innocent civilians and injured scores more in a 30-minute shooting spree in Baghdad. An investigation by the FBI eventually held five Blackwater contractors responsible for the killings, but took great pains to state that Blackwater Worldwide had no responsibility whatsoever, even though the contractors were trained by Blackwater and took their marching orders from Blackwater higher-ups.
Early in 2009, Blackwater changed their name to “Xe Systems, LLC”, pronounced “Zee,” and the first draft of the agreement with Southwestern College still included the name Blackwater. “I hope people will see through their public relations game and continue to recognize a problem when they see it,” Lutz said.
The action on the agreement includes a contractually specified four-month delay, although there is no penalty for the college to discontinue their use of the facility immediately and use other shooting ranges, such as the range in Miramar which is run by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
Southwestern College District serves 18,000 students annually and is located in the extreme south-west corner of the continental United States between the City of San Diego and the U.S.-Mexico international border.
In March, 2008, Blackwater pulled the plug on a project to develop an 824-acre training facility in Potrero, a tiny hamlet in east San Diego County, about an hour from San Diego, after intense resistance by the Potrero community and the recall of five pro-Blackwater members of the Potrero Community Planning Group, replacing them with members who eventually voted against the project.
A month later, COPs learned of a secret facility developed by Blackwater under pseudonyms “Raven Development” and “Southwest Law Enforcement” in Otay Mesa. The City of San Diego refused to issue their occupancy permits when City Planners learned of the true extent of the 66,000 square foot facility, but Blackwater took the city to federal court, where Judge Marilyn Huff, a George H. W. Bush appointee, ruled in favor of Blackwater, thereby forcing the city to accept the warfare training facility without discretionary review. This Otay Mesa facility was the subject of the agreement with Southwestern College.
-- --------------------------------------- Raymond Lutz, Coordinator Citizens' Oversight Projects (COPs) 1265 Avocado Blvd, Suite 104 (#335) El Cajon (San Diego Cty), CA 92020 USA Voice 619-820-5321 http//www.CitizensOversight.org