Blackwater in Afghanistan scrutinized

Feb. 24, 2010 at 3:53 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- A U.S. Army contracting officer told a Senate panel employees of U.S. defense contractor Blackwater took more than 500 rifles intended for Afghan police.

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee heard allegations Wednesday that Blackwater formed Paravant, what was referred to as a shell company, to deceive U.S. officials and protect its damaged reputation from further scandal, The Guardian reported from Washington.

Brian McCracken, a former Paravant official, acknowledged company trainers carried the assault weapons without authorization but said the employees often were in dangerous areas not under U.S. protection.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Afghan civilians did not distinguish between U.S. troops and contractors, and when contractors were guilty of bad conduct it encouraged civilians to be sympathetic to the Taliban.

Blackwater made headlines in 2007 when employees of the defense contractor took part in a Baghdad shooting in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed. The company renamed itself Xe and created Paravant to win contracts to train police in Afghanistan, representing Paravant as a separate company, Levin said.

"There is no indication that they were part of Blackwater," said army contracting officer Steven Ograyensek.

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