by East County Magazine / originally posted Oct. 18, 2009
On October 14, Southwestern College District Governing Board approved cancellation of its agreement with Xe . The agreement allowed the college’s law enforcement students to use a training facility in Otay Mesa operated by Xe Systems LLC, the company formerly known as Blackwater. Blackwater, which gained notoriety for its activities in Iraq, was also the center of controversy in East County, where the company sought to open a private military training base at Potrero but withdrew following massive public opposition.
“To save a few bucks, you basically sold out your souls and made a pact with the devil,” Congressman Bob Filner told college board members at an April 15th board meeting. “These are bad guys. They have killed innocent civilians in Iraq, and they lost their contract with the State Department for so doing.”
Filner added, “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 notoriety includes the massacre of 17 civilians in Iraq by Blackwater employees, the FBI found. In another now-infamous incident, four Blackwater employees were ambushed and hanged off a bridge in Baghdad, triggering the siege of Fallujah. Relatives of the slain employees have sued Blackwater, alleging the company failed to provide essential protections for its workers.
The contract with Southwestern College, first disclosed in January 2009, originally included provisions that compensated Blackwater for staff time and allowed Blackwater to use SWC on-campus conference rooms for any purpose and for an unlimited period of time. It also 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, Citizens Oversight Projects (COPS), a watchdog group, revealed.
Nine changes were made to the agreement after these issues were brought to light through a written complaint by COPs , eliminating what the group argued were the most egregious provisions. However, the college continued to use the Otay Mesa facility despite other facilities being available. COPS expressed concern that Blackwater could use the college campus to recruit students for mercenary activities.
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