The pulverized remains of bodies from the World Trade Center disaster site
were used by city workers to fill ruts and potholes, a city contractor says in
a sworn affidavit filed yesterday in Manhattan Federal Court.
Eric Beck says debris powders - known as fines - were put in a pothole-fill
mixture by crews at the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, where more than
1.65 million tons of World Trade Center debris were deposited after the Sept.
"I observed the New York City Department of Sanitation taking these
fines from the conveyor belts of our machines, loading it onto tractors and
using it to pave roads and fill in potholes, dips and ruts," Eric Beck
Beck was the senior supervisor for Taylor Recycling, a private contractor
hired to sift through debris trucked to Fresh Kills after the trade center
attacks. Before the arrival of Taylor's equipment at Fresh Kills in October
2001, the debris was sifted manually by workers using rakes and shovels.
Beck's affidavit was filed by lawyers for the families of 9/11 victims who
are suing the city in hopes of creating a formal burial place for debris that
they say contains human remains.
"It's devastating," Norman Siegel, an attorney representing the
families, said of Beck's statement. "When the 9/11 families found about
this, they were wiped out."
The families argue that the cleanup was hurried and slipshod, with the
result that more than 400,000 tons of debris weren't properly combed for human
The city recently asked Manhattan Federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein to
dismiss the lawsuit, and Mayor Bloomberg has said he would like to turn the
garbage dump into a "beautiful park."
In his first few months on the job, Beck said Taylor's
mechanical sifters found 2,000 bones per day. He recalled finding "bones,
fingers, skulls, feet and hands" as well as a man's chest and "the
full body of a man dressed in a suit." The remains were catalogued
and turned over to the city, he said.
But Beck said he was pushed to sift the debris quickly, and that remains
may have been missed.
"I was constantly told ... to move the job, to run the conveyor belts
faster and to keep the tonnage up," Beck wrote.
Other affidavits support Siegel's claim that the sifting process was
One comes from Theodore Feaser, the retired director of mechanical
operations for the city Sanitation Department.
"From my experience at Fresh Kills, I am absolutely convinced that if
the City of New York unearthed, resifted and washed the debris at Fresh Kills
... it would find hundreds of human body parts and human remains," said
Feaser, a 20-year veteran who supervised the recovery effort at Fresh Kills
for the Sanitation Department.
Diane Horning, the president of WTC Families for Proper Burial, urged
Hellerstein to allow the sifting to continue so that loved ones' remains will
"There is no place to leave flowers," said Horning, whose son
Matthew, an employee of Marsh and McLennan, was killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
"There is no feeling of solace or closeness to your loved one."
2005, in hurricane ravaged New Orleans, a group of over 600 men dressed in all
black, with wrap-around sunglasses and cell phones appeared almost overnight to
keep the peace. There, due to the Department of Homeland
Security, these men had authority to make arrests and use lethal force if need
be. These men were not from FEMA, these men were not the US
Marine Corps or any US military group. They were hired
mercenaries from a private company called Blackwater USA.
this is distressing is not that a private company came out to rally round New
Orleans in its time of need, it is that the State Department and the Department
of Homeland Security is contracting out the job of American soldiers to a
private company, who is currently trying at all costs to prove that they are
above the law. New Orleans is not the only place these
mercenaries were - there are thousands of contractors in Iraq right now.
During the first Gulf War, while there were private contractors, the
ratio was rather small; for every sixty U.S. soldiers, there was one hired
contractor. This time in Iraq the ratio is approaching one to
see this as the fruition of the Christian right and the Bush Administration’s
desire to privatize the military and law enforcement; hinting even that this
politicization of the military would ultimately dismantle what is left of our
democracy and transform our open society into a theocracy.
Ratner, President of The Center for Constitutional Rights, states that
“contracting out security to groups like Blackwater undermines our
constitutional democracy. Their actions may not be subject to
constitutional limitations that apply to both federal and state officials and
employees. …They are not trained in protecting constitutional rights and …
they have no system of accountability whether within their organization or
outside it. [They] bring to mind Nazi Party brownshirts,
functioning as an extrajudicial enforcement mechanism that can and does operate
outside the law. The use of these paramilitary groups is an
extremely dangerous threat to our rights.”
Prince, owner of Blackwater USA, however, considers his company more as a
patriotic extension of the U.S. Military. An ex-navy SEAL and
multi-millionaire, Erik Prince is an extremely powerful Christian Michigan
right-wing Republican fundamentalist. Cutting his career with
the Navy SEALS short due to the untimely death of his father, Prince bought 6000
acres of land in upstate North Carolina and created and military training camp
called Blackwater USA. Prince had also been an intern under
George Bush Sr, had campaigned for Pat Buchanan and has given significant
amounts of money to Christian organizations and Republican campaigns.
Prince, who currently runs Prince Group, the parent company to Blackwater,
also serves as a board member of Christian Freedom International, a nonprofit
group with a mission of helping “Christians who are persecuted for their faith
in Jesus Christ.”
founded in 1996 by Erik Prince and Gary Jackson (also a former Navy SEAL), is
the worlds largest private military base. With its fleet of 20 aircraft, its
“tactical training,” firing range and target systems, it has 4 subdivisions:
Blackwater Training Center, Blackwater Target Systems, Blackwater Security
Consulting and Blackwater Canine. Blackwater has an extremely
powerful private army, capable of overthrowing governments that the Bush
Administration has hailed as a “revolution in military affairs.”
Some, however, might consider it a little less a revolutionary than an
overall threat to American democracy.
for Blackwater is Joseph E Schmitz, former Pentagon Inspector General, as chief
operating officer and general counsel, and J. Cofer Black, former Director of
CIA Counterterrorist Center, as Vice Chairman. Under Blacks
direction as coordinator of counterterrorism policy at the Dept, his office
received criticism for not accurately reporting the government’s performance
in combating terror.
is extremely well connected, with Republican support going both ways, and makes
its incredible fortune the same way Halliburton does - through no-bid contracts
by the Bush Administration. The company has made 750 million
since the summer of 2004 through the State Department alone to guard senior U.S.
officials, including L. Paul Bremer and the current ambassador to Iraq. With
Bush’s extremely pregnant war budget, 40 cents on every dollar is spent on the
the most media coverage that Blackwater has ever received came after the
horrific death of four contractors in Falluja by insurgents who later burned and
dismembered the bodies and hung them from a bridge. The
parents of those soldiers are now suing Blackwater in a wrongful death suit.
Where the problem lies is that the company is stating that “itself and
its employees are not subject to the laws of the United States because they are
in the employ of the U.S. Government and are in many cases commanding troops.”
They are also claiming that “as a private firm, they are not subject to
the military code of justice either.”
makes Blackwater mercenaries some of the most “feared professional killers in
the world… [who are] accustomed to operating without worry of legal
consequences.” They have the ability to unleash random and appalling violence
against unarmed forces and civilians, without accountability and are beyond the
reach of justifiable authority.
company makes its employees sign a contract waiving Blackwater’s
responsibility for just about any kind of death imaginable, which the four
contractors in Falluja signed. The parent’s are suing based
on breach of contract. Blackwater had also contractually
promised to have three people per truck, an armored vehicle, and proper
ammunition. They failed on all three counts in this
particular mission. Blackwater is countersuing the families
because the soldiers had signed a waiver saying that their families would not
sue. Blackwater’s head lawyer is none other than Kenneth
Starr, and former Halliburton subsidiary KBR has filed an amicus brief in
support of Blackwater.
extremely alarming with this company is the shady contracts and subcontracts
that make many people shout out the words “war profiteers,” and the
inability of Congress to track what the company is doing. In
many ways the company has stonewalled Congress, refusing to give up contracts
stating that they are “classified.” Henry Waxman, the
Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was repeatedly
denied access to contracts for services in Iraq, because they are classified
from Congress. It took Waxman almost three years to figure
out one single contract from Blackwater. Considering all the multi-levels of
subcontractors, it would be almost impossible to dedicate the time and manpower
to unravel where all the money is going and why. When
Congress is denied access to these contracts serious questions should be waged
about what exactly is going on.
to former Blackwater officials, Blackwater, Regency Hotel and Hospital Company
and ESS (Eurest Support Services) were engaged in a classic war-profiteering
scheme. Blackwater was paying its men $600 per day but
billing Regency $815. In addition, Blackwater billed Regency
separately for its overhead and cost in Iraq. Regency would
then bill EES an unknown amount for these services. Regency
would quote EES a price, say $1500 per man per day, and then tell Blackwater
that it had quoted ESS $1200. ESS then contracted with
Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, which in turn billed the
government an unknown amount of money for the same security services,”
according to Raleigh News and Observer.
much anyone gets paid along this extremely confusing paper trail is almost
impossible to tell, especially when the companies in question either deny
contracts at all or consider them confidential, even from Congressional inquiry.
Violation of the privacy clause that is tacked on to these confidential
contracts is punishable by $250,000 in fines. Henry Waxman stated that “it is
impossible to calculate how many millions of dollars taxpayers lose in each step
of the subcontracting process.”
were similar reports in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Though
the Department of Homeland Security originally denied any contract with
Blackwater, they did eventually concede that they were paying $950 per man per
day for Blackwater employees. There were over 600 mercenaries
in New Orleans at one point. The mercenaries on the ground in
New Orleans however, stated that they were only being paid $350 per day for
being there, raising the obvious question of what happened to the other $600?
That would be up to $360,000 per day that was left unaccounted for.
the company is private, its death toll of over 1,000 in Iraq has not been
counted in Bush’s public death toll for American soldiers. Another problem is
that they are doing the same job, and sometimes taking over the jobs as U.S.
soldiers and yet receiving a substantially higher salary with shorter terms of
employment. Our current U.S. soldiers then may feel
rightfully confused and angry with such tactics. Not to
mention that Blackwater has recruited mercenaries from “some serious human
rights violating countries: Chile, Colombia, and elsewhere, and deployed them as
a part of their force in Iraq.
is Cheney and Rumsfeld’s fantasy of a grand privatized
and politicized military, unaccountable for all action, above the law, it seems,
in all aspects and extremely secretive.
The money exchange between the company and Republican officials and
contracts keeps them each loyal to one another. It is the
“fostering of the belief that violence must be used to further a peculiar
ideology rather than defend a democracy.” Even during his internship with Bush
Sr. Prince voiced discontent with his “liberal” policies, stating, “I saw
a lot of things I didn’t agree with – homosexual groups being invited in,
the budget agreement, the Clean Air Act, those kinds of bills. I
think his administration has been indifferent to a lot of conservative
concerns.” Prince is undoubtedly much happier with the next
Callahan, who represents the families suing Blackwater has stated, “Blackwater
is able to operate over there in Iraq free from any oversight that would
typically exist in a civilized society. As we expose
Blackwater in this case, it will also expose the inefficient and corrupt system
that exists over there.”
Presidential hopeful Barack Obama was asked about Blackwater, he stated that
contractors are “operating with unclear lines of authority, out-of-control
costs and virtually no oversight by congress. This black hole
of accountability increases the danger to our troops and American civilians
serving as contractors.”
will be interesting to note the outcome of the lawsuits this company is facing,
as they may be ground-breaking and precedent setting outcomes.
The fact that this company is so huge, and
so secretive and so well-funded by the Bush Administration should be of utmost
concern. It is to all of our benefits to have the
outcomes of these lawsuits and details of the sketchy contracts revealed to the
American people, as we can’t fight against what most of us do not know even
exists. The blatant use of this company sets a very
terrifying scene for the future in this country.