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Friday, January 14, 2011     GET REAL

U.S. firm once known as Blackwater retained for West Bank security

RAMALLAH — A leading U.S. security firm has been contracted to protect American diplomatic personnel in the West Bank.


The State Department has awarded a subsidiary of Xe Services, formerly Blackwater, an $84 million contract to protect U.S. government personnel in the West Bank. The contract was meant to last five years and facilitate the movement of U.S. diplomats and security trainers in the Palestinian Authority.

"The contract is for one year with the possibility of four one-year renewable operations," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

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Toner said the contract was awarded on Jan. 3 to former Xe subsidiary International Development Solutions, Middle East Newsline reported. International Development would work with the U.S. Training Center to provide services for U.S. personnel in the West Bank.

The contract called for security services for the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. Officials said all American government employees required security escorts in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem.

International Development refused to comment on the contract. But industry sources said the contract called for the training of a private security force for the U.S. consulate, which also monitors Jewish communities in the West Bank.

Congress has sought to investigate Xe, which continues to win billions of dollars worth of State Department and CIA contracts despite scandal in Iraq. In Afghanistan, Xe has been hired to protect CIA bases.

Officials said the latest contract could expand U.S. security programs in the West Bank, particularly those directed by U.S. security coordinator Lt. Gen. Michael Moeller. Over the last three years, the security coordinator's office has retained non-U.S. nationals because of tight restrictions on the freedom of movement of Americans in the West Bank.

Hamas has already criticized the State Department contract. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the introduction of International Development marked an expansion of the American presence in Palestinian areas that could include help to PA security forces. Last year, the PA allowed a security training contract with DynCorp International to expire.

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