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Continuing the use of private security firms raises concerns

There is an easy way to cause tensions to rise in the already pressured arenas of the Middle East: hire a notorious, U.S–based private security firm composed of elite Navy SEALs responsible for killing civilians during the Iraq War to protect U.S. officials in the area.

According to the World Tribune, leading security firm Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater, has been awardedan $84 million contract to protect U.S. government officials in the West Bank region of Israel and Palestine.

In the midst of ongoing conflict, the future consequencesof Xe Services’ presence in Palestine to protect U.S. diplomats cannot be overlooked. Their brutal reputation adopted during the Iraq War is beyond question.

What began as a 5,000-acre training ground in Moyock, N.C., for military and law enforcement agencies in 1996 has grown into the base of one of the leading private security firms in the world. The corporation’s founder, Eric Prince, purchased the land after selling his father’s automotive company, according to Vanity Fair.

Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the CIA contacted Prince almost immediately to help with security operations in Afghanistan and, later, in the post-Iraq invasion. Since then, Prince’s corporation has received contracts worth more than $1 billion.

Xe Services has been subject to a number of controversies, including the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in September 2007. Yet the company’s contractors and involved parties have not been met with charges from the U.S. State Department.

Jeremy Scahill, a research journalist and author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army” said in an article he wrote for The Nation magazine that Prince built Xe Services to suit U.S. national security interests, making it difficult for officials to resist benefiting from its services.

“If there is one quality that is evident from examining Blackwater’s business history, it is the company’s ability to take advantage of emerging war and conflict markets,” he said.

The major players in this corporation also need to be carefully monitored. Former CIA operative Joseph Cofer Black chairs Total Intelligence Solutions, a subsidiary of Xe Services. While with the CIA, Black ran rendition programs now plagued with allegations of illegal detainment and torture.

The world has already witnessed the devastating consequences of private security firms in Iraq. This new contract with such a controversial group needs to be part of the political discourse to minimize threats to Palestine’s already-torn sense of sovereignty.

Nader Hasan is a junior majoring in international affairs and religious studies.