Two former Blackwater operatives were arrested by US federal agents
on murder charges, stemming from their alleged involvement in the
shooting deaths of two Afghan civilians in Kabul in May. They have been
identified as Justin Cannon, 27, of Corpus Christi, Texas, and
Christopher Drotleff, 29, of Virginia Beach, Va. They have been charged
with “crimes including second-degree murder, attempted murder and
firearms offenses while working as contractors for the U.S. Department
of Defense in Afghanistan,” according to the Justice Department. The
13-count indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in the Eastern
District of Virginia on Jan. 6 and unsealed today.
It alleges that on May 5, 2009, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Cannon and
Drotleff shot and killed two Afghanistan nationals and wounded a third.
In a press release, the Justice Department said:
The indictment alleges that at the time of the shootings, Cannon and
Drotleff were Department of Defense contractors employed by Paravant
LLC, which is a subsidiary of Xe (formerly known as Blackwater
Worldwide). According to the indictment, as contractors, Cannon and
Drotleff provided training to the Afghan National Army for the Islamic
Republic of Afghanistan in the use and maintenance of weapons and
In May, reports emerged that four Blackwater/Xe operatives working
for Paravant LLC were alleged to have fired on a civilian car they say
they saw as a threat, killing at least one Afghan civilian. According
to The Wall Street Journal’s August Cole, “At least some
of the men, who were former military personnel, had been allegedly
drinking alcohol that evening, according to a person familiar with the
incident. Off-duty contractors aren’t supposed to carry weapons or
The US military said the incident took place in Kabul on May 5.
“While stopped for the vehicle accident, the contractors were
approached by a vehicle in a manner the contractors felt threatening,” according to the military.
Now, there are many layers to this story, not the least of which is
yet another allegation of Blackwater-affiliated personnel drinking and
killing in a foreign war zone. (A drunken Blackwater operative was alleged to have killed a bodyguard to an Iraqi vice president on Christmas Eve 2006 inside Baghdad’s Green Zone).
What’s more, this represented the first public mention of the
Blackwater/Xe subsidiary Paravant, but also the fact that its work was
apparently buried in a subcontract with Raytheon, which in turn has a
large US Army training contract in Afghanistan. “Raytheon’s use of
Paravant is for a program called Warfighter Focus, a sweeping U.S. Army
training effort valued at more than $11 billion over a 10-year period,” reports The Wall Street Journal.
“Warfighter Focus” is carried out by a Raytheon program the company describes in its contract handbook as such [PDF]:
The Raytheon-led Warrior Training Alliance (WTA) team is comprised of over 65 subcontractors
with one common mission: to deliver unmatched training support services
that cost-effectively meet the U.S. Army’s requirement for total
warfighter readiness. The WTA’s ability to provide a comprehensive
range of integrated training services will assist the Army in
transitioning to a more collaborative, consolidated and streamlined
Now, the “Warfighter Focus” contract in and of itself is very
intriguing and worthy of further investigation. But it is also
particularly interesting given that Blackwater is under multiple
investigations (DoJ, Congress, IRS, ATF, etc.) and continues to operate
in Afghanistan (in part) on a subcontract through a subsidiary working
for a massive defense Goliath. This is how the whole contracting scam
works, particularly for companies in trouble. They hide under layers of
subcontracts and subsidiaries. Blackwater/Xe of course still holds
overt contracts in Afghanistan as well.
In addition to Raytheon/Paravant part of the Kabul story, according to the WSJ:
Paravant has terminated contracts with the four men “for failure to
comply with the terms of their contract,” according to Xe spokeswoman
Anne Tyrrell. “Contractual and or legal violations will not be
tolerated,” she said.
The contractors were ordered not to leave Afghanistan without
permission of the Defense Department, she said, and the company said it
is cooperating with authorities.
A US military spokesperson confirmed this, saying, “The contracting
company is cooperating with us. We have asked them to keep the
individuals in-country until the investigation is complete.”