Bombing Death of Dane Paresi, Others, Sparks a New Congressional Look at Blackwater-CIA Contracting

Dane Paresi, shielded others in blast
The December suicide-bombing by an Al Qaeda double agent that killed former Fort Lewis green beret Dane Paresi and six others at a CIA office in Afghanistan has led to yet another congressional review of Paresi's civilian employer, Xe, formerly known as Blackwater. The bombing is also prompting introduction of legislation to end the government's financial relationship with the soldier-of-fortune defense contractor.

"These men and women are not part of the U.S. military or government," U.S. Rep Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said in a letter to House colleagues last week, in preparation for introducing such legislation, called the Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act. "They do not wear the uniform of the United States, though their behavior has, on numerous occasions, severely damaged the credibility and security of our military and harmed our relationship with other governments."

Retired Army sergeant Paresi, 46, of DuPont, Pierce County, who was hired by Xe last year, is credited with saving the lives of others Dec. 30. Suspicious of the bomber's movements, Paresi positioned himself next to the man as he set off his explosive, shielding others in the crowded room. "He moved, he confronted danger selflessly, heroically ," a CIA deputy director, Mary Rose McCaffrey, said at Paresi's Jan. 9 funeral in Vancouver, "and in that last act, let me assure you, he prevented a bad day from becoming much worse."

Schakowsky, a leading member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, says she'll also launch a probe into the bombing. Jeremy Scahill, who wrote the book on Blackwater, speculates that the bombing could reveal deception by the Pentagon about its continuing relationship with the company.

In December, he notes, "the CIA announced that the agency had canceled its contract with Blackwater to work on the agency's drone bombing campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan and said Director Leon Panetta ordered a review of all existing CIA contracts with Blackwater. 'At this time, Blackwater is not involved in any CIA operations other than in a security or support role,' CIA spokesman George Little said December 11."

But so far there's no indication that Paresi and at least one fellow Xe employee killed in the blast were involved in anything other than providing security for the agency. It was high-risk work, with high-risk pay. As the Portland-born Paresi told one of his brothers in a recent phone call from Afghanistan, "I got more money around my waist than I've ever had in my life. I want to tell you, big brother, if anything happens to me they're gonna have a money trail."

About 200 people attended his funeral. Paresi, whose 27-year military career took him to the Philippines, Iraq, Bosnia, Rwanda, Africa and Southwest Asia, was buried at Willamette National Cemetery, about a quarter mile from his childhood home.

His death in some respects echoes that of Army Sgt. 1st Class Nathan R. Chapman, 31, of Puyallup, the first U.S. soldier killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan. A Special Forces soldier based at Fort Lewis, he died Jan. 4, 2002, in an ambush as he and a CIA officer were searching for Al Qaeda members. The CIA officer also died.

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