Renewed controversy has swirled around the company’s role in Iraq after a video posted on a Web site put together by former Aegis employees showed gunfire being directed at Iraqi civilians driving on Baghdad area highways.
The Echo reported the existence of the video in its Nov. 30 edition. In a Dec. 9 front-page report, the Washington Post claimed that the U.S. military was investigating the video.
Spicer is a controversial figure in Northern Ireland as a result of his defending the actions of men under his command who fatally shot Belfast teenager Peter McBride in 1992.
Aegis, a private security company, operates in Iraq under contract to the U.S. Department of Defense.
The company is being funded to the tune of $293 million, which was awarded by the Pentagon in May 2004.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Schumer urged the Department of Defense to direct Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart Bowen, “to conduct a thorough investigation of these troubling new allegations concerning Aegis.”
Schumer wrote that while Aegis had initiated an internal investigation this was “plainly insufficient.”
It was self evident, he said, that a contractor with so much to lose should not investigate itself.
The video shows four separate clips in which automatic fire is directed from the rear of an SUV.
In one of the clips, a Mercedes car traveling behind the SUV is hit and rams into another car stopped on the road. People are seen running from the car that was struck by the Mercedes – but nobody gets out of the Mercedes itself.
Another clip shows fire being directed, seemingly at random, at the street surface and then directed at a car again driving behind the SUV. The car pulls in to side of the road and this time a man gets out.
Yet another clip clearly shows bullets striking the hood of a car and the car lurching to halt. Nobody is seen getting out.
At one point a spent bullet round appears in the video camera lens inside the SUV. Voices speaking English are also heard inside the SUV.
The four clips are accompanied by a soundtrack of the Elvis Presley song “Mystery Train.”
Separate to the Schumer call for an investigation, the Derry-based Pat Finucane Center has raised the allegations surrounding the video clips with the U.S. Consul General in Belfast.
In his letter, Schumer states that Aegis’s conduct, both before and after receiving its contract, has been questionable.
“As you know,” the New York senior senator wrote Rumsfeld, “I weighed in with four U.S. senators against awarding this security contract to Aegis because I believe that the firm’s checkered history and the dubious human rights position of its founder and chief executive, Tim Spicer, make them unsuitable to receive massive sums from the American taxpayers.
“The new allegations, along with already existing concerns about the integrity of Aegis, make me once again question whether the decision to award a multi-million dollar contract to this firm was appropriate.”
The four other senators referred to by Schumer are Hillary Clinton, Edward Kennedy, Chris Dodd and John Kerry.
Schumer refers in the letter to the shooting of Peter McBride and the fact that two members of the Scots Guards regiment, commanded at the time by then Lt. Col. Spicer, were subsequently convicted of murder.
“Yet Mr. Spicer has repeatedly defended the actions of the two soldiers…and argued for their release (which later occurred). Moreover, the Boston Globe reported that Mr. Spicer was involved in illicit arms deal in Sierra Leone after retiring from the British military,” Schumer wrote.
“The combination of these activities leads me to conclude that the government’s awarding of a massive security contract to an individual and a firm with a history of supporting excessive force against civilians is extremely troubling,” he stated.
Schumer concluded by saying that he was looking forward to the “commencement of the Special Inspector General’s investigation.”
Callout 1. “That is why I urge the Department of Defense (DOD) to direct the Special Investigator General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), Stuart Bowen, to conduct a thorough investigation of these troubling new allegations concerning Aegis.”
Callout 2. “None of the drivers of these vehicles appear to be given any warning or directive in this video prior to the shooting and in no clip does the SUV stop to inspect a vehicle or it passengers, or check if any passengers were injured or killed as a result of the shooting.”
Callout 3. “Aegis’s conduct both before and after receiving the contract for security in Iraq has been questionable.”
Callout 4. “The two soldiers were convicted of murder. Yet Mr. Spicer has repeatedly defended the actions of the two soldiers, both in his autobiography and in a letter to the Times of London, and argued for their release (which later occurred).”
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