How Do Private Security Firms Do Their Jobs in Iraq?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 19, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY HOST:  In the "Unresolved Problems" segment tonight, one of the problems in Iraq is that everybody it seems has a gun, including American civilians. You may remember four American security men were brutally killed in Fallujah. They were members of the Blackwater U.S.A. (search) company.

Joining us now from Boise, Idaho is Dick Couch.  He knows all about Blackwater and is the author of the book, "The Finishing School."  Mr. Couch is a former Navy Seal (search).

All right, now with the hostages -- and this looks like, you know, the new tactic on a part of the terrorists in Iraq, American civilians over there take on a heightened importance.  We're talking to one of our Fox News reporters today.  They can't even go out of the hotel  where they're staying without armed guards, even if they want a cup of coffee.  Whereas a month ago, they could walk around the two, buy souvenirs, go out for dinner, whatever.

The whole complexion has changed.  So how much risk are these private guys in, in your opinion, sir?

DICK COUCH, "THE FINISHING SCHOOL":  Well, they're there for security.  And they were brought in for that.  And this releases regular military forces to go off and do offensive work.  They're there in a defensive role to protect people, infrastructure and other contractors working there.   So they have their job cut out for them.  And because the terrorists and -- that are in Iraq are targeting VIPs and infrastructure, they have their work cut out for them.

O'REILLY:  All right.  Yes, and here's the problem, some of these guys are like you, former special forces, very well trained, know what they're doing.  But others are just over there for the money.  I mean, they're paying these guys a good buck to go over there and risk their lives.  If you don't have that military special forces training and they give you like a three- or four-day training course at Blackwater, which is like shooting and this and that, I mean, wouldn't put a guy over there who wasn't ex-special forces, would you?

COUCH:  Well, I think that part of Blackwater's job and the other contractors are to validate the skills of the people they hire, make sure that they have the requisite skills to carry out their security work or the contract work they're involved with.

O'REILLY:  But that's not happening, because they need a certain amount of people to go over there to Iraq to get the contracts.  They need bodies to go.  They're offering a $5000 bonus now to go over there.  They need bodies to go over there or they're not going to get paid.  You know what this is about, Mr. Couch.

COUCH:  Well it's -- they want the best people they can get their hands on.  And if they're not providing -- if they're not trained, they don't come to them trained, then they're going to have to take measures to train these people...


COUCH:  ... because they're not going to be effective.

O'REILLY:  Why would they have to do that?  They just throw them over there.  There's no oversight at all.  The U.S. military is not overseeing these people.  They get paid for every body they send over there.  So some guy goes in -- we had a guy in Texas who, you know, got picked off as a hostage.  He said, look, I just want to put my daughter through college.  And boom, they got him.  And come on, you know what this game is.  This is a dangerous game they're playing here, I think.

COUCH:  It is a dangerous game.  But again I'll go back to the fact that we have to have to put -- they have to have the skills or they have to have the training, and if they don't, then...

O'REILLY:  According to whom?

COUCH:  ... this is not a good situation.

O'REILLY:  Mr. Couch, according to whom?

COUCH:  While I think that...

O'REILLY:  They're not vetted by the U.S. military or the State Department (search) or anybody.  According to whom they have to...


O'REILLY:  ... have the skills?  Who tests them outside of Blackwater?

COUCH:  Well, I think varying security contractors should be vetting their people to make sure that they have their requisite skills to do this.  And it leads to bad situations if they don't have the training or they're not given the training.  I mean, that's...

O'REILLY:  Yes.  See, I don't know what the bad situations are.  And I'll tell you why.  We asked the president of Blackwater to come on.  He is hiding under his desk someplace.  He is not coming on.  They have to sign a waiver, these guys, that says, if anything bad happens to them they can't sue them.  OK?  Families can't sue them back here.  The U.S. military, as I said, State Department, nobody vets them.  They just get on the plane, got the Blackwater tag, and all of that.  They're got the contract with the U.S. government.  But the U.S. government doesn't oversee it.  And they can throw Gomer Pyle (search) and Goober over there.  And who's going to say they can't?  See, you're relying on the company to police itself, Mr. Couch. I think that's overly optimistic.

COUCH:  It may be optimistic, but the contractors who are going to be the most successful are the ones who choose their people as carefully as they can, to provide them the training they need if they don't already have it, and that they don't put them in the situations where they don't have the skills to carry out the job they're sent there to do  And it's a business.

O'REILLY:  You bet it's a business.

COUCH:  And they'll be successful...

O'REILLY:  And they don't make money unless they send guys over.  And they don't have the guys that are trained like you, unfortunately, I think they're taking guys that aren't trained.  Well, I could be wrong.  Mr. Couch, thanks very much, we appreciate it.

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