Blackwater killed civilians in Iraq; shot at civilians in Afghanistan; set up a shell company to get its Afghanistan contract with the Army; and stole guns intended for the Afghan police. That scratches the surface of that company’s transgressions. There’s also alcohol and cocaine and steroid abuse. And it still might get a billion dollar contract to train the Afghan police. Why?

I spent a week trying to track down the answer. And what I found was a labyrinthine system for contracting, in which it’s surprisingly difficult to get a company declared ineligible for bidding on a contract. The scandal in plain sight is that no one has moved to declare Blackwater ineligible, even though its behavior falls under the relevant criteria. My piece for the Washington Independent today:

Any action from Holder would represent perhaps the only chance to stop Blackwater from receiving any additional government contracts. Several CSTC-A officers and Pentagon officials said that good-government contract rules prevent them from banning Blackwater. Specifically, an obscure contracting rule known as Federal Acquisition Regulation 9.406-2 prevents an acquisition official for banning a company from being awarded a contract unless the company has been formally “debarred” from eligibility — something that has never happened in Blackwater’s case. However, several criteria for debarment appear to apply to Blackwater, including “commission of fraud,” “theft,” “falsification or destruction of records, making false statements,” “a history of failure to perform, or of unsatisfactory performance of, one or more contracts,” and “violations of the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988.”

People I spoke to for this story fell into three categories: those who denied responsibility for any decision to award or debar Blackwater; those who didn’t return my phone calls and emails; and those who claimed not to know a thing about it. This is another example of how bureaucratic inertia intensifies the disincentive for anyone to stand up to a very powerful and very connected corporation that does very bad things very consistently.