Idahoans are famously suspicious of government power - talk about black helicopters was big stuff a decade ago, even by way of a member of Congress. By those standards, this latest ought to set the bells and whistles on full alert. Quoth the Coeur d'Alene Press: "Blackwater Worldwide, a private security company, wants to build a regional law enforcement training center in North Idaho. The North Carolina-based company is negotiating a contract with the Idaho Peace Officer Standards & Training Academy to provide space and instruction to law enforcement personnel."
Ah, yes, just the thing to shed Idaho of its hard-right militia reputation.
If you don't know about Blackwater, you should: " self-described private military company founded in 1997 by Erik Prince and Al Clark. It has alternatively been referred to as a security contractor or a mercenary organization by numerous reports in the international media." There's an excellent recent book on the company, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, by Jeremy Scahill, which covers the detail, including its immense involvement in Iraq. And many of the controversies surrounding it, there and elsewhere.
Trish Christy, a spokesman at POST, said the agreement with Blackwater is scheduled for discussion at the POST Council meeting Thursday morning, though it still is in relatively early stages. She pointed out that it would involve Blackwater building facilities that would be leased by Idaho peace officer training - it would be a north Idaho version of the training center at Meridian - and that Blackwater people would not be doing the training.
Okay. But why would Blackwater be building a facility far from its North Carolina haunts solely for someone else (there may be others in addition to POST) to lease out? And if that were cost effective as such, why wouldn't POST just build its own? The only sensible answer is that Blackwater has other plans for north Idaho. Of some sort.
(Writing about this agreement, a pro-Blackwater site offers this quote in support: "They're the Cadillac of training services," said J. Adler, national executive vice president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. "You've got the best of the best teaching." But according to POST, they won't be doing any teaching.)
We're told by an e-mail that a petition effort, opposing the Blackwater deal, is underway in the Panhandle: "When the public heard that Idaho POST was possibly entering into agreement to be a tenant in a Blackwater facility, they became alarmed. Petitions are being signed by citizens that don’t want Idaho POST to enter into agreement with Blackwater."
Keep watch on this.