Private military security forces from Blackwater and the Steele Foundation -- i.e. mercenaries -- are patrolling the streets of New Orleans. Most have been hired by the Department of Homeland Security, and some claim to have been "deputized" by the governor of Louisiana. Some are veterans of Iraq, and some of those are recently coming off assignments as bodyguards for Paul Bremer and John Negroponte. Blackwater mercenaries and paramility units are widely known as some of the most hardened, indeed savage, troops available anywhere. "This is a totally new thing to have guys like us working CONUS (Continental United States)," said one heavily armed Blackwater mercenary on Bourbon Street. "We're much better equipped to deal with the situation in Iraq." The presence of such hardened paramilitary forces in New Orleans is something of a mystery, as no federal or state agency will take direct responsibility for their presence. In fact, only law enforcement agents and US military personnel are legally allowed to have firearms in New Orleans, but no one seems to be getting in the way of the Blackwater mercenaries. The mercenaries themselves claims to be there on the authority of DHS, and say they have authorization to use lethal force if need be to restore order and force evacuation. As one mercenary said, they've been told they could be in New Orleans for up to 6 months. "This is a trend," he said. "You're going to see a lot more guys like us in these situations." Residents still in the city tell of mercenaries rousting them forcibly from their homes and evacuation centers at gunpoint, and threatening citizens with shooting if they fail to comply with the most simple orders.
Reports are also coming in of hundreds of heavily-armed Blackwater mercenaries being hired to protect the property of millionaires in New Orleans. The mercenaries have set up operations in a mansion in the ritzy Uptown district of the city. "God watches out for the rich people, I guess," says one mercenary.
A family of churchgoers seeking to help victims in an Oklahoma "evacuee center" tells a disturbing tale of concentration-camp like conditions. A group of churches donated their cabins for FEMA to use in housing victims of Hurricane Katrina, but, as we are told, "I'm afraid the camp is not going to be used as the kind people of the churches who own the cabins believe it was going to be used. Jesse Jackson was right when he said 'refugees' was not the appropriate word for the poor souls dislocated due to Katrina. But he was wrong about why it is not appropriate. It's not appropriate because they are detainees, not refugees." Access to and from the camp is strictly controlled by state troopers; the narrator and her family was only allowed in because they owned one of the cabins. According to the troopers, the detainees are not allowed to leave the camp for any reason; they will be detained there for five months.
The narrator writes, "My mother then asked if the churches would be allowed to come to their cabin and conduct services if the occupants wanted to attend. The response was 'No ma'am. You don't understand. Your church no longer owns this building. This building is now owned by FEMA and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. They have it for the next 5 months.' This scares my mother who asks 'Do you mean they have leased it?' The man [apparently a FEMA official] replies, 'Yes, ma'am...lock, stock and barrel. They have taken over everything that pertains to this facility for the next 5 months.'" Their attempt to donate clothing was denied -- "My mind couldn't help but go back over the news articles that have accused FEMA of refusing water in to Jefferson Parrish, or turning fuel away." Detainees are not allowed to eat anything except canned or boxed foods, and will not be allowed to use the kitchens in the cabins, for fear, as one trooper said, "of starting a riot." Detainees will not be allowed milk or fresh vegetables, again for fear of causing a riot. The trooper says, "You don't understand the type of people that are about to come here." The camp is not surrounded by barbed wire, but it is patrolled by armed guards; due to the extreme isolation of the camp, no barbed wire is necessary. Days later, Ed Kostiuk of the Oklahoma State Department of Health posted an extensive rebuttal to the original entry. The answers are not kind, and include one post from someone who said the "friendly" troopers from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol dragged an innocent visitor from his car at gunpoint, handcuffed him, took him to the police station, and strip-searched him.
A similar story of detainees from Katrina being kept in barbed wire camps in the Oquirrh Mountains of Utah is told by amateur reporter Don Nash. The camp is patrolled by armed police and state troopers. Nash, who only half-jokingly calls the detainees the "New Orleans insurgency," says that the detainees are forbidden to leave the camp, and the only ones allowed access to and from the camp are federal officials and mainstream media journalists. Bus service to and from the camp for "cleared" detainees is being considered. None of the detainees were aware that they would be taken to Utah.
By mid-September, according to reports from veteran war reporter Jeremy Scahill, New Orleans and the surrounding areas had become heavily militarized; Scahill used the term "lockdown." He reports that while civilians are still sparse and FEMA officials virtually invisible, military personnel are everywhere. He reported, "[T]here are soldiers all over the city. What's incredible is that you see them doing almost nothing. They're either just standing around or sitting around. There's very little work being done by the military. You do see units like the 82nd airborne patrolling the streets. It looks like the aftermath of a massacre or war zone where you have soldiers patrolling around. You also see a tremendous increase in the number of private security contractors who have arrived on the scene." Blackwater mercenaries, operating under government contracts, are as visible and as numerous as US soldiers. Scahill reported, "I think that these firms view the current situation in Louisiana as the biggest pot of federal money to put their hands into since the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan." (He also found it interesting that, while the government was contracting with wealthy hotel owners to use their facilities to house their soldiers, most of the "grunt" work of cleaning up debris and toxic sludge is being done by hordes of Mexican workers trucked into the city and back out again at the end of the workday, work that New Orleans residents who need work could do themselves. God knows where the Mexican workers are staying.) One of the wealthiest hotel owners, Patrick Quinn, who is heavily connected to the state and national Republican party, stands to make a windfall of profits by renting out his hotels to federally employed Blackwater mercenaries, who will live in sumptuous fashion on federal dollars. Scahill said, "This is just one example of cronyism that we see on the ground where the wealthy Republican contributors are being considered now for these tremendous federal contracts."