In the heat of the health care debate, we take this moment to point out the most ironic news this year: Florida Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson was rescued from Niger by Blackwater (now known as “Xe”) security forces. For the uninitiated, Grayson isn’t exactly a fan of Blackwater:
Before joining Congress, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) was the scourge of military contractors, filing dozens of whistleblower lawsuits against companies who defrauded the government in connection with their work in Iraq. In the past, the freshman lawmaker, who’s known for his pugilistic style and no-holds barred remarks, has blasted the firms working on the payroll of the US government overseas: “We’re not going to let the defense contractors use our money to bribe our government and take it over,” he once said. And he has singled out Blackwater (now known as Xe) for special criticism: “We can’t let, basically, Blackwater take over the entire government here. We have to draw the line somewhere.”
So, Grayson went to Washington after he “made his substantial fortune by suing military contractors” and kept on blasting Blackwater since he’s been in DC, hammering the company on a near daily basis. Last week, Grayson was in Niger on a congressional delegation, and he got caught up in the outbreak of a coup, with active gunfire in the “building next door” and narrowly escaped, as CNN reported:
Washington (CNN) – Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Florida, narrowly escaped harm earlier this week after being caught up in a military coup in the African country of Niger.
Grayson’s press secretary, Todd Jurkowski, confirmed to CNN that Grayson was close to the action. “He heard the gunshots. They were literally in the building next door.”
The outspoken congressman was in Niger as part of a congressional delegation focused on science, technology and humanitarian relief, according to Jurkowski. When the situation began to unravel, Grayson was taken to the residence of the United States Ambassador to Niger, where he was placed under armed protection.
On Thursday, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State P.J. Crowley told reporters the U.S. Embassy was monitoring the situation and confirmed Grayson was safe at the embassy. Later that night, a Niger military official announced the country’s constitution has been suspended.
It was not until today’s testimony by Xe executive vice president Fred Roitz in Congress that Xe’s role in saving Alan Grayson’s life in Niger became known. Apparently a subsidiary of Xe’s, Presidential Airways, helicoptered Grayson to safety after security personnel brought him to Xe’s helicopter, as confirmed by Grayson’s spokesman. Perhaps Grayson will have a more charitable view of Blackwater/Xe in the future as he owes his life to their quick action in extracting him from the burgeoning war zone in Niger.