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California | U.S. | Anti-War
Blackwater Plans for New Military Facility Near San Diego Draws Fire From Residents, Peace Activists and Local Congressmember
The private security firm Blackwater USA is planning to build a new military training center on an 800-acre ranch near Potrero, a tiny rural town east of San Diego. The project, known as Blackwater West, is being opposed by a growing coalition of local residents, environmentalists and peace activists. We speak with Rep Bob Filner who is exploring legislation to block the project as well as one of the local organizers and journalist Jeremy Scahill, author of "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army."
Today we are broadcasting from Los Angeles, California. About 150 miles south of here, near the US-Mexico border, the private security firm Blackwater is planning to build a new military training center known simply as "Blackwater West."
Plans for the new site include multiple firing ranges, training towers, an armory, a helipad, an urban simulation training area and a driving track.
Blackwater plans to build the facility on an 800-acre chicken and cattle ranch near Potrero, a tiny rural town about 45 miles east of San Diego. The project won preliminary approval from the local planning board in December, but since then more than half the registered voters of Potrero have signed a petition opposing it. The residents are being joined by a growing coalition of environmentalists and peace activists.
The project will ultimately need the approval of the county planning commission and the board of supervisors, a process that could take up to two years. Earlier this month, a normally routine county planning meeting on the project drew over 100 protesters. They were met by three dozen police and sheriff's deputies and people entering the meeting were required to walk through a metal detector.
Blackwater West is also running into opposition from a local Democratic Congressmember who represents the area. Representative Bob Filner said he is exploring legislation to block the project.
Congressmember Filner joins me on the line now from Washington DC. Here in Los Angeles I am joined by Raymond Lutz, one of the main organizers opposing the Blackwater West facility. He runs the websites Stopblackwater.net and citizensoversight.org. And in our firehouse studio in New York I am joined by Jeremy Scahill, author of the New York Times bestseller, "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army."
We called Blackwater to invite them on the program but they declined our request.
* Raymond Lutz, one of the main organizers opposing the Blackwater West facility. He runs the websites Stopblackwater.net and citizensoversight.org. He is President of the East County Democratic Club.