Something funny happened in the Eastern District of North Carolina today. Out of the blue in an extremely significant case, and without particular notice to interested observers, much less the public, the criminal case against former Blackwater executives for weapons trafficking, and a myriad of other weapons violations, ended. Poof! Gone with an undeserved and inexplicable sweetheart misdemeanor plea.
A federal weapons case against the defense contractor formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide ended Thursday with misdemeanor pleas by two former executives, who were fined and placed on probation.
The case stems in part from a raid conducted by federal agents at the company’s Moyock headquarters in 2008 that seized 22 weapons, including 17 AK-47s. An indictment alleged that the company used the Camden County Sheriff’s Office to pose as the purchaser of dozens of automatic weapons.
The indictment also alleged that Blackwater purchased 227 short barrels and installed them on long rifles without registering them and that company officials presented the king of Jordan with five guns as gifts in hopes of landing a lucrative overseas contract and then falsified federal documents once they realized they were unable to account for the weapons.
Gary Jackson and William Matthews, the former president and executive vice president of the company and both Navy Seals, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count each of failure to keep records on firearms. They were sentenced to four months of house arrest, three years on probation and fined $5,000.
The original indictment was fifteen counts, count em 15 counts, most all serious felonies with significant punishment in the offing. Now granted, a few counts were pared off after a motion to dismiss by a court order dated February 4, 2013, but significant and substantive counts remained viable against Blackwater executives Jackson and Matthews.
But, instead of taking them to trial, or even extracting a reasonable plea that did justice for the public, the DOJ collaborated with the defense and walked into court without notice today, filed a new information containing a single misdemeanor charge and proceeded to sentence them on the spot to a hand slap.
Here is how the official DOJ Press Release described it:
United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that in federal court today GARY JACKSON and WILLIAM WHEELER MATTHEWS, JR. pled guilty before United States District Judge Louise W. Flanagan, to one count each of failing to make and maintain records related to firearms in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 922(m) and 923(g)(1)(A).
Additionally, Judge Flanagan sentenced JACKSON and MATTHEWS to 3 years probation, 4 months house arrest with stipulations, and fined them $5,000.00.
According to the Criminal Information filed on February 14, 2013, JACKSON and MATTHEWS, between 2005 and 2007, were employees of a corporate entity formerly known as Blackwater which was a licensed federal firearms manufacturer and dealer, and whose responsibilities for a certain period of time included direct or indirect supervisory authority over employees whose duties included the making and maintenance of records required by federal law. (Emphasis added)
Oh yeah, there was one other mention of note in the release:
The corporate entity formerly known as Blackwater has entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the government in which it has agreed to extensive ongoing compliance programs and the payment of approximately 7 million dollars in fines.
How nice. The Deferred Prosecution Agreement was actually entered into and noticed back in August of last year. It was easy to see the DPA coming, and as much as the US Government relies on Blackwater/Xe/Academi for their security adventures, it was predictable they would be given a DPA (and, hey, DPAs provide lucrative paydays to former DOJ friends who get set up in cushy monitor jobs).
The DPA was easy to see coming, today’s sweetheart plea was not. No, it happened basically as a covert op on the public and interested legal community. Did you notice the bolded date in the DOJ press release? DOJ states the plea was entered on February 14, 2013. What is interesting is that it was not placed on the official court docket until today – at the same time Judge Louise Flanagan, a conservative Bush appointee, was accepting the plea and sentencing Jackson and Matthews, thus ending the case. All designed so the public would not know and could not have any input. Diametrically contrary to the fundamental precepts of the American justice system.
How little of a wrist slap is the sentence? I’ve had common DWI clients sentenced to more. Compare and contrast to the punishment the DOJ sought to impose on Aaron Swartz.
The sentence is now done and entered, but what about the process? It was a stunning affront to justice and the public right to know. I have complained relentlessly about the collusion between the DOJ and another Bush era criminal, former Office of Special counsel Chief Scott Bloch. But at least in Bloch there was minimal notice given to the public and we knew what was coming, in spite of inexplicable collusion between the DOJ and the criminal defendant. Not so in the case of these Blackwater executives, Jackson, Matthews, et al.
Even in Bloch, in spite of complete collusion on the part of the DOJ, the court set sentencing for nearly three months after the entry of the plea. Not so with Judge Flanagan and the Blackwater boys. How unusual is it that a Federal court sentences criminal defendants immediately in high profile important cases with important implications like this? VERY UNUSUAL.
In fact it is simply stunning, all the more so considering that the parties and the court hid the fact the plea was entered from the public and the court docket system in the period between the entrance of plea on February 14 and the plea acceptance and immediate sentencing today.
To give you an idea of how out of the ordinary such a sentencing on the spot is, there are directly applicable provisions in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that must be specifically obviated on the record to even attempt it. Rule 32(c) provides:
(c) Presentence Investigation.
(1) Required Investigation.
(A) In General. The probation officer must conduct a presentence investigation and submit a report to the court before it imposes sentence unless:
(i) 18 U.S.C. §3593 (c) or another statute requires otherwise; or
(ii) the court finds that the information in the record enables it to meaningfully exercise its sentencing authority under 18 U.S.C. §3553, and the court explains its finding on the record.
(B) Restitution. If the law permits restitution, the probation officer must conduct an investigation and submit a report that contains sufficient information for the court to order restitution.
18 USC 3593 concerns death penalty cases, so the ONLY way Jackson and Matthews could have been sentenced today is for the court to have made a specific finding, based upon information on and in the record, and then stated the specific reasons for the decision, and evidence supporting it, all on the record.
Did Judge Flanagan do that? Well, we do not know because there is no sentencing minute entry on the docket as there normally is. It just isn’t there. What’s more, we cannot know if there was a stipulation to hide the plea entry and immediate sentencing plans in the plea agreement (docket number 364), because the plea agreement is SEALED.
All ability of the public to know this was coming, and to discern what really happened, has been secreted from the public. Secret justice (or, more properly, injustice).
How and why did all this occur? Undoubtedly because of the highly classified and incestuous relationship between Blackwater and the US Government, and the resulting ability of Blackwater to literally blackmail and extort concessions through graymail threats (See here for a short history of graymail).
So, through secrecy, classification, graymail and direct collusion with the DOJ, Blackwater, and its executive henchmen, win and the American public lose yet again. I have been practicing criminal law for 25 years and I am absolutely offended by what occurred in Judge Louise Flanagan’s courtroom today. Both she and the Obama Department of Justice should be made to answer for it.
[UPDATE: It appears the plea agreement itself is not completely sealed, it is just kept "unavailable" from the public docket. Upon information and belief, it can be viewed if you personally go to the clerk's office for the Eastern District of North Carolina and ask to see it. The other items described in the post as missing from the docket entirely remain so missing.]
Five months into Obama’s first term, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta caused a scandal by telling Congress about Blackwater-staffed assassination squads deployed under the Bush Administration; we would ultimately learn the program was run by a still-active mafia hitman.
Partly in response and partly because of the CIA’s lies to Congress under the Bush Administration, the Intelligence Committees began to tie funding to full briefing of the Committees, rather than just Gang of Eight (which were really Gang of Four) briefings Bush used to avoid oversight. The White House responded by issuing a veto threat if Congress violated the “fundamental compact” of letting CIA operate with almost no oversight. In response, after adding the shoot-down of a missionary plane to the scope, then House Intelligence Chair Silvestre Reyes got Pete Hoekstra to support an investigation into all the times CIA lied to Congress, which Reyes announced in July 2009. By October 2009, the House Intelligence Committee released its preliminary conclusion that CIA had lied to Congress on at least five occasions. In summer 2010, Nancy Pelosi got pissed. In October 2010, Obama finally signed Intelligence Authorization purportedly agreeing to new oversight. In November 2010, Reyes released the final results of the HPSCI inquiry, which showed that “in several specific instances, certain individuals did not adhere to the high standards set forth by the Intelligence Community and its agencies.” However, he said, most of the problems were fixed with that year’s Authorization. In the next Congress, Reyes would be replaced as Ranking Member at HPSCI by Dutch Ruppersberger, a servant to the NSA.
From June 2009 until October 2010, a Democratic Congress and the Obama Administration were engaged in a surprisingly contentious argument over whether the Administration would permit Congress to engage in adequate oversight of the Intelligence Community. In October 2010, the Administration purportedly agreed to abide by the clear terms of the National Security Act, which requires briefing of all members of the Intelligence Committees on covert programs.
With that in mind, consider the timeline suggested by Senate Intelligence Committee member Ron Wyden’s letter to John Brennan (see also this post).
December 2010: Wyden and Russ Feingold ask Eric Holder about “the interpretation of a particular statute” (probably having to do with online privacy)
Before January 2011: Wyden asks about targeted killing authority
April 2011: Wyden calls Eric Holder with questions about targeted killing authority
May 2011: Intelligence Community provides some response to Wyden, without answering basic questions
Before January 2012: Wyden asks for “the complete list of countries in which the intelligence community has used its lethal counterterrorism authorities”
Early 2012: Wyden repeats request for response to letter about a particular statute (probably online privacy)
February 2012: Wyden renews his request for answers on targeted killing
In October 2010, the Obama Administration agreed to let Congress oversee the Intelligence Community’s activities.
Almost immediately thereafter, the Administration started stonewalling Wyden, a member of one of those Committees with supposedly renewed oversight authority, on at least three issues (though two–the lethal authority and the targeted killing–are closely related). (As I’ll discuss in a follow-up post, they also blew off Wyden’s request to revoke an OLC opinion that probably guts Americans’ privacy.)
And remarkably, one of the topics on which the IC is stonewalling Wyden–where the IC has engaged in lethal counterterrorism authorities–may well be precisely the issue that set off this process back in June 2009, the use not just of drones to kill alleged terrorists, but also assassination squads.
Even as Wyden made this timeline clear, he also revealed not only that the CIA lied to all the outside entities overseeing its torture program, but continues to lie to the American people about that program.
As Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor and an at least tangential participant in the earlier decisions on the “lethal counterterrorism authorities,” John Brennan has presumably been instrumental in the continued stonewalling of Congress. In a few weeks, he hopes to be approved to lead the CIA.
Viewed from one perspective the facts that Blackwater has admitted to amount to running guns–precisely the crime that Fast and Furious attempted to combat. Viewed from another perspective, Blackwater’s actions amount to the same kind of thing Viktor Bout is in prison for: making weapons deals with sanctioned entities.
But Blackwater will suffer no more than a wrist slap for such things: a $7.5 million fine, a third of which can be credited to implementing a compliance system that is substantially already in place, as well as a $42 million Consent Agreement fine it signed two years ago. (It has paid two $6 million installments of the $42 million fine it owes to State Department; even while it continues to get contracts with State)
That doesn’t make the Deferred Prosecution Agreement any less funny.
There are the repeated lists of all the aliases of Blackwater–by my count some 37 companies or subsidiaries. Just in case you needed master list of how many times it has tried to change its identity.
There’s the bragging about Blackwater’s new compliance structure (paid for, presumably, as part of this fine), featuring John Ashcroft (the monitor on one of the most corrupt DPAs ever) and former AIG (AIG?!?!?!) compliance whiz Suzanne Folsom.
There’s the way it says Blackwater can’t charge the government any aspect of its fine (what is left after its credit for compliance infrastructure, that is). Only in DPAs is money not fungible, I guess.
There’s the way they try to guard against Blackwater rebranding again (the DPA is written in the name Academi and invokes Xe) by selling itself to someone else. (There’s apparently an Erik Prince declaration I’m going to have to chase down tomorrow.)
And there’s the way that of those who signed this DPA for Blackwater, only the name of the attorney is included in the text.
Now maybe I shouldn’t be laughing so hard. The DPA implies that the US Attorney in North Carolina’s Eastern District, Thomas Walker, is still investigating. Maybe Erik Prince will go to jail? Ha!
But this DPA is more a case study in the myriad ways corporate entities escape all justice in this day and age than any real accountability for the same kind of actions we impose stiff sentences on others for.
As always, the lesson is if you’re going to commit crimes, do it as a corporation.
As part of my not-yet exhausted obsession with the government’s effort to obscure its drone assassination program, I re-read these two posts describing the assassination squads Dick Cheney set up but kept hidden from Congress. When Leon Panetta learned about it–and learned Congress had not been briefed–it set off a big scandal where, for once, Congress actually got pissed. The big scandal, we ultimately learned, was that the assassination squads had been outsourced in 2004 to Blackwater. And while actual approval for the program appears to have come in a September 26, 2001 directive following up on the Gloves Come Off Memorandum of Notification that authorized hit squads, its legal justification and logic parallels the drone program.
The Bush administration took the position that killing members of Al Qaeda, a terrorist group that attacked the United States and has pledged to attack it again, was no different from killing enemy soldiers in battle, and that therefore the agency was not constrained by the assassination ban.
But former intelligence officials said that employing private contractors to help hunt Qaeda operatives would pose significant legal and diplomatic risks, and they might not be protected in the same way government employees are.
Officials said that the C.I.A. program was devised partly as an alternative to missile strikes using drone aircraft, which have accidentally killed civilians and cannot be used in urban areas where some terrorists hide.
Yet with most top Qaeda operatives believed to be hiding in the remote mountains of Pakistan, the drones have remained the C.I.A.’s weapon of choice. Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has embraced the drone campaign because it presents a less risky option than sending paramilitary teams into Pakistan.
Today, we learn that the guy who took the assassination program private, then CIA CTC Operations Director Ricky Prados, was a mob hitman whose murderous ways continued after he joined the Agency.
More startling, the Miami murders allegedly continued after Prado joined the CIA. One target included a cocaine distributor in Colorado who was killed by a car bomb. Investigators believed he was killed over concerns he would talk to the police.
Years later, in 1996, Prado was a senior manager inside the CIA’s Bin Laden Issue Station, before the Al-Qaida mastermind was a well-known name. Continue reading
The NYT has a story on how Erik Prince’s latest scam–to hide from the trial lawyers–involves using retired US servicemen to train Colombian mercenaries to “defend” the United Arab Emirates.
Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times.
The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest or were challenged by pro-democracy demonstrations in its crowded labor camps or democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.
And Erik Prince said he resettled to UAE because of the churches!
Given Prince’s happiness about the legal climate in UAE you’d think he’d be able to wander publicly. But he appears to be exercising the same kind of tradecraft that Osama bin Laden did to evade spies in recent years.
To keep a low profile, Mr. Prince rarely visited the camp or a cluster of luxury villas near the Abu Dhabi airport, where R2 executives and Emirati military officers fine-tune the training schedules and arrange weapons deliveries for the battalion, former employees said. He would show up, they said, in an office suite at the DAS Tower – a skyscraper just steps from Abu Dhabi’s Corniche beach, where sunbathers lounge as cigarette boats and water scooters whiz by. Staff members there manage a number of companies that the former employees say are carrying out secret work for the Emirati government.
But ultimately, this seems to be about Iran.
The U.A.E.’s rulers, viewing their own military as inadequate, also hope that the troops could blunt the regional aggression of Iran, the country’s biggest foe, the former employees said.
Although there was no expectation that the mercenary troops would be used for a stealth attack on Iran, Emirati officials talked of using them for a possible maritime and air assault to reclaim a chain of islands, mostly uninhabited, in the Persian Gulf that are the subject of a dispute between Iran and the U.A.E., the former employees said. Iran has sent military forces to at least one of the islands, Abu Musa, and Emirati officials have long been eager to retake the islands and tap their potential oil reserves.
Some security consultants believe that Mr. Prince’s efforts to bolster the Emirates’ defenses against an Iranian threat might yield some benefits for the American government, which shares the U.A.E.’s concern about creeping Iranian influence in the region.
“As much as Erik Prince is a pariah in the United States, he may be just what the doctor ordered in the U.A.E.,” said an American security consultant with knowledge of R2′s work.
So, in a bid to avoid America’s trial lawyers, Blackwater 3.0 is holed up in UAE training unqualified Colombians so that the Blackwater guys have an excuse to shoot weapons against Iran?
Is this what we’ve come to?
Update: I edited this post to cut down on the blockquotes from NYT.
As Spencer reports, former Attorney General John Ashcroft just got named the-Company-formerly-known-as-Blackwater’s ethics chief.
The consortium in charge of restructuring the world’s most infamous private security firm just added a new chief in charge of keeping the company on the straight and narrow. Yes, John Ashcroft, the former attorney general, is now an “independent director” of Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater.
Ashcroft will head Xe’s new “subcommittee on governance,” its backers announced early Wednesday in a statement, an entity designed to “maximize governance, compliance and accountability” and “promote the highest degrees of ethics and professionalism within the private security industry.”
And while Spencer catalogs many of the reasons this is absurd…
To some, Ashcroft will be forever known as the face of Bush-era counterterrorism, the official who vigorously defended the Patriot Act’s sweeping surveillance powers; told civil libertarians that their dissents “only aid terrorists“; and covered up the Spirit of Justice’s boob.
He misses one of Ashcroft’s key ethical highlights: how he benefited from close ties to his former subordinate Chris Christie when he won a tens of million dollar contract to monitor a medical device company after it signed a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with Christie.
Are federal prosecutors using corporate crime prosecutions to reward cronies?
That seems to be the case in New Jersey, where U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie appointed his ex-boss, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, to be the corporate monitor of a company involved in a $311 million deferred prosecution agreement (pdf) with Christie’s office. The company in question, Zimmer Holdings, along with several other medical equipment manufacturers, was accused of paying kickbacks to get doctors to use their artificial hip and knee reconstruction and replacement products.
Ashcroft’s consulting firm, the Ashcroft Group LLC, will earn between $29 million and $52 million (paid by Zimmer Holdings) to serve as a corporate watchdog for 18 months. It will oversee Zimmer Holdings, making sure it does not engage in misconduct and helping it adopt corporate reforms. As head of the Department of Justice, Ashcroft was Christie’s boss from 2002 to 2005. Christie also served on an advisory panel that consulted regularly with the Attorney General.
Effectively, DPAs under Christie were a means of privatizing justice; Christie even justified limiting fines by pointing to the huge contracting fees his former DOJ buddies would get for monitoring the deal.
And so it’s utterly appropriate that Ashcroft would head to the poster child for everything wrong with privatization to make sure it complies with some kind of ethics.
On December 31, 2009 DC District Judge Ricardo Urbina dismissed the indictment against five Blackwater defendants involved in what is commonly referred to as the Nisour Square shootings occurring on September 16, 2007. Urbina’s decision was 90 pages in length and was further supported by a three week long Kastigar hearing in his court October of 2009. A Kastigar hearing is an evidentiary inquiry based upon Kastigar v. United States, 92 S. Ct. 1653 (1972), “where a party has been compelled to relinquish his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in reliance on the government‘s promises of immunity, the government bears the―affirmative duty to prove that the evidence it proposes to use is derived from a legitimate source wholly independent of the compelled testimony.”
Today, in a surprising unanimous decision, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Urbina, reinstated the case against four of the five original defendants (the prosecution had voluntarily dismissed Defendant Slatten previously) and remanded the case back to District Court for further proceedings. Here is how Reuters described the ruling:
The five guards were charged with 14 counts of manslaughter, 20 counts of attempt to commit manslaughter and one weapons violation count over a Baghdad shooting that outraged Iraqis and strained ties between the two countries.
The shooting occurred as the private security firm’s guards escorted a heavily armed four-truck convoy of U.S. diplomats through the Iraqi capital on September 16, 2007. The guards, U.S. military veterans, were responding to a car bombing when gunfire erupted at a crowded intersection.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina ruled in December 2009 that prosecutors violated the defendants’ constitutional rights and the case was tainted by use of statement the guards made to State Department investigators under a threat of job loss.
The appeals court reversed that ruling that the indictment of the guards had been improperly obtained through the use of their compelled statements. It ruled Urbina wrongly interpreted the law.
The appeals court sent the case back to Urbina to determine what evidence, if any, the government presented had been tainted and whether it was harmless.
The public version of the decision is here however, there is also a sealed classified version containing additional material.
The first thing to consider here is the standard of review the Circuit Court used in analyzing the appeal, because there were intermixing of factual and legal findings inherent in the Kastigar process, the court reviewed for clear error:
We review the district court’s findings that the government used a defendant’s immunized statement for clear error, United States v. North, 910 F.2d 843, 855 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (“North I”), a standard that is met for any finding that was “induced by an erroneous view of the law,”
In a nutshell, what that means is that the appellate court had to give strong deference to the findings by the trial court. In spite of this deference still unanimously blew Judge Urbina’s findings straight out Continue reading
Glenn and I both complained after the US media admitted yesterday it had been sitting on the very obvious news that Raymond Davis was a spook. But I got a number of questions from people who seem to miss the point. Why did I argue for years that Bob Novak shouldn’t have published Valerie Plame’s identity, yet was now arguing that newspapers should have revealed Davis’ affiliation? This article from Michael Calderone gets closer to–but does not directly address–what I think the difference is.
Consider the whole reason why–at least as far as our government claims–we keep spies’ identities secret. It’s to make sure our adversaries don’t know who we’ve got spying on them. Just as random example (just about all these cautionary claims use a similar formulation), here’s what Robert Gates said about the danger that Wikileaks would reveal the identities of our sources to (in this case) our enemies in Afghanistan.
Intelligence sources and methods, as well as military tactics, techniques and procedures, will become known to our adversaries.
The whole point is to keep spies and their sources’ identities secret from our enemies. (In spite of what some have reported about Aldrich Ames and Valerie Plame and Brewster and Jennings, CIA documents I’ve seen in the Plame case made it clear that the Agency believed Plame’s identity was still secret when Novak published her identity; I also suspect that B&J’s cover role was misunderstood.)
But consider this case. From the very earliest reports on Davis in Pakistan, he has been alleged to be a spook and/or Blackwater. Indeed, as Calderone points out, the people protesting in the streets of Pakistan have long been operating on the assumption that he is a spy.
But the shooting had already sparked a diplomatic crisis, with Pakistani protesters calling for violent retribution against Davis and burning American flags and an effigy of the CIA agent on the street. (The protest against Davis pictured above took place a week ago). And in the Pakistani media—where conspiracy theories involving the CIA are commonplace—Davis had already been pegged as a spy.
Furthermore, we have every reason to believe that Pakistani intelligence (replete with its ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban) know and knew who Davis is. Members of the ISI have said as much, for starters. Plus, there are the many allegations that the two men whom Davis killed had ties to ISI; if, as it appears, the ISI was tracking Davis, then it’s a sure bet they knew before he was arrested that he was some kind of spook. And if they didn’t know before they arrested him, then there are the items they captured with him, not least his phone, which allegedly had numbers of people in the tribal regions. Thus, regardless of what Davis has said, the ISI likely already has a good idea who his sources are.
So almost all the people we’d like to keep Davis’ identity secret from–the Pakistani government and the Pakistani people–already either knew or have been operating based on the assumption that he is a spy. The one exception, of course, is the Taliban or other extremists, who would no doubt like to know whom Davis was speaking to in their ranks. But to the extent they haven’t already guessed those details, the Pakistani government now must be trusted to keep them secret, if they will. There’s no more or less that the Taliban and Al Qaeda will learn about Davis based solely on US reporting confirming he is a spy.
In other words, had they revealed his CIA affiliation, American newspapers would not have revealed anything to the key people we’re supposed to be protecting Davis’ identity from; those people already knew or assumed it.
So the people from whom American newspapers were withholding the truth about Davis’ identity were not America’s adversaries, but the American readers who hadn’t already read all the Pakistani coverage on Davis.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism says there are 14 incidences recorded in today’s Wikileaks dump alleging that Blackwater fired on Iraqi citizens (their site appears to be overloaded, so be persistent).
Two years before Nisour Square, on May 14 2005, the logs allege that Blackwater shot at a civilian car. The shooting reportedly killed the driver, but also injured his wife and child. According to the logs, the Blackwater guards drove on.
A year later, on May 2 2006, the logs claim that Blackwater guards opened fire on an ambulance attending the scene of an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) attack. Again, a civilian – the ambulance driver – was killed.
There are other cases where Blackwater guards were alleged to have shown disregard even for their own lives. On one occasion, US troops set up a road block after a car was seen dropping what looked like an IED. A Blackwater convoy ignored them, rushing past and detonating the bomb.
While setting up the northern cordon site a Blackwater convoy bypassed heading south disregarding annihilator ed 3’ vehicle that was in the way. Convoy was struck by IED and did not appear to take any or significant damage.
Protests over Blackwater
In Iraq, outrage at Blackwater’s methods grew. A report dated February 2006 alleges that a Blackwater vehicle escorting US diplomats through Kirkuk had broken down and that guards opened fire on an approaching taxi, killing both civilian occupants.
The US Army report details how residents took to the streets in protest. Only after discussions with Iraqi security forces and local politicians, and the promise of a US State Department investigation, did the crowds disperse.
This last bit–the promises made in 2006, a year and a half before the Nissour Square incident, that State would conduct an investigation–are particularly troubling. Yes, I realize State was not going to stop using Blackwater in any case. But it’d be nice if we just fulfilled the promises we made to the Iraqis.
Fred Johnson is the Democratic candidate for Congress in MI’s 2nd Congressional District.
When his opponent–Crazy Pete Hoekstra lackey Bill Huizenga–claimed to want to cut costs in a debate the other day, Johnson called him on his hypocrisy regarding cutting spending on military contractors, starting with Blackwater. [my transcript]
Johnson: When that one question [about Blackwater] came up [in an earlier debate], we have a private corporation, that is taking taxpayer dollars to basically making profit off of war, they all agree that yeah, they should keep on using those kind of entities. If we’re going to have everything on the table–if you’re really serious about spending, if you’re really serious about cutting back, trimming the budget–those kind of things have to go too. Not to mention that those kind of corporations are beyond the purview of the US Constitution, the US Code of Military Justice, and they often times present as much a headache when it comes to diplomacy and when it comes to good relations, some of those countries being our defense partners.
So it’s kind of disingenuous to say, you know, we have a prioritization. I’m talking about, not just talking about it, I’m talking about actually doing it. I’m talking about going down there with the vision and the courage to make those cuts.
Johnson’s call on Huizenga’s hypocrisy is interesting for two reasons. First, MI-2 includes Holland (where Johnson lives). That’s Erik Prince’s home town.
But just as interesting–the reason why Huizenga and other Republicans in this part of the world are particularly vulnerable to this claim of hypocrisy–since they’re reliant on funding from Prince’s sister Betsy and her hubby, Dick DeVos, and boast about being high school friends with Prince.
Mind you, Republicans nationally are dependent on DeVos cash. But at a local level this hypocritical demand from Republicans that we keep paying more for security services that make us less safe so that their donors’ families can keep getting rich is palpable.