Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, The NY Times reports that the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. However, as James Risen reports, a senior official of the notorious private security firm allegedly threatened to kill a government investigator leading the probe into the firm’s Iraqi operation. Stunningly (or not), the US embassy sided with him and forced the inspector to cut the visit short.
As The Times reports, based on documents which were turned over to plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Blackwater... According to the documents, the investigators found numerous violations, including changing of security details without the State Department’s approval, reducing the number of guard details and storing of automatic weapons and ammunition in Blackwater employees’ private rooms.
There were also discipline problems, with guards having parties with heavy drinking and female visitors, including one episode in which an armored Blackwater car was requisitioned by four drunken employees, who drove to a private party and crashed the $180,000 vehicle into a concrete barrier.
As the probe continued, apparently it irritated some people in power in Iraq...
The inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat:
“that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.
American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show. The officials told the investigators that they had disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor and ordered them to leave the country, according to the reports.
But, as if that was not enough, the leader investigator (who is actively being sought for imprisonment by the Government) explains...
After returning to Washington, the chief investigator wrote a scathing report to State Department officials documenting misconduct by Blackwater employees and warning that lax oversight of the company, which had a contract worth more than $1 billion to protect American diplomats, had created “an environment full of liability and negligence.”
“The management structures in place to manage and monitor our contracts in Iraq have become subservient to the contractors themselves,” the investigator, Jean C. Richter, wrote in an Aug. 31, 2007, memo to State Department officials.
“Blackwater contractors saw themselves as above the law,” he said, adding that the “hands off” management resulted in a situation in which “the contractors, instead of Department officials, are in command and in control.”
Above the law? Wonder where they got that idea?
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But the plot thickens (as they say). As Liberty Blitzkrieg's Mike Krieger notes,
James Risen is an honorable man and an excellent investigative journalist. Tragically, he also now faces jail time for refusing to reveal his sources. For a little background on his story, here’s an excerpt from a recent New York Times article:
On Dec. 31, 2005, the C.I.A.’s acting general counsel, John A. Rizzo, received an urgent phone call from the White House about a chapter in James Risen’s coming book, “State of War,” detailing a botched C.I.A. operation in Iran.
The administration wanted Mr. Rizzo to contact Sumner Redstone — the chairman of Viacom, owner of the book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster — and ask him to keep the book off the market.
Mr. Rizzo never made the call. It was too late. Copies of “State of War” had already reached bookstores.
First of all, the fact that the U.S. government asks the C.I.A.’s general counsel to try to prevent a book from being published is extraordinarily disturbing in its own right. Moving along…
After more than six years of legal wrangling, the case — the most serious confrontation between the government and the press in recent history — will reach a head in the coming weeks. Mr. Risen has steadfastly refused to testify. But he is now out of challenges. Early this month, the Supreme Court declined to review his case, a decision that allows prosecutors to compel his testimony. If Mr. Risen resists, he could go to prison.
On the advice of his lawyer, Mr. Risen, 59, declined to comment for this article. But during a speech in February in Boston, he said he had two choices: “Give up everything I believe in — or go to jail.”
The Times considered publishing an article about the operation in 2003, when Mr. Risen first learned about it, but President George W. Bush’s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, prevailed upon the newspaper to withhold publication for the sake of national security.
I’ve highlighted Mr. Risen and his case previously. Most recently, last summer in my post titled: Battle Royale on Piers Morgan: Glenn Greenwald, James Risen and Jeffrey Toobin. The most memorable line from that segment was Mr. Risen’s cutting observation that:
“That’s the thing I don’t understand about the climate in Washington these days. People want to have debates on television and elsewhere, but then you want to throw the people that start the debates in jail.”
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Meanwhile, Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, has moved on to other things. Like building a mercenary army for China to colonize Africa, something we reported on in the post: How Erik Prince, Founder of Blackwater, Will Help China Subjugate Africa.
Who knows what Mr. Carroll is up to. But for now just repeat tbe chant of freedom, justice and the American way: USA! USA!