Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Report Says Firm Sought to Cover Up Iraq Shootings

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 — Employees of Blackwater USA have engaged in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, in a vast majority of cases firing their weapons from moving vehicles without stopping to count the dead or assist the wounded, according to a new report from Congress.
In at least two cases, Blackwater paid victims’ family members who complained, and sought to cover up other episodes, the Congressional report said. It said State Department officials approved the payments in the hope of keeping the shootings quiet. In one case last year, the department helped Blackwater spirit an employee out of Iraq less than 36 hours after the employee, while drunk, killed a bodyguard for one of Iraq’s two vice presidents on Christmas Eve.

The report by the Democratic majority staff of a House committee adds weight to complaints from Iraqi officials, American military officers and Blackwater’s competitors that company guards have taken an aggressive, trigger-happy approach to their work and have repeatedly acted with reckless disregard for Iraqi life.

But the report is also harshly critical of the State Department for exercising virtually no restraint or supervision of the private security company’s 861 employees in Iraq. “There is no evidence in the documents that the committee has reviewed that the State Department sought to restrain Blackwater’s actions, raised concerns about the number of shooting episodes involving Blackwater or the company’s high rate of shooting first, or detained Blackwater contractors for investigation,” the report states.

On Sept. 16, Blackwater employees were involved in a shooting in a Baghdad square that left at least eight Iraqis dead, an episode that remains clouded. The shooting set off outrage among Iraqi officials, who branded them “cold-blooded murder” and demanded that the company be removed from the country.

The State Department is conducting three separate investigations of the shooting, and on Monday the F.B.I. said it was sending a team to Baghdad to compile evidence for possible criminal prosecution.

Neither the State Department nor Blackwater would comment on Monday about the 15-page report, but both said their representatives would address it on Tuesday in testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, whose Democratic staff produced the document. Based on 437 internal Blackwater incident reports as well as internal State Department correspondence, the report said Blackwater’s use of force was “frequent and extensive, resulting in significant casualties and property damage.”

Among those scheduled to testify Tuesday are Erik Prince, a press-shy former Navy Seal who founded Blackwater a decade ago, and several top State Department officials.

The committee report places a significant share of the blame for Blackwater’s record in Iraq on the State Department, which has paid Blackwater more than $832 million for security services in Iraq and elsewhere, under a diplomatic security contract it shares with two other companies, DynCorp International and Triple Canopy.

Blackwater has reported more shootings than the other two companies combined, but it also currently has twice as many employees in Iraq as the other two companies combined.

In the case of the Christmas Eve killing, the report says that an official of the United States Embassy in Iraq suggested paying the slain bodyguard’s family $250,000, but a lower-ranking official said that such a high payment “could cause incidents with people trying to get killed by our guys to financially guarantee their family’s future.” Blackwater ultimately paid the dead man’s family $15,000.

In another fatal shooting cited by the committee, an unidentified State Department official in Baghdad urged Blackwater to pay the victim’s family $5,000. The official wrote, “I hope we can put this unfortunate matter behind us quickly.”

The committee report also cited three other shootings in which Blackwater officials filed misleading reports or otherwise tried to cover up the shootings.

Since mid-2006, Blackwater has been responsible for guarding American diplomats in and around Baghdad, while DynCorp has been responsible for the northern part of the country and Triple Canopy for the south.

State Department officials said last week that Blackwater had run more than 1,800 escort convoys for American diplomats and other senior civilians this year and its employees had discharged their weapons 57 times. Blackwater was involved in 195 instances of gunfire from 2005 until early September, a rate of 1.4 shootings a week, the report says. In 163 of those cases, Blackwater gunmen fired first.

The report also says Blackwater gunmen engaged in offensive operations alongside uniformed American military personnel in violation of their State Department contract, which states that Blackwater guards are to use their weapons only for defensive purposes.

It notes that Blackwater’s contract authorizes its employees to use lethal force only to prevent “imminent and grave danger” to themselves or to the people they are paid to protect. “In practice, however,” the report says, “the vast majority of Blackwater weapons discharges are pre-emptive, with Blackwater forces firing first at a vehicle or suspicious individual prior to receiving any fire.”

The report cites two instances in which Blackwater gunmen engaged in tactical military operations. One was a firefight in Najaf in 2004 during which Blackwater employees set up a machine gun alongside American and Spanish forces. Later that year, a Blackwater helicopter helped an American military squad secure a mosque from which sniper fire had been detected.
Blackwater has dismissed 122 of its employees over the past three years for misuse of weapons, drug or alcohol abuse, lewd conduct or violent behavior, according to the report. It has also terminated workers for insubordination, failure to report incidents or lying about them, and publicly embarrassing the company. One employee was dismissed for showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Senate on Monday gave final approval, 92 to 3, to a defense policy bill that included the establishment of an independent commission to investigate private contractors operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill, which must be reconciled with a House version, faces a veto threat because it includes an expansion of federal hate-crimes laws.


wes said...

The Blackwater incidents are in deed a tragedy. As it says in the article “Blackwater has reported more shootings than the other two companies combined, but it also currently has twice as many employees in Iraq as the other two companies combined.” Yes it may seem like they are getting into more shootings then other companies, but they have more escorts and also in the article it says “Since mid-2006, Blackwater has been responsible for guarding American diplomats in and around Baghdad, while DynCorp has been responsible for the northern part of the country and Triple Canopy for the south.” Saying that Blackwater has to escort them every where in and around Baghdad while the other two companies only have a creation aria they are responsible for.

They are currently trying to make Blackwater abide by the rules that the American solders have to obey because they are hired by American company so are American representatives. As Mr. Brown said in class if Blackwater were to leave all the companies that are employing them would also leave due to the lack of security

So my question is what would happen if all the private contractors where to leave Iraq do you think that everyone of the companies they protected would also leave along with them? And if they did all leave how would we help the Iraq people rebuild what has been destroyed? Would it ever be completed? How would it affect Iraq as a hole, for the better or worse?

Anonymous said...

i'm just checking if my post will come up- Vickie

Casey B. said...

I feel that the Blackwater private security firm did what they were paid to do. They are worried about themselves and the people they were paid to protect. They follow one rule and one rule only which is "stop you die". So after saying that they cant blame them for shooting the people who they taught were dangerous. Like wes said "..blackwater has been responsible for guarding American diplomats.." so now that they are doing there job now they are getting blamed for what they have been told to do. Is that fair?

W Brown said...

Who should these private contractors answer to?

a faller said...

I completely agree with what Casey said. I think that whether or not what the Blackwater did was unconstitutional or not, they are paid, and in some ways ordered to act the way they did. Do I feel horrible for the innocent lives that were taken, of course, but as the saying goes “All is fair in love and War”, and as it so happens, we are in war. I think that many people sometimes forget that we are still over in Iraq fighting, and because of that, people and families, and places have to suffer. Its very sad that contractors need to hire these employees from Blackwater, but they must insure the safety and well-being of their workers. As to Mr. Brown’s question, I think that these private contractors should answer to whoever hired them. It doesn’t matter if they are an American, they are over outside of the United States boundaries and no matter how they put it in paper, everything they are doing, in some way or another is bending the rules.

Manpreet Kaur said...

I ould like to answer Wes's qusetion, I think that if the private contractors if Iraq then everyone of the companies they protected would also leave. Since, they have no protection from danger and the companies business won't expand, so they'll have to leave. I agree with A.FALLER that private contracters should answer to whoever hired them.
I would also like to answer Vickie's one of Vickie's question, I think that America should first help their own people out, then they should have gone to Iraq. I am saying that because, where the American economy used to be higher then Canada's economy, but now the same. That tells a lot about how much help our own country needs first, before giving a helping hand to another country.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what Casey said too. Blackwater's job is to protect American Diplomats and if they think anything will harm them, they will kill to protect. That's what they get trained and paid to do. They go by "stop or you die" and if they don't stop it is a sign that it is the enemies. As tragic as it is that the son and daughter died, we cannot blame anyone for this incident because it was neither the Blackwater or the son and mother fault.

Anta R.

Courtney Wilson said...

I agree with Casey in such that Blackwater security was put in Iraq to perform a task. They truly cannot worry about others because of what their job description is. Blackwater is in Iraq to protect at all costs and only go by the one rule, "If you stop, you die." If they were to, all-of-a-sudden start caring about other things besides their job, nothing will be protected.

John said...

I am with Wes on this one, if you are hired by someone you follow their rules. If you hire a contractor, they listen to what you want, but also follow zoning laws. It dosen't matter where they are from they will have to follow the zoning laws of the state they are in. But it really is a moot point seeing as how Iraq has revoked Blackwater's contract,

W Brown said...


kemi ajirotutu said...

I agreed with Casey B. and Anta R. I do feel that they did what they were paid to do, which is to protect who every from harms way. Its not there felt that they have to think about whom there protecting even if innocent lives is lost. They were miss lead and I think that what had happen could have been avoid. But things happen and its part of life there nothing much you can do about it.

Anonymous said...

The Black water undercover security, i think is not a good idea because some time u just killing people who are not even Terrorist. And i also agree with what courtney said about that they only think about there
job. They don't know that there taking away other peoples lives.They don't know that have of the people they kill, they have familys behind them to take care of.

Khizer H

Anonymous said...

i feel there only thinking about there job but you have to also think about others lives. Innocent people is dieing everyday yes it might be your job to go and do your duty work but do you ever stop to think like im killing others as well who shouldnt be losing there life but i also agree with wes and john on this because at one point there right if your hired and told to do something one way your going to do what they say no second thinking because your the one getting paid to do it..

kristal atchsion

tobin v. said...

I understand what Casey and Courtney are saying, Blackwater security is just trying to do their jobs and I completely understand that in a time of war violence is important if it is your job to protect the private contractor and/or American diplomats. I also understand the importance of the “stop you die” rule because being in a war is not being in a calm atmosphere. But according to this article various sources stated that Blackwater acted extremely reckless and rude on the job. In some cases they were even drunk. I don’t think their getting paid to abuse drugs and alcohol. Obviously something is wrong if these people are trying to cover up countless cases in which they caused death and don’t even want to give back the families. I agree that these terrorists should be killed but what about the many innocent lives being taken for no reason. Imagine the suffering and pain these families are going through in Iraq. Why should we inflict the same pain on innocent people in Iraq if we don’t want them to do it to us?

Anonymous said...

I agree most with Tobin on this topic. I understand where he is coming from the most. Casey was right when he said that they were just doing what they get paid to do, and thats how they were trained. But it seems as though the security officers of blackwater became a little wreckless in this situation. I fail to understand the necessity of the amount of casualties in this specific incident.
Casey's question was, is it fair to blame them for what they are paid to do. I don't believe they are paid to attack innocent civilians. They are paid to protect their clients. I dont think opening fire when there is no sign of potential danger is apart of their job description.

-Alyssa Cumberbatch

Vickie said...

I understand the financial aspects of having Blackwater infultrating Iraq, I agree with Wesley, if they were not there, neither the large companies nor their workers would step foot in Iraq, and therefore their economy would have no chance of ever thriving. But, just because they are a vital part of rebuilding Iraq does not give them permission to kill innocent lives in the process?
I think the workers of Blackwater believe that protecting their clients means harming everyone that crosses their path and gets in their way. But, if these people are truly the bravest, fiercest, most well equipt fighters from militaries all over the world, then wouldn't one think they could protect the lives a few well off people without blindly shooting their guns at anyone in sight.
I agree with Casey and Alyssa that the Blackwater employees were only doing their jobs when they killed the innocent people, this is what they had been told to do. I don't think the employees are at fault, I do think however that someone needs to set guildlines for these companies. They truly are above any laws, and have nobody to anwser to. We are in a lose lose situation, we can't survive without the help of Blackwater and the other paid security companies, but we can't allow them to run the streets of Iraq as they are doing now.

W Brown said...

Closed for Marking Period 1