JAMES RISEN and DAVID JOHNSTON at the New York Times remind us of the challenges faced when individuals or groups are not accountable to law.
WASHINGTON — Justice Department officials have told Congress that they face serious legal difficulties in pursuing criminal prosecutions of Blackwater security guards involved in a September shooting that left at least 17 Iraqis dead.Paul Kiel writes about this at TPM, citing the NYT article.
In a private briefing in mid-December, officials from the Justice and State Departments met with aides to the House Judiciary Committee and other Congressional staff members and warned them that there were major legal obstacles that might prevent any prosecution.
There are also questions about whether federal law applies to the Blackwater contractors.
But that shouldn't bother us. It doesn't bother the folks at the State Department. According to AP:
The State Department says it will renew Blackwater USA's license to protect diplomats in Baghdad for one year, but a final decision about whether the private security company will keep the job is pending.Don't you just love it? The FBI finds that Blackwater employees were unprovoked when they fired on Iraqi civilians but because the investigation is not completed THERE IS NO REASON NOT TO RENEW THE CONTRACT.
A top State Department official said that because the FBI is still investigating last year's fatal shooting of Baghdad civilians, there is no reason not to renew the contract when it comes due in May. Blackwater has a five-year deal to provide personal protection for diplomats, which is reauthorized each year.
Iraqis were outraged over a Sept. 16 shooting in which 17 civilians were killed in a Baghdad square. Blackwater said its guards were protecting diplomats under attack before they opened fire, but Iraqi investigators concluded the shooting was unprovoked. [Emphasis mine]
Federal agents investigating the Sept. 16 episode in which Blackwater security personnel shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians have found that at least 14 of the shootings were unjustified and violated deadly-force rules in effect for security contractors in Iraq, according to civilian and military officials briefed on the case....
Investigators have concluded that as many as five of the company’s guards opened fire during the shootings, at least some with automatic weapons. Investigators have focused on one guard, identified as “turret gunner No. 3,” who fired a large number of rounds and was responsible for several fatalities.
Investigators found no evidence to support assertions by Blackwater employees that they were fired upon by Iraqi civilians. That finding sharply contradicts initial assertions by Blackwater officials, who said that company employees fired in self-defense and that three company vehicles were damaged by gunfire. [NYT]
How about ensuring that these unregulated goons are governed by either Iraqi or US law (or both) before you renew the fucking contract, Condi? Maybe you could borrow some of the lawyers spending all their time trying to protect Bush and Cheney's criminal asses to help you iron out the contract.
Makes me mad enough to spit nails.