Blackwater Incident Remains Clouded by Controversy

October 08, 2007 11:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Since the shooting on Sept. 16 a congressional hearing, testimony from Blackwater founder Erik Prince, and four separate official investigations, have all failed to answer one overwhelming question: Why did the guards open fire?

30-Second Summary

It has been nearly three weeks since a shooting incident involving Blackwater USA employees left between 11 and 17 Iraqi civilians dead.

Despite the efforts of four separate official investigations, and an Oct. 2 hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, U.S. authorities have yet to reach a conclusion as to why Blackwater guards opened fire on Sept. 16.

News reports from The New York Times and Newsweek have recounted the evidence collected by Iraqi police; evidence that refutes Blackwater’s claims that its convoy was ambushed prior to opening fire.

And a disparaging 15-page congressional memo—released on Oct. 1 by the House Oversight Committee—detailed past instances of the company’s violent misconduct.

On Sept. 28 The Washington Post wrote that a State Department report had corroborated the contractors’ version of events. However, CNN revealed on Oct. 1 that the report had been written by a Blackwater employee working in a position in the State Department that had been outsourced to contractors.

Nonetheless on the same day as CNN’s revelation, Peter McHugh of The Washington Times faulted the condemnatory tone of politicians and the media.

McHugh noted that few “have mentioned that Iraqi ‘witnesses’ have offered conflicting versions of the incident. Still fewer have highlighted the troublesome role of the factionalized Iraqi Ministry of Interior as the source of such witnesses.”

The controversy has highlighted the lack of legal accountability for security contractors working abroad.

In response, the House of Representatives passed The Extension of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (H.R. 2740) on Oct. 4, bringing contractors under the jurisdiction of U.S. criminal law. A comparable bill is expected to move quickly through the Senate.

Headline Links: Congress passes contractor accountability bill, the NYT outlines shooting, and drunken Blackwater guard kills Iraqi bodyguard on Christmas Eve

Oct. 4—The House of Representatives passed a new bill placing contractors working in Iraq and other combat zones under the jurisdiction of U.S. criminal courts. The Extension of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (H.R. 2740) is sponsored by Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) and passed by a vote of 389–30.
The New York Times’ account
Drunk Blackwater employee killed Iraqi vice president’s security guard on Christmas Eve

Background: State Dept. Report written by Blackwater, past Blackwater misconduct, founder Erik Prince testifies, a rundown of Iraqi police evidence

The Oversight Committee’s critical memo
Founder Erik Prince testifies
Evidence compiled by the Iraqi police

Reactions: Rice orders greater Blackwater oversight, FBI takes over State Department investigation

Prior to the House vote on Oct. 4, the White House criticized Rep. David Price’s bill, saying in a statement that its “vague” definition of who would be subject to U.S. law will result in “extreme litigation.” The statement also said that the bill would have “unintended and intolerable consequences for crucial and necessary national security activities and operations,” but did not explain how the bill would do so.

Key Players: Blackwater and its key administrators

Historical Context: The rise of military outsourcing and military contractors in history

Opinion/Analysis: The debate over Blackwater, comments on the hearing, and prosecuting Blackwater personnel

The debate over Blackwater
Comments on the hearing
Prosecuting Blackwater personnel

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