FBI finds Blackwater trucks patched - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#1423860
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WASHINGTON - Blackwater Worldwide repaired and repainted its trucks immediately after a deadly September shooting in Baghdad, making it difficult to determine whether enemy gunfire provoked the attack, according to people familiar with the government's investigation of the incident.

Damage to the vehicles in the convoy has been held up by Blackwater as proof that its security guards were defending themselves against an insurgent ambush when they fired into a busy intersection, leaving 17 Iraqi civilians dead.

U.S. military investigators initially found "no enemy activity involved" and the Iraqi government concluded the shootings were unprovoked.

The repairs essentially destroyed evidence that Justice Department investigators hoped to examine in a criminal case that has drawn worldwide attention. The Sept. 16 shooting has strained U.S. relations with the Iraqi government, which wants Blackwater expelled from the country. It also has become a flash point in the debate over whether contractors are immune from legal consequences for their actions in a war zone.

Blackwater's four armored vehicles were repaired or repainted within days of the shooting, and before FBI teams went to Baghdad to collect evidence, people close to the case said. The work included repairs to a damaged radiator that Blackwater says is central to its defense.

The damage and subsequent repairs were described to The Associated Press by five people familiar with the case who discussed it in separate interviews over the past month. All spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

The repair work creates a hurdle for prosecutors as they consider building a case against any of the 19 guards in the Sept. 16 convoy. It also makes it harder for Blackwater to prove its innocence as it faces a grand jury investigation and multiple lawsuits over the shooting. The company is the target, too, of an unrelated investigation into whether its contractors smuggled weapons into Iraq.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said any repairs "would have been done at the government's direction." Blackwater's contract with the State Department requires that the company maintain its vehicles and keep them on the road.

The State Department would not comment on whether it ordered the repairs to the vehicles involved in the shooting.

Blackwater's chief executive, Erik Prince, has pointed to the damaged trucks to counter accusations that his contractors acted improperly.

In interviews this fall, he said three of Blackwater's armored vehicles were struck by gunfire and that the radiator from one was "shot out and disabled" during the shooting in Baghdad's Nisoor Square. An early two-page State Department report supports Prince's statements. The report noted the Blackwater command vehicle was "disabled during the attack" and had to be towed.

Prince has indicated he expects the FBI investigation to clear his company. Yet people close to the case say the vehicles and radiator alone probably will not be enough to do that because repairing the trucks made it difficult for investigators to say whether the convoy was fired on — or not.

As for the radiator, investigators have verified that it was damaged. But it, too, was repaired before the FBI arrived two weeks after the shooting.

No bullets were found inside the radiator to prove it had been shot, as opposed to being broken during routine use. That makes it hard for scientists to say for certain what caused the damage or when, according to those close to the case.

The preliminary State Department report noted "superficial damage" to the vehicles; and photographs exist showing bullet damage. People who have seen the photos said there are no time stamps or other indications of when and where that damage occurred.

One photo, obtained and broadcast by CBS News, bore no notations indicating when it was taken or even if the vehicle pictured was involved in the shooting.

The evidence gaps will force investigators to rely more heavily on testimony and other statements from witnesses. But even those efforts have been hampered by a State Department deal that gave Blackwater guards limited immunity for their statements following the incident. As a result, the Justice Department cannot use those interviews in its criminal investigation.

There were 19 security guards at the scene. Investigators believe only a few fired their weapons. Investigators are pushing ahead with the search for additional evidence and so far are focusing on as many four guards who could face criminal charges.

Over the past two months, prosecutors have brought several guards before a Washington grand jury to describe their recollection of the shooting. According to the initial State Department report, the shooting occurred as the Blackwater convoy was responding to a car bombing about a mile outside the U.S.-protected Green Zone, which houses the Iraqi government and several embassies.

James Sweeney, a lawyer representing several guards, would not discuss the forensic gaps or whether the grand jury investigation is helping authorities bridge them. He said Blackwater guards are patriots, not aggressors.

"They are good, solid intelligent Americans. They're good people," Sweeney said. "They're protecting U.S. diplomats."

North Carolina-based Blackwater is the largest private security company protecting U.S. officials in Iraq. It has been paid more than $1 billion from federal contracts since 2001. Despite criticism, Blackwater notes that no official under its protection has been killed or seriously injured.

Blackwater also strongly denies wrongdoing in a weapons smuggling investigation by federal officials in North Carolina. Two former employees, who prosecutors say are aiding the investigation, were sentenced to probation Thursday on gunrunning charges.

Blackwater and other contractors operate in a legal gray area. They are immune from prosecution in Iraqi courts. If the Justice Department wants to bring criminal charges such as assault, manslaughter or murder in a U.S. court, prosecutors would have to do so under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act.

That would require the government to show that State Department contractors were "supporting the mission of the Department of Defense overseas." Defense lawyers are expected to argue that guarding diplomats was a purely State Department function, one independent from the Pentagon.

The Justice Department has said it could be some time before it decides whether it will bring charges in the case.
User avatar
By QatzelOk
#1423875
As Oxymoron suggests, since Blackwater are our friends, it would be more just to reward them by not reporting their misdeeds, even if these misdeeds are pathological.

This version of justice is the only one a Godless liberal like Oxymoron can comprehend, and I support him entirely.
User avatar
By Nets
#1424099
I'm a strong supporter of the United States but from everything I've read it seems like Blackwater mercenaries are animals who don't answer to anyone, least of all the US Army. Sad.
User avatar
By War Angel
#1424141
I never understood this whole Blackwater deal. At first, I thought it was a conspiracy theory, and was appalled to discover there actually existed such a mercenary force.

Seriously, what the fuck is up with that? And it's pretty darn big, too. What happens if they go renegade? They are a private company, they owe nobody anything. Who's to guarantee us that they won't suddenly receive a hefty contract to kill innocents, harm American soldiers, civilians, assassinate certain officials, etc? It's very much plausible.

I am so glad non-governed armed forces are banned in my country. I sure as hell wouldn't want thousands of armed men in my own back-yard, ready to kill for the highest bidder. I mean... shit.
User avatar
By KurtFF8
#1424148
I am so glad non-governed armed forces are banned in my country. I sure as hell wouldn't want thousands of armed men in my own back-yard, ready to kill for the highest bidder. I mean... shit.


Yeah I wish that the United States would make them illegal as well.
By Manuel
#1424174
Aye. You know, right now, if we wanted too, we could go out, buy a crate of SMGs, and start a militia? Legally.

God damn it. NGOs should never be combatative. Only two forces in the country should have access to high-power weaponry. Cops and soldiers.
User avatar
By Nets
#1424178
God damn it. NGOs should never be combatative. Only two forces in the country should have access to high-power weaponry. Cops and soldiers.


Agreed 100%.

To be honest, the right-wing Second Amendment Freak gun-nuts that run anti-Federal militias* in North Dakota and Montana scare me a hell of a lot more in terms of domestic terror than Islamic fundamentalists...who also worry me.

Those militias have some serious firepower.


*The milieu Timothy McVeigh emerged from.
By Manuel
#1424181
Read up on the Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord. They fougth off federal agents. They had AA guns.

By the end of their operations [against the CSA], the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) obtained 155 Krugerrands, one live light antitank rocket, 94 long guns, 30 handguns, 35 sawed-off shotguns and machine guns, one heavy machine gun, and a quantity of C-4 explosives.


America is wierd this way.
User avatar
By KurtFF8
#1424461
To be honest, the right-wing Second Amendment Freak gun-nuts that run anti-Federal militias* in North Dakota and Montana scare me a hell of a lot more in terms of domestic terror than Islamic fundamentalists...who also worry me.


Well there was quite a crackdown on them after the McVeigh incident.
By keso
#1424843
Seriously, what the fuck is up with that? And it's pretty darn big, too. What happens if they go renegade?


I think that has already happened...

They are "renegade" to the US Constitution, yet still loyal to Cheney.

The problem is that there still is a certain degree of overlap between the US Constitution and Cheney, hence the confusion.
By AmericanPatriot
#1424877
Aye. You know, right now, if we wanted too, we could go out, buy a crate of SMGs, and start a militia? Legally.


Yeah, we can. That's the whole point of the first and second ammendments. The right to assemble, and the right to bear arms. Maybe you don't like it, but our country was formed by 'rebellious militias with guns'. Aka: the Continentals and the various American militias fighting against the redcoats. These are the principles that allow for rule for the people by the people. The Consititution is written to enable citizens to have the power to overthrow a tyranical government and it says that it is one's duty to do so. That is the beauty of our nation. What happens if the Army and military suddenly take over the nation and institute martial law and run a coup? Who would have the guns?

God damn it. NGOs should never be combatative. Only two forces in the country should have access to high-power weaponry. Cops and soldiers.


Like I said, we have the right and privelige to overthrow a tyranical government. In today's modern world, high-power weaponry is necessary to do so. If the government controlled everything weapon-related, what would the people have to defend their rights?


Guns and militias founded our great nation. Quit bitching about them! The Constitution and our legislation intentionally allows for them. Get over it. The second and first amendments aren't going anywhere. So stop trying.


Oh, and as for Blackwater, for every one of them in Iraq, that's one less U.S. soldier. Blackwater is efficient, and as you said 'no one they've ever protected has been killed or seriously injured.'

Civilian casualties cannot be helped in war. Also, in many cases the insurgents and radical extremists hide amongst civilians so that when civilians get killed this exact thing can happen. They want to make us look like cold-hearted murdering madmen. This is exactly what they want!
User avatar
By Truth-a-naut
#1424922
These are the principles that allow for rule for the people by the people. The Consititution is written to enable citizens to have the power to overthrow a tyranical government and it says that it is one's duty to do so. That is the beauty of our nation. What happens if the Army and military suddenly take over the nation and institute martial law and run a coup? Who would have the guns?


Exactly. Look at the opening days of the Spanish Civil War. The government in Madrid were too afraid to give it's citizens guns in order to fight and protect itself. Most of the citizens had to go out and find their own.
User avatar
By War Angel
#1425045
Guns and militias founded our great nation.

They also founded mine, and a lot later in history, too. Still, if private people and organisations here start to amass assault weapons, AA guns an AT missiles, you know they're up to no good (i.e, they're usually off to trade them, or use them for criminal actions). I'd never trust some gun-freak (and I'm one, so I should know) to protect my liberty, but I would trust him to suddenly go bonkers and commit acts of terrorism on a whim, which is not too uncommon in the USA.

But I guess we don't have that 'potential for tyranny' problem over here. The military is the people and the people are the military, so there's no chance that military will suddenly start killing our own civilians - the soldiers' families and friends.

Owning a handgun and\or some hunting rifles is okay. That's all you need to protect yourself. Anything more is used to wage WAR, and war is something you don't want handled by amateurs with no-one to govern them.
User avatar
By Gletkin
#1425119
War Angel wrote:I never understood this whole Blackwater deal. At first, I thought it was a conspiracy theory, and was appalled to discover there actually existed such a mercenary force.

Where've 'ya been? These merc businesses have been around for at least 20 years!

War Angel wrote:I am so glad non-governed armed forces are banned in my country.

Must be a relatively new law. I remember an Israeli merc outfit called "Spearhead" I think about 18-20 years ago.
Btw, if "non-government armed forces are banned" in Israel, does that mean that the settlers in the West Bank can't carry arms anymore, or has the State of Israel accepted them as official combatants in its service?

Or maybe, like Bush, they've created a third legal category for them: "Friendly Combatant".
User avatar
By NYYS
#1425611
Seriously, what the fuck is up with that? And it's pretty darn big, too. What happens if they go renegade? They are a private company, they owe nobody anything. Who's to guarantee us that they won't suddenly receive a hefty contract to kill innocents, harm American soldiers, civilians, assassinate certain officials, etc? It's very much plausible.

They're still humans, I'd assume they aren't going to go on a killing spree just because of a contract. They're still voluntarily selling their services, just like US soldiers are... they can refuse to fight wars they don't believe in. Hell, they probably would have an easier time getting out of fighting an unjust war than a US soldier would.
User avatar
By Attila The Nun
#1425756
Blackwater is not a militia out to protect the American government. Blackwater is a mercenary army, and I am not convinced to the contrary that the only reason they'll they with the US is because it's the highest bidder. The privatization of the military is one of the greatest threats to national security.
User avatar
By NYYS
#1425768
So if Al Qaeda mustered up a billion dollars or whatever Blackwater, a company based in the US made up of predominately US citizens, would take to the streets and begin shooting pedestrians?

If China hired them they'd invade Taiwan? If Iran hired them they'd start fighting US soldiers in Iraq?

Of course not, they're simply an extension of the US Army. They're ex US special forces, they would never do anything the US told them not to. They'd risk losing US contracts, for one thing. They don't have the capacity to fight a full war, even if they wanted to (although they did roll out their own APC recently).
User avatar
By Attila The Nun
#1425771
Of course not, they're simply an extension of the US Army.


So why not incorporate them into the military?

They'd risk losing US contracts, for one thing.


So their loyalty is our money?

They don't have the capacity to fight a full war, even if they wanted to (although they did roll out their own APC recently).


They are slowly amassing the capability to do so, and the organization in question can always provide the support needed.
User avatar
By NYYS
#1425783
So their loyalty is our money?

Of course not, but you seem to believe it is so I threw out another reason why they wouldn't take part in random wars of aggression around the world.

Like I said, their real loyalty is to the US.

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