Back in 2007, a Blackwater security team, which was contracted by the Department of State to provide security for its personnel in Iraq, was setting up a roadblock near Nisoor Square in western part of Baghdad after a bomb has exploded in another part of the city. Six of the guards opened fire into a crowd, killing 14 Iraqi civilians and injuring 18 others. A six year old by was among the dead.
After an extensive investigation by the Department of Justice, the six Blackwater guards were arrested and charged in 2009. That case was dismissed by a district court judge on the premise that the criminal case was based on sworn statements of the guards given under a grant of immunity. Then in 2011 that ruling was overturned and the charges were reinstated. Four of the original six are now on trial in Washington, DC
What has now come out is that even before the shooting in Nisoor Square, there was an investigation into Blakwater’s operations in Iraq that was squashed by American embassy personnel who sided with Balckwater claiming that the investigation was disrupting the embassy’s relationship with the security firm. The investigators were then ordered to leave the country.
The real reason is far more nefarious. One of Balckwater’s top managers threatened to kill the government’s chief investigator and bragging that no one could do anything about it because they were in Iraq.
The State Department declined to comment on the aborted investigation. A spokesman for Erik Prince, the founder and former chief executive of Blackwater, who sold the company in 2010, said Mr. Prince had never been told about the matter.
After Mr. Prince sold the company, the new owners named it Academi. In early June, it merged with Triple Canopy, one of its rivals for government and commercial contracts to provide private security. The new firm is called Constellis Holdings.
Experts who were previously unaware of this episode said it fit into a larger pattern of behavior. “The Blackwater-State Department relationship gave new meaning to the word ‘dysfunctional,’ ” said Peter Singer, a strategist at the New America Foundation, a public policy institute, who has written extensively on private security contractors. “It involved everything from catastrophic failures of supervision to shortchanging broader national security goals at the expense of short-term desires.”
Even before Nisour Square, Blackwater’s security guards had acquired a reputation among Iraqis and American military personnel for swagger and recklessness, but their complaints about practices ranging from running cars off the road to shooting wildly in the streets and even killing civilians typically did not result in serious action by the United States or the Iraqi government. [..]
It did not take long for the two-man investigative team – Mr. Richter, a Diplomatic Security special agent, and Donald Thomas Jr., a State Department management analyst – to discover a long list of contract violations by Blackwater. [..]
On Aug. 20, 2007, Mr. Richter was called in to the office of the embassy’s regional security officer, Bob Hanni, who said he had received a call asking him to document Mr. Richter’s “inappropriate behavior.” Mr. Richter quickly called his supervisor in Washington, who instructed him to take Mr. Thomas with him to all remaining meetings in Baghdad, his report noted.
The next day, the two men met with Daniel Carroll, Blackwater’s project manager in Iraq, to discuss the investigation, including a complaint over food quality and sanitary conditions at a cafeteria in Blackwater’s compound. Mr. Carroll barked that Mr. Richter could not tell him what to do about his cafeteria, Mr. Richter’s report said. The Blackwater official went on to threaten the agent and say he would not face any consequences, according to Mr. Richter’s later account.
Mr. Carroll said “that he could kill me at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” Mr. Richter wrote in a memo to senior State Department officials in Washington. He noted that Mr. Carroll had formerly served with Navy SEAL Team 6, an elite unit.
“Mr. Carroll’s statement was made in a low, even tone of voice, his head was slightly lowered; his eyes were fixed on mine,” Mr. Richter stated in his memo. “I took Mr. Carroll’s threat seriously. We were in a combat zone where things can happen quite unexpectedly, especially when issues involve potentially negative impacts on a lucrative security contract.”
He added that he was especially alarmed because Mr. Carroll was Blackwater’s leader in Iraq, and “organizations take on the attitudes and mannerisms of their leader.”
Mr. Thomas witnessed the exchange and corroborated Mr. Richter’s version of events in a separate statement, writing that Mr. Carroll’s comments were “unprofessional and threatening in nature.” He added that others in Baghdad had told the two investigators to be “very careful,” considering that their review could jeopardize job security for Blackwater personnel.
Somebody in the State Department needs to do some explaining.