Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Blackwater Granted Immunity

The Washington Post reports that Blackwater guards may not be prosecuted because State Department investigators granted them immunity during questioning.

FBI agents called in to take over the State Department's investigation two weeks after the Sept. 16 shootings cannot use any information gleaned during questioning of the guards by the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which is charged with supervising security contractors.

Some of the Blackwater guards have subsequently refused to be interviewed by the FBI, citing promises of immunity from State, one law enforcement official said. The restrictions on the FBI's use of their initial statements do not preclude prosecution by the Justice Department using other evidence, the official said, but "they make things a lot more complicated and difficult."

This makes no sense from a prosecution standpoint. That was probably why the State Department did it. The affect is the FBI investigation has been sabotaged. Blackwater guards are citing their immunity to the FBI and refusing to answer questions.

"You can't use the fruits of that statement," another law enforcement official said. "It doesn't prevent them from talking [to the FBI], but . . . why run the risk? I think any lawyer would advise against it. "

The State Department refuses to share interview transcripts and other information pertaining to the Blackwater investigation. The Bush administration is fighting against a bill that would put Blackwater and other contractors under military law. This is a malicious effort to protect a company that neither the Iraqi people or U.S. military personal want in country. U.S. Army infantry officer Robert Bateman wrote an op-ed about how he was nearly killed twice by Blackwater.

This understanding of the backlash effect from dishonoring an Iraqi is included in a past military counterinsurgency manual, "Instructions for American Servicemen in Iraq during World War II," recently re-published by the University of Chicago Press. But the reality is that Blackwater USA, from top to bottom, just does not care.

What employees of the private security firm care about, and I have heard this from the Blackwaters with whom I interacted in Iraq, is their paycheck. They care about their huge compensation packages, and about getting home alive to spend them. Blackwater USA has already taken in more than $1 billion from the public coffers.

When Iraqis see Blackwater shooting at innocent civilians they associate the company and the U.S. military as one and the same. Their behavior endangers American soldiers and the mission in Iraq. The administration that condones torture doesn't care about the civilians they claim to be liberating. They Iraqis as collateral damage.

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