Blackwater USA Hearing in Congress, Oct 2, 2007

32617135.jpg(photo: Karel Prinsloo / AP)

Highlights from Chairman Henry Waxman’s Opening statement:

“New documents indicate that there have been a total of 195 shooting incidents involving Blackwater forces since 2005. Blackwater’s contract says the company is hired to provide defensive services. But in most of these incidents, it was Blackwater forces who fired first.

“… The Committee’s investigation raises as many questions about the State Department’s oversight of Blackwater as it does about Blackwater itself. On December 24, 2006, a drunken Blackwater contractor shot the guard of the Iraqi Vice President. This didn’t happen out on a mission protecting diplomats: it occurred inside the protected Green Zone. If this had happened in the United States, the contractor would have been arrested and a criminal investigation launched. If a drunken U.S. soldier had killed an Iraqi guard, the soldier would face a court martial.

“But all that has happened to the Blackwater contractor is that he has lost his job. The State Department advised Blackwater how much to pay the family to make the problem go away and then allowed the contractor to leave Iraq just 36 hours after the shooting. Incredibly, internal e-mails document a debate over the size of the payment. The Charge d’Affairs recommended $250,000 payment, but this was cut to $15,000 because the Diplomatic Security Service said Iraqis would try to get themselves killed for such a large payout.

“It is hard to read these e-mails and not come to the conclusion that the State Department is acting as Blackwater’s enabler.”

See video of the hearing, here.

The LA Times on Tuesday published a story detailing an investigative memo into past Blackwater misconduct. The memo states Blackwater won $1 billion in no bid contracts from the government between 2001 and 2006 and says “relatives of Blackwater founder [Erik] Prince have been major Republican contributors.” These revelations are in the last two paragraphs of the LA Times story.

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