Report Depicts Recklessness at Blackwater
By DAVID STOUT and JOHN M. BRODER | October 1, 2007
WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 — Guards working in Iraq for Blackwater USA have shot innocent Iraqi civilians and have sought to cover up the incidents, sometimes with the help of the State Department, a report prepared for a Congressional committee said today.
The report, based largely on internal Blackwater e-mail messages and State Department documents, depicts the security contractor as being staffed with reckless, shoot-first guards who were not always sober and did not always stop to see who or what was hit by their bullets.
In one incident, the State Department and Blackwater agreed to pay $15,000 to the family of a man killed by “a drunken Blackwater contractor,” the report said. As a State Department official wrote, “We would like to help them resolve this so we can continue with our protective mission.”
The report was compiled by the Democratic majority staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is scheduled to hold a hearing on Blackwater activities on Tuesday. That hearing is sure to be contentious now that the chairman, Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, and other members have the staff’s findings to study.
The report is likely to raise questions not only about the wisdom of employing private security forces in Iraq, but also about the basic American mission in the country.
Blackwater guards have logged more shooting incidents than the other two private military contractors combined. “Blackwater also has the highest incidence of shooting first, although all three companies shoot first in more than half of all escalation-of-forces incidents,” the staff report said.
And the State Department’s own documents “raise serious questions” about how department officials responded to reports of Blackwater killings of Iraqis, the report said.
“There is no evidence in the documents that the committee has reviewed that the State Department sought to restrain Blackwater’s actions, raised concerns about the number of shooting incidents involving Blackwater or the company’s high rate of shooting first, or detained Blackwater contractors for investigation,” the committee staff wrote.
Moreover, contrary to the terms of its contract, Blackwater sometimes engaged in offensive operations with the American military, instead of confining itself to its protective mission, the staff found.
The report is available (as a PDF file) on the committee’s web site: http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20071001121609.pdf.