Steve Benen: A State Department report that largely exonerates Blackwater, was apparently written by Blackwater.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing tomorrow on Blackwater’s activities in Iraq, and by all indications, lawmakers will have plenty to talk about.
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.”
And when it comes to alleged Blackwater malfeasance, that’s really just scratching the surface.
The committee’s majority staff, led by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), will release a report on Blackwater’s activities to coincide with tomorrow’s hearing, and the document will no doubt raise plenty of questions, including a look at the extent to which Bush’s State Department covered up the company’s killings.
Indeed, given the revelations of the past few weeks, Blackwater seems to have reached a unique point in our discourse, one in which a corporate name is so scandalous, it automatically represents outrage and indignity. There are a few — Enron, WorldCom, Halliburton — and with each passing day, Blackwater is taking its place. Indeed, in some ways, it may be the most scandalous of all.
The Speaker’s office has a detailed post documenting information being made available to the rest of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Previously undisclosed information reveals (1) Blackwater has engaged in 195 “escalation of force” incidents since 2005, an average of 1.4 per week, including over 160 incidents in which Blackwater forces fired first; (2) after a drunken Blackwater contractor shot the guard of the Iraqi Vice President, the State Department allowed the contractor to leave Iraq and advised Blackwater on the size of the payment needed “to help them resolve this”; and (3) Blackwater, which has received over $1 billion in federal contracts since 2001, is charging the federal government over $1,200 per day for each “protective security specialist” employed by the company.
Moreover, Josh Marshall has a doozy, highlighting a State Department report that largely exonerates Blackwater personnel involved with the Sept. 16 Baghdad shootings. The report, apparently, was written by Blackwater.
The report was written out of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the folks who hired Blackwater to provide security for US diplomats in Iraq. But it turns out that the State Department employee who interviewed the Blackwater folks and wrote the report, Darren Hanner … well, he wasn’t a State Department employee. He was another contractor from Blackwater. read more