September 21, 2007

Blackwater May Be In Hotter Water

Blackwater Security has returned to its work for the US military and State Department in Iraq after Baghdad threatened to expel them after a deadly shooting. They may find themselves with a bigger problem, however, as the Department of Justice has begun an investigation into an alleged arms smuggling ring that put weapons in the hands of the PKK, an organization listed as a terrorist group by the same State Department that they protect:

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether employees of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, officials said Friday.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh, N.C., is handling the investigation with help from Pentagon and State Department auditors, who have concluded there is enough evidence to file charges, the officials told The Associated Press. Blackwater is based in Moyock, N.C.

The U.S. attorney for the eastern district of North Carolina, George Holding, and a spokeswoman for Blackwater did not return calls seeking comment Friday. Pentagon and State Department spokesmen declined to comment.

The investigation began when the Turks confiscated weapons from PKK terrorists that obviously came from the US. They gave the serial numbers to American authorities, who discovered that the case related to missing weapons from Iraq. They caught two Blackwater employees possessing and shipping stolen weapons, and they have been cooperating with the feds ever since.

That doesn't usually mean good things. That could put a much bigger crimp in Blackwater's future than the shooting last week.


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Comments (27)

Posted by The Mechanical Eye | September 22, 2007 12:17 AM

It's hard to believe that Blackwater USA could get in worse shape after being deemed officially unwelcome in a nation we're forcing our peculiar brand of "democracy" upon.

After all, one could claim by arming the PKK, Blackwater was only doing what the "surge" is doing in Anbar -- arming the local non-government strongmen in order to secure an uneasy, fractious peace.


Posted by NahnCee | September 22, 2007 12:18 AM

Any chance that Turkey planted whatever they passed on, perhaps via Iran? I suppose if they caught Blackhawk employees, though, that's reaching ...

Posted by coldwarrior415 | September 22, 2007 12:31 AM

Apparently Blackwater is not exercising any sort of reliable background checks and in the field oversight of its employees, nor discipline over them. Prosecution of these gun smugglers seems appropriate.

[I'll say one thing for the U.S. military, they keep very good records. We scarfed up a number of weapons on the Horn of Africa back in the day, and were able to trace them back, through a surplus arms dealer in Singapore and the Vietnamese government, to the American units that lost them some 20 years earlier.]

If the numbers match, it's go to Court time. The cowboy-like attitudes of some of these private security companies and some of their employees, having dealt with a few over the years, rankles me. Seems oversight and regulation is needed.

Posted by ajacksonian | September 22, 2007 4:32 AM

This is an outgrowth of the shift from government run programs to 'outsourcing' programs to contractors. That was started in the 1990's to change the 'tooth to tail' ratio via the DoD A-76 and other processes. When the process started replacing government security at DoD facilities with private security, I knew something was going seriously wrong. It is one thing for janitorial staff, grounds keeping and even infrastructure maintenance to be done by contractors... it is quite another for security of installations to fall to such organizations. Especially in the day and age of terrorism.

If the State Dept. wants a separate organization to do such overseas, they can very well go to Congress and ask it to certify organizations with Letters of Marque and Reprisal so that they may fall under the military purview and command, and yet have separate operations which will not endanger such missions as State requires. That requires such organizations to wear uniforms, insignia and follow a chain of command and be beholden to the UCMJ and Federal contracting laws. Security to chase of muggers is one thing, security to keep you alive in a firefight is something else, again. And contracting for warfighters outside of the Letters language is something this Nation only does in extreme times and is decided by the Executive on such pressing need as will not brook delay, and we are far from that today.

State Dept. cannot have a private army. It is time for us to realize that and require proper authority over such firms and authorization from Congress via those lovely old means of the Letters language. So that law is upheld, not only our law but the law of nations, so those seeing such know them to be officially sanctioned and accountable to the United States.

Posted by Angus | September 22, 2007 4:36 AM

What I want to know is why in the heck security for State Department convoys is being done by mercenaries rather than the U.S. military?

Posted by ChrisO | September 22, 2007 5:40 AM

Some points for Angus to consider:

1) Blackwater's $1 billion, five-year contract with State was let without competition;

2) Blackwater is a major contributor to the Republican Party and individual candidates;

3) The U.S. military can't be tapped for political donations;

4) There aren't enough U.S. troops in country to provide security for State convoys anyway, due to the administration's deliberate decision to go in light and not build up the U.S. military in advance of the invasion.

Posted by Terrye | September 22, 2007 6:04 AM

I think that after that incident in Fallujah people kind of gave Blackwater the benefit of the doubt, but someone has to be able to exercise authority over them. That should be a given.

Posted by Mike | September 22, 2007 6:52 AM

Blackwater, and the other contractors there, DO have someone that can exercise authority over them.

They are covered under the UCMJ as of the 2007 Military Authorization Act.

As far as I know, no one has yet been charged in this manner.

Posted by theblacksheepwasright | September 22, 2007 7:17 AM


I'm sure you have credible sources you can link to for this data... if so can you provide them?

Posted by just me | September 22, 2007 7:48 AM

This is one reason I am not so keen on security oriented tasks being privatized.

Outsourcing meals to a private company makes some sense, but outsourcing security work doesn't.

Posted by John | September 22, 2007 7:57 AM

They are giving Cowboys a bad name.

Posted by John | September 22, 2007 8:00 AM

Angus- The State department wants independence from Defense, an old rivalry. Your tax dollar at work!

Posted by Terrye | September 22, 2007 8:05 AM


I would have assumed that something like that was true, but last night on Fox news Special Report the panel was talking about Blackwater and I got the distinct impression that the military could not charge these people. I have to admit, I was wondering how such a thing could be true.

Posted by Jeff | September 22, 2007 8:17 AM

Mechanical Eye said we're forcing our peculiar brand of democracy on Iraq.

Yet we all remember the pride shown by the Iraqi people when they waved the purple fingers in the air and came out in droves to vote.

Those images didn't look forced to me.

Nor was there anything peculiar about them.

You can't revise history, my friend.

Posted by ChrisO | September 22, 2007 8:30 AM

theblacksheepwasright, see this post on The American Prospect's group blog on this subject.

Posted by ChrisO | September 22, 2007 8:36 AM

Terrye, apparently it's unclear whether the UCMJ applies. According to the Washington Post,

A regulation known as Order 17, which was established under the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority headed by L. Paul Bremer and is still in effect, granted American private security contractors immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts...

U.S. lawmakers, including Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.), have pushed for more scrutiny over security contractors in Iraq. Price has proposed legislation that would make all contractors, whether they work for the State Department or the Defense Department, to be subject to prosecution under U.S. law.

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette also has an informative article about the issue here, which notes that although "Congress has moved to establish guidelines for prosecuting contractors under U.S. law or the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but the issue remains unresolved." As far as I know there've been no UCMJ proceedings against mercenaries in Iraq.

Posted by theblacksheepwasright | September 22, 2007 9:42 AM

Thank you Chris..but when a page starts with..

liberal intelligence..It'll be biased..

I asked for credible.. what I did find on my own was $300 mil in contracts since 03 and yes no bid. That proceedure however started during the Clinton fact 97..

Point is you are ascerting nefarious activities because the firm's founders donate to a certain party.. yet the proceedure was in play prior to this admin being in office..

The same is true of Halliburton.. no bid contracts were awarded to them in the 90s...

Change the policy.. that started with Clinton.. but don't use as tool to say see..we gotcha when you don't

Posted by Terrye | September 22, 2007 9:46 AM

The thing is we have gotten so used to trumped up charges, outrageous charges, unfounded charges etc that it is hard to know what to believe.

Posted by Terrye | September 22, 2007 9:50 AM


Considering the fact that liberals are willing to let some nutjob like the President of Iran who is openly supporting murder and mayhem to come to the US so that they can pander to him face to face I really do not think there is any room for moral superiority here.

If the Democrats were not openly supporting the enemy maybe we would not need the services of security agencies like Blackwater.

BTW, it is true, Clinton did give the same kind of contracts out.

Posted by KW64 | September 22, 2007 9:55 AM

Before everyone throws the Blackwater out with the bath water, remember we have not had our diplomats killed in four years(unlike the UN's brief mission. Those who complain that Bush gets no credit for not having any terrorist attacks in America since 9/11 should acknowledge this accomplishment in a tough environment.Also, if Abu Risha had Blackwater security, he might be alive today; it seems his own guards sold him out.

It may be that the diversion of weapons to the PKK was unauthorized and done by a few members of this large group. We really do not know the details. Let's wait to see. It may be that the attack earlier this week was a set up by the Interior Ministry of Iraq and the Blackwater people heroically saved our people; or it may be that Blackwater performed recklessly Let's wait and see the details of the investigation.

Posted by rick schwag | September 22, 2007 10:34 AM

The Iraqis should cut down these murderous thugs.

Then do a Falluja on them!

Posted by NahnCee | September 22, 2007 10:43 AM

Apparently Blackwater is not exercising any sort of reliable background checks ...

Where *does* Blackwater recruit its gunslingers from? I had been thinking they were American ex-military, but what are the chances that they're military from France (lazy and sex perverts), ex-military from UN Smurf units (sex perverts and bribe-able), and/or Arabs from Mookie's militias and Iran's Qud. I'm thinking that Blackwater might be just as eager to hire Arab-speaking people as anyone else, which is an open invitation for infiltration by mujahadeen.

Although if Blackwater *has* been infiltrated, they seem more interested in personal enrichment than in setting up bushwhacks of the people they're guarding.

Posted by DaMav | September 22, 2007 10:49 AM

Having failed in their attack on General Petraeus and the troops, the left is going full tilt boogie after Blackwater and contractors as a means to weaken our forces in Iraq.

That's not to say that there might not have been some bad eggs in the soup there regarding the arms smuggling. If so, Federal prosecutors are already acting on the matter.

But what is showing up in the press and in discussion groups is a wholesale effort to malign those men and women who are risking their lives to protect diplomats and construction contractors and the like in Iraq. It seems we have another case of Haditha, in which people were branded "cold blooded murderers" before the investigation was even complete.

There is an agenda driving this. Another attempt to damage the US effort in Iraq. If that were not the case people would at least wait for the facts before broad brushing and attacking.

Posted by ChrisO | September 22, 2007 1:03 PM

NahnCee, according to the Christian Science Monitor:

There are an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 such guards-for-hire in Iraq – a small fraction of the 182,000 civilian contractors employed by the US for everything from food service jobs to trash collection.

Most of the security personnel work for the Department of Defense or US intelligence agencies. About 1,400 are employed by the Department of State, according to US government figures.

Of these, some 1,000 are Blackwater employees. About three-quarters of the Blackwater personnel are US citizens, with the rest Iraqis and third-country nationals.

So the odds are that the Blackwater people involved in this shooting were mostly Americans.

Posted by Terrye | September 22, 2007 4:21 PM

It just amazes me how people could ignore outright thievery like the Oil for Food scam that went on for years and then get all self righteous about something like this. If these men are guilty of some crime they will be punished, which is more than can be said for the people who pulled off the largest heist in history.

Posted by dougf | September 22, 2007 4:34 PM

I don't care if Blackwater is eventually proven guilty as charged and drummed out of business after being sued for for everything but the kitchen sink. If they are wandering around abusing everyone who wanders bt then they deserve what they get

What concerns me is the 'coincidental ' nature of this story. Absent the usual doom and gloom disaster recitations out of Iraq, is it merely happenstance that this is the MSM delight of the day ?

After years of this , I REALLY question the timing.

"There is an agenda driving this. Another attempt to damage the US effort in Iraq. If that were not the case people would at least wait for the facts before broad brushing and attacking."

Agreed. Regretfully but agreed.

Posted by sestamibi | September 23, 2007 11:53 PM

Oh, Black Water, keep on rollin' . . .

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