…when [Blackwater CEO Erik] Prince made a rare public appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday, he acted as if the lawmakers were wasting his time.
How much does Blackwater, recipient of $1 billion in federal contracts, make in profits? “We’re a private company, and there’s a key word there — private,” Prince answered.
What about the 2004 crash of a Blackwater plane in Afghanistan, when federal investigators said the pilots acted unprofessionally? “Accidents happen,” Prince explained.
The lack of prosecution for a drunken Blackwater worker who shot and killed a security guard to an Iraqi vice president? “We can’t flog him,” Prince said. [complete article]
It started out as a family errand: Ahmed Haithem Ahmed was driving his mother, Mohassin, to pick up his father from the hospital where he worked as a pathologist. As they approached Nisour Square at midday on Sept. 16, they did not know that a bomb had gone off nearby or that a convoy of four armored vehicles carrying Blackwater guards armed with automatic rifles was approaching.
Moments later a bullet tore through Mr. Ahmed’s head, he slumped, and the car rolled forward. Then Blackwater guards responded with a barrage of gunfire and explosive weapons, leaving 17 dead and 24 wounded — a higher toll than previously thought, according to Iraqi investigators.
Interviews with 12 Iraqi witnesses, several Iraqi investigators and an American official familiar with an American investigation of the shootings offer new insights into the gravity of the episode in Nisour Square. And they are difficult to square with the explanation offered initially by Blackwater officials that their guards were responding proportionately to an attack on the streets around the square. [complete article]
Most of the more than 100 private security companies in Iraq open fire far more frequently than has been publicly acknowledged and rarely report such incidents to U.S. or Iraqi authorities, according to U.S. officials and current and former private security company employees.
Violence caused by private security guards in Iraq has come under scrutiny since a Sept. 16 shooting in Baghdad involving employees of Blackwater USA. The company’s chairman, Erik Prince, told a congressional committee Tuesday that Blackwater guards opened fire on 195 occasions during more than 16,000 missions in Iraq since 2005.
However, two former Blackwater security guards said they believed employees fired more often than the company has disclosed. One, a former Blackwater guard who spent nearly three years in Iraq, said his 20-man team averaged “four or five” shootings a week, or several times the rate of 1.4 incidents a week reported by the company. The underreporting of shooting incidents was routine in Iraq, according to this former guard. [complete article]