U.S. military reports from the scene of the Sept. 16 shooting incident involving the security firm Blackwater USA indicate that its guards opened fire without provocation and used excessive force against Iraqi civilians, according to a senior U.S. military official.
The reports came to light as an Interior Ministry official and five eyewitnesses described a second deadly shooting minutes after the incident in Nisoor Square. The same Blackwater security guards, after driving about 150 yards away from the square, fired into a crush of cars, killing one person and injuring two, the Iraqi official said.
The U.S. military reports appear to corroborate the Iraqi government’s contention that Blackwater was at fault in the shooting incident in Nisoor Square, in which hospital records say at least 14 people were killed and 18 were wounded. [complete article]
With the armed security force Blackwater USA and other private contractors in Iraq facing tighter scrutiny, the House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would bring all United States government contractors in the Iraq war zone under the jurisdiction of American criminal law. The measure would require the F.B.I. to investigate any allegations of wrongdoing.
The bill was approved 389 to 30, despite strong opposition from the White House. It came as lawmakers and human rights groups are using a Sept. 16 shooting by Blackwater personnel in Baghdad to highlight the many contractors operating in Iraq who have apparently been unaccountable to American military or civilian laws and outside the reach of the Iraqi judicial system.
The State Department, which had been leading the investigation into the shooting, said Thursday that a team of F.B.I. agents sent to Baghdad in recent days had taken over the inquiry. No charges have been filed in the case, and Justice Department officials have said it is unclear whether American law applies. [complete article]
Editor’s Comment — With plenty of evidence that until now the State Department has had more interest in protecting their trigger-happy guards than in reining them in, today’s announcement of new security procedures intended to “make sure there is a management feedback loop,” are clearly disingenuous. Well before Blackwater hit the headlines, is it conceivable that there were not numerous occasions in which State Department officials witnessed the type of violence for which Blackwater is now infamous? And while it’s no excuse, it’s hardly surprising that those being protected were afraid of blowing the whistle on their sometimes (or often) reckless protectors.