Alex Constantine - March 17, 2010
By BARBARA FERGUSON | ARAB NEWS | Mar 3, 2010
WASHINGTON: A security official at the US Embassy in Iraq said he believes State Department colleagues tried to block any serious probe of the 2007 massacre of 17 Iraqi civilians by employees of the private military firm Blackwater.
According to a court testimony made public on Tuesday the official, David Farrington, told prosecutors that State Department officials handling evidence at the crime scene wanted to ensure the Blackwater guards would avoid punishment.
Also in Tuesday’s testimony, Kenneth Kohl, the lead prosecutor in the case against Blackwater, said he had evidence that the inquiry into the affair was tainted.
Kohl also said that Farrington had “expressed concern” that his coworkers were handling evidence in a way they hoped would help Blackwater and that Farrington said the five Blackwater guards involved in the civilian shootings described the incident as “murder in cold blood” to Blackwater management, who never reported the statements to the State Department.
US military officials have concurred on this, and, according to the court testimony, told prosecutors that State Department investigators had badgered Iraqi witnesses and that the diplomatic security agents who initially investigated the affair left out crucial details from their report on a witness.
In December, charges against five Blackwater guards were dismissed after a federal judge ruled that prosecutors had tried to use testimony that the guards had made under immunity provided by the State Department.
During the Bush administration, Blackwater became a multi-million-dollar contractor as the US escalated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, providing protection for State Department officials and covet work for the Central Intelligence Agency.
The company has since changed its name to “Xe Services” and has not commented on the affair.
In a sworn affidavit last August, an ex-Blackwater operative and an ex-US Marine — known only as John Doe #1 and John Doe #2 — implicated the founder of Blackwater founder Erik Prince in murder.
In their testimony, both men also said that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleged that Prince turned a profit by transporting “illegal” or “unlawful” weapons into the country on Prince’s private planes. They also charged that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies.
In the book, “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army,” author Jeremy Scahill notes that, according to documents, “prosecutors were told that the embassy had never conducted any significant investigation of any of the numerous shooting episodes in Iraq involving Blackwater before the Nisour Square case.”
In his October testimony, Kohl described how the Justice Department had “serious concerns” about obstruction of justice in the case. Kohl said that prosecutors informed senior Justice Department officials as early as 2007 that they were investigating whether Blackwater managers “manipulated” the official statements made by the guards to the State Department.
The allegations, and a series of other charges, are contained in sworn affidavits, given under penalty of perjury, as part of a seventy-page motion by lawyers for Iraqi civilians suing Blackwater for alleged war crimes and other misconduct.