Blackwater indictment; using a machine gun in a crime of violence


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Thin Black Line
December 6, 2008, 09:01 AM
http://www.newsobserver.com/nation_world/story/1323152.html

Five Blackwater guards face indictment

As a sixth man negotiates a plea, the Justice Department orders the others to surrender to the FBI in a case packed with legal complications

Matt Apuzzo and Lara Jakes Jordan, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Five Blackwater Worldwide guards have been indicted, and a sixth was negotiating a plea with prosecutors for a 2007 shooting that left 17 Iraqis dead and became an anti-American rallying cry for insurgents, people close to the case said Friday.

Prosecutors obtained the indictment late Thursday and had it put under seal until it is made public, perhaps Monday. All who discussed the case did so on the condition of they not be identified, because the matters remain sealed. The New York Times and The Washington Post also reported the indictment.

The exact charges in the indictment were unclear, but the Justice Department has been considering manslaughter and assault charges against the guards for weeks. Prosecutors also have been considering bringing charges under a law, passed as part of a 1988 drug bill, that carries a mandatory 30-year prison sentence for using a machine gun in a crime of violence.

The Justice Department has ordered five of the six guards to surrender Monday to the FBI, but details of where and precisely what time were still being worked out Friday, according to people close to the case.

The remaining guard has been negotiating to reduce the charges against him in return for cooperation. If completed, such a deal could provide prosecutors with a key witness against the other five. Others in the convoy have already testified before a federal grand jury about the shooting.

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd declined to comment.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said, "We've consistently said that we do not believe the guards acted unlawfully. If it is determined they did, we would support holding them accountable."

Regardless of the charges they bring, prosecutors will have a tough fight. The law is unclear on whether contractors can be charged in the U.S., or anywhere, for crimes committed overseas. The indictment sends the message that the Justice Department thinks contractors do not operate with legal impunity in war zones.

Based at a sprawling compound in Moyock, N.C., Blackwater itself is not a target of the FBI investigation. Company officials have cooperated with investigators.

To prosecute, authorities must argue that the guards can be charged under a law meant to cover soldiers and military contractors. Since Blackwater works for the State Department, not the military, it's unclear whether that law applies to its guards.

Further complicating the case, the State Department granted all the Blackwater guards limited immunity in exchange for their sworn statements shortly after the shooting. Prosecutors will need to show that they did not rely on those statements in building their case.

The State Department declined to comment.

Well, that about says it all.

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Frog48
December 6, 2008, 11:30 AM
Prosecutors also have been considering bringing charges under a law, passed as part of a 1988 drug bill, that carries a mandatory 30-year prison sentence for using a machine gun in a crime of violence.

Yikes, this could set a BAD precedent. Since when did US law regulate possession, transfer, and/or usage of machine guns outside of the territorial boundaries of the United States? Based on that contention, theoretically all machine guns worldwide would become subject to the National Firearms Act of 1934.

The Justice Department has ordered five of the six guards to surrender Monday to the FBI

Are you kidding? The Justice Dept can not, on a whim, order someone to surrender. Unless a court of law issues an arrest warrant, these fellas are under no obligation to surrender to the FBI, or anyone else for that matter. The article makes no mention of the issuance of a valid warrant.

Oro
December 6, 2008, 11:51 AM
This is just a nasty situation, and one that follows from hiring mercenaries to do your work. Something that has seemed foolish since 1777 as I recall from my American history education. Why do we repeat the errors we rebelled against?

From what I understand, the people under indictment kinda pulled a "Generation Kill" - they decided to shoot up a car that didn't stop at their impromptu check point. While that might be acceptable under a war situation, it may or may not seem capricious under post-war terror situations if you are not an armed forces member, and thus subject to scrutiny.

But the OP's point about applying domestic laws to foreign action sounds absurd. Any prosecutor who tries that crap should be discharged asap! Sort of like this jack-awhat, except he's Bush's good buddy:

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=53856

He's been scoring political points by putting law enforcement agents behind bars for shooting back for years, and keeps getting away with it. This case may be the same - looks good to voters so we'll ignore the law and reality.

Lone_Gunman
December 6, 2008, 12:55 PM
This is just a nasty situation, and one that follows from hiring mercenaries to do your work.

I agree with you. Mercenaries should not work for the US govt in any capacity.

Thin Black Line
December 6, 2008, 01:53 PM
Interesting resumes....

Art Eatman
December 6, 2008, 02:06 PM
When prosecutors decide to "make an example", they'll grab for any charge they can find. E.g., the prosecutor in Carolina who wanted to fille terrorism charges against a man who allegedly tried to intimidate a juror. And consider how the RICO Act has been used, abused and misused.

As far as "mercenaries", all levels of government have long hired consultants and contractors for short-term work. Use them and then "throw them away", with no further responsibility as exists with a formally-hired employee. There is also the issue of a Blackwater person voluntarily going into a danger zone, vs. a full-time employee being sent there by order. Always remember that these were not people expected to be use in regular military missions, but primarily as bodyguards. Few military personnel have the appropriate training for bodyguard work. Different deal, entirely.

Lone_Gunman
December 6, 2008, 02:11 PM
If the military don't have the training to do the work of Blackwater, why not give them the training?

RedLion
December 6, 2008, 02:22 PM
It has nothing to do with training, its only a cost benefit. Mercenaries are able to do a very similar job to most soldiers, but without the high training, housing, feeding, and benefits costs.

And anyway Mercenaries have been used for thousands of years and show no signs of going away. Rome used to pay the Barbarians to fight one another to keep them from fighting with the Romans. It worked until Rome ran out of money and the "mercenaries" got smart and decided just to take their money instead of fighting and dying for it.

Lone_Gunman
December 6, 2008, 03:27 PM
It has nothing to do with training, its only a cost benefit. Mercenaries are able to do a very similar job to most soldiers, but without the high training, housing, feeding, and benefits costs.

Cost benefit? If your mercenaries go off and kill a bunch of innocent civilians, seems like that needs to figure into the cost benefit analysis. It makes you wonder how many insurgents were created as a result of that action.

Also, I don't think Rome's use of mercenaries is really a good reason for us to do.

Girodin
December 6, 2008, 03:36 PM
This is just a nasty situation, and one that follows from hiring mercenaries to do your work. Something that has seemed foolish since 1777 as I recall from my American history education.

Machiavelli thought it was a bad idea long before that.

TRGRHPY
December 6, 2008, 04:12 PM
Private contractors have a stigma of being mindless killers who get-off on violence. While I don't necessarily have a strong opinion one way or the other about them, to say that our government has no business using them isn't quite right. Many of these men are ex-SF that we trained, so it makes perfect sense to still utilize that training even after they are discharged. It frees up our troops. There is a massive amount of private contractors out there doing everything from personal security to transportation to cooking.

What does this have to do with the OP? Our own troops have done far worse than what these blackwater contractors have done. To label all of them for the actions of a few is just as wrong as saying that all gun owners are bad because of the misdeeds of some. Every profession has members who do horrible things. It brings up the philosophy of being judged for the worst thing that you ever did. Unfortunately, that is what they are trying to do to private contractors, at least it looks like that to me. I don't know what their job entails... the details that only people who do that sort of thing would know about that may have contributed to what happened. Mitigating circumstances that we just don't understand. And, we weren't there and don't really know what happened to instigate the situation, and chances are that we won't ever know. But what we know for sure, is that the government is trying to misuse our firearms laws and their authority to prosecute these men for public relations purposes. Duke lacrosse, anyone? If they don't have a law to prosecute these men with, fine, then create one if there really is a need. But don't misuse the laws that we do have, especially to prosecute someone for what happened out of our jurisdiction and in a war zone. If we start using our gun laws to prosecute people for their actions that happened in a war zone, then how long will it be before our troops are in the defendants chair? The fact is that war is war and some things are acceptable there that are not in our civilian population. And to use the firearms laws that were meant for our civilians (meaning CONUS non-military related) and distorting them to make a case for what happened in a war zone is just not right. Before our governement hired these contractors, they should've made sure of the legalities of involving them, and not waiting until something happens and then scrambling to find a way to prosecute them. To me it just seems like the possibility of setting precedent for applying laws to civilians involved in self-defense situations is about to be misused to the point that it will effect every person involved in a SD shooting in the US. If they can be allowed to warp the law one way, what's to stop them from warping it our way?

MGshaggy
December 6, 2008, 04:30 PM
Are you kidding? The Justice Dept can not, on a whim, order someone to surrender. Unless a court of law issues an arrest warrant, these fellas are under no obligation to surrender to the FBI, or anyone else for that matter. The article makes no mention of the issuance of a valid warrant.

Perhaps you missed this part...

Prosecutors obtained the indictment late Thursday and had it put under seal until it is made public

hitbackfirst
December 6, 2008, 05:14 PM
I believe the Blackwater Guards in question, all decorated veterans (http://apnews.myway.com/article/20081206/D94TCP5O0.html), acted appropriately. This indictment is a witch hunt and an absolute travesty. Most people do not understand the purpose or function of private security contractors and therefore are quick to believe the lies that are being told about them. These men put themselves in harm's way believing they had the backing of the US Government, but when things went sideways the Government turned against them. If anything, this can perhaps serve as a lesson to anyone who actually believes the Federal Government has their back.

CentralTexas
December 6, 2008, 05:47 PM
of extending our invlvement another 3 years in Iraq. Tit for tat, disgusting as well. We have been screwing our own to plactate Mexico as well. I guess honor and supporting our citizens and troops is obsolete in the Republican party as well...

Lone_Gunman
December 6, 2008, 06:04 PM
Even if the charges are completely false, perhaps the whole experience will make the US less like to use mercenaries, and make mercenaries less likely to want to work for the US Government.

subknave
December 6, 2008, 06:05 PM
So if the prosecutor wins this case does that mean that any citizen could be prosecuted for breaking a US law even when not in the US? What happens when US law and the law in country conflict? Will they start prosecuting soldiers that actually shoot someone with using a machine gun in a crime of violence? It is pretty much all crap if you ask me. US jurisdiction ends at the borders of this country and we need to stop trying to make our laws and opinions the law in every other country despite whatever beliefs and traditions they have. This country was founded on the belief that people had the right to govern themselves but seem unwilling to let other countries do that unless it conforms to our criteria.

MGshaggy
December 6, 2008, 06:06 PM
I guess honor and supporting our citizens and troops is obsolete in the Republican party as well...

As contractors to the State Dept., they are not covered by the UCMJ, however there needs to be some accountability for possible wrongdoing. There is little to none right now and its doubtful a conviction will stand on these charges because of the complex jurisdictional issues involved. The incident that these guys caused put a serious strain on the US's ability to use any contractors in Iraq and fueled the fires of anti-US sentiment in the region. Lord knows how many more insurgents were created as a result of the 17 innocents killed in this incident. Also try and understand, these guys haven't been convicted - they are merely going to stand trial to determine their guilt or innocence.

MagnumDweeb
December 6, 2008, 06:41 PM
Just shows there's another nail in the coffin lid of trusting the government to do right by you. "Here go to this nation that operates on a completely different playing field, lots of folks are going to want to kill you, when they start gathering in the street you won't know if they are protesting or getting ready to drag you through the streets mutilating your still live bodies, dowsing you in gasoline, and lighting you on fire so you get to burn to death, oh yeah ignore the whole kidnapping and beheading thing and the chance your wife and kids might get to see it on the internet. No we're the government we know what we're doing. The Vice-President whined like a wimp when John Kerry was saying to go in, you know when we had a unified force of 400,000 troops, 250,000 of our own, the support of the Kurds and Sunni, those folks we sold out to be hunted down and killed like animals, and he said we couldn't do it and sustain peace in the region but what the heck, we're only sending in a 140,000 troops we can get this down in a year. Oh yeah the troops with near obsolete body armor, there's been much better stuff for a couple of years called "Dragon Scale" which live fire tests show it can take 120 rounds of 9mm up close in rapid fire followed by sixty rounds of 7.62x39 (you know the caliber you'll be shot at the most with) up close and still not have a penetration (well maybe a small gash like from getting stabbed with a pencil from a ten year old girl), but foul that, we're going to give you all kevlar only body armor with 10"x12" high-velocity rifle plates that are generally ceramic and are compromised after one round of 7.62x39. Yeah we'll kick out all the homosexuals that happen to speak Farsi and the other local languages but we can't have them folks in the army like so many other nations do i.e. Israel (whom seem to still kick plenty of tail), Switzerland, Germany, and such, and forget the fact taht one in twenty soldiers might very be a closet homosexual who is serving his/her country honorably, who needs an interpretator when we're going to FUBAR this up from beginning far more than we'll ever need, but we'll get lucky in the end after we hire outside contractors to do work we could have hired Iraqis to do (electric grids, water and power, etc.), just know you are going to an alien country, most of the folks don't speak english, there will be lots of military grade guns, ammo, and high-explosives (perfect for making those IEDS the Viet-Cong loved to sap morale and cause casualties with), and a lot folks will look at you like invaders and want to kill you. Good luck, with any chance, us half-assing this bit won't cause it all to go to ****. Those folks have to start running out of food, ammo, explosives, and live bodies sometime."

Got lots of respect for soldiers, it's the leaders who always seem to be the products of REMF garbage who have little to no foresight, common sense, or a willingness to tell it as it is. Granted those generals who would and did got asked to resign by old Bushie, couldn't have Haliburton and the rest of his Daddy's buddies not get their payoff now could we.

Don't seem like we learned anything from 'Nam, the more the game changes the more the rules stay the same. Got a lot to say but I'd like to stay highroad if I can. Don't it just seem like fighting folks get two seconds to make a decision and the bureacrat know-nothings get two months or more to disect when they've never had to fire a gun in self-defense. We're are getting real damned soft as a nation. But I'm one of those guys who said "Let's build some bases out in the wasteland deserts, setup some airfields, eight foot thick concrete rebar-reinforced walls around the base, concertina wire wrapping fields out to half a mile with parasite bases ready to act as firebases in direct action and mutual support around the central bases. Keep a garrison reserve of a hundred thousand troops in those bases, protect the oil, cycle troops six months in-country six months out, train the new Iraqi troops around the bases, and if the rest of the country goes to hell let th Saudis and Irannians fight it out, they at least won't be fighting us.

MGshaggy
December 6, 2008, 07:05 PM
Don't it just seem like fighting folks get two seconds to make a decision and the bureacrat know-nothings get two months or more to disect when they've never had to fire a gun in self-defense. We're are getting real damned soft as a nation.

But interesting that not one, but TWO investigations - one by the Iraqis, another by the US military - both found the attack to be unprovoked. Additionally, in the wake of the incident Condi Rice representing the state department (for whom Blackwater worked), and Sec. of Defense Gates met and agreed more control was needed over private contractors, due in large part to the shooting, the strained relations with the Iraqi government caused by it, and complaints by US military personnel about Blackwater.

Lone_Gunman
December 6, 2008, 07:50 PM
Since these alledged crimes were committed in Iraq, why were they not charged for the crimes in Iraq and tried by in an Iraqi court?

Was it because they worked for the Dept of State and are considered diplomats?

I don't support the use of mercenaries, even if it is more cost effective and even if the military doesn't have anyone trained in the role the mercs were serving, but at the same time, I hate to see anyone brought in on questionable charges. They were in Iraq, and I don't see why killing someone in Iraq breaks a law in the US. I could understand if someone said they broke an Iraqi law. If thats the case, they should be tried there. Also, the whole idea of stretching a law in the US that was designed to be used against gang members and drug dealers seems far fetched. Nothing in this case involved drugs or gangs.

Titan6
December 7, 2008, 01:09 AM
Generally I am anti-merc however this is one of those cases that has nothing to do with their particular status on the battlefield and a lot more to do with the specific actions that they took in a certain situtation and whether those actions were correct or not.

Most of the time these type things come down to whoever was the worst trained, worst prepared person that day and what actions he took that started the incident. As much as some people would like to think that the BW guys are all prior 18Xs and Navy Seals nothing could be farther from the truth. Many of the ones that are often are not in the best of shape or left the SOC community under odd circumstances. There are exceptions but these guys usually end up with the high profile jobs and not guarding some convoy.

Having civilians in charge of judging their actions is a risk they had to face when they left the military (for ones who were in previously). Most people don't make the best judges or jurors of actions taken in combat unless they have actually been there and have to face going back again. There really isn't anything I know of that equates.... for example there may be a perfectly logical reason to shoot a man in the back who dropped his weapon and began fleeing an encounter wheras in the civilian world I can't think of any time a jury would find that digestable.

The real question is whether they should be there at all. Given that there is one worker/ contractor for every single soldier in Iraq (about 1 /5 of whom are armed) we are fielding an army twice the size of the one we claim. Without that there would be no war.

TRGRHPY
December 7, 2008, 01:46 AM
Titan: Where do you get your information from regarding private contractors as being military rejects? They are simply men getting paid a helluva lot more money to do the same thing that they did in the military. There are a lot of veterans out there and these private security companies don't just hire anyone who applies. They have to go through a hiring process. Just because someone is a veteran doesn't mean that they are going to get hired.

Lone: Private security provides relatively high-paying jobs to prior servicemen. Our country and our allies continue to reap the benefits of training these men even after they receive their DD214's, only without the massive costs associated with having them as military personnel. Even though the government pays contractors a pretty penny for their services, the government still comes out ahead when you look at the expense of keeping that soldier in service. Salary, living expense (housing, food), healthcare, dependent healthcare, TYD pay, moving expenses, education benefits for them and their families, and so on. I have a feeling that you are pretty unclear as to the duties of private security and all the benifits that they provide.

It is a good thing, though, that even those that disagree with the use of private security still oppose the misuse of firearms laws.

Titan6
December 7, 2008, 06:06 AM
I did not say they were SOC rejects (although some are) just that not all are some kind of super soldier. There is wide spread of abilities and capabilities from the very capable to the not so much... I got my information from observing them and working with them on a variety of missions in the last year.

Thin Black Line
December 7, 2008, 07:49 AM
Few military personnel have the appropriate training for bodyguard work.

Most of what I saw the contractors doing was riding on convoys and
standing around with weapons. Sounds like a major chunk of what I
did in Iraq except I did it for a 06 instead of a GS#.

I was not around for the this incident but it seems to me this was not an
issue with their training, but it was an issue with their attitude.

There were plenty of convoys with Army units where we didn't blast the
cr@p out of stuff like that. A big reason being that we would actually have
to ANSWER to someone about it and then that whole UCMJ thing cuts in.
Another big reason being that 1/2 the time I was riding around w/ NG and
most of those guys are married with kids of their own. Makes a big difference
on your perception of the world. IMHO, a whole lot less likely to ride around
the countryside taking potshots on cars and then posting it on youtube.

So those factors have a big influence on attitude and therefore how one
might choose to misuse a tool, right? If you might face a punishment for
its misuse, then maybe you won't do it?

As printed in the article, this situation smells like a ton of loopholes were
provided in advance, but now that the new agreement was signed with the
Iraqis last week, someone wants their pound of flesh, and these guys are
at the bottom of the totem pole. Has a journalist mentioned that obvious
correlation yet in the MSM? Sorry, don't want to go off topic on the obvious.
It's just that next layer of paint in the big picture and we'll deal with just
this tiny brush-stroke.

So who is ultimately responsible here? These guys? BW? State Dept?
Who had the responsibility for putting some RULES into place? These guys?
BW? State Dept?

So what's the next helping out of the can o worms?

How far back are they going to go now on US soldiers under what they are
doing here on use of machineguns?

Art Eatman
December 7, 2008, 10:19 AM
No onus on you, TBL, but this has bcome far more of a political thread than a legal thread.

Hard for it not to have, really...

Art

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