Tuesday, October 30, 2007

State Department Complicit In Blackwater Lawlessness

Blue Girl has previously supplied an excellent synopsis of the emerging roiling scandal surrounding the State Department's grant of immunity to the Blackwater contractors involved in the Nissour Square massacre. Deb-TUD has written about the contorted use of Garrity immunity agreements in the circumstances surrounding independent contractor incidents. The Supreme Court in Garrity v. New Jersey did not envision situations involving non-agency personnel, and the immunity agreement derived from that decision never anticipated application to such situations either.

Now comes the latest news courtesy of the LA Times, via the AP. It turns out that the state Department has blithely been handing out immunity to all Blackwater mercenaries involved in shooting incidents all along.

Limited immunity has been routinely offered to private security contractors involved in shootings in Iraq, State Department officials said Tuesday, denying such actions jeopardized criminal prosecution of Blackwater USA guards accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians.

The shooting investigation was initiated by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security hours after the attack. The inquiry was turned over to the FBI in early October after Justice Department prosecutors realized that the Blackwater bodyguards' statements could not be used in court.
A second senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing inquiry, said the agency has for years required its security contractors to give written statements within hours of any so-called "use of deadly force" in Iraq.

Waivers granting a security worker limited immunity -- by barring those statements in a criminal case against the worker -- are a "routine part" of the investigations by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the official said.

The waiver given to Blackwater guards reads, in part: "I further understand that neither my statements nor any information or evidence gained by reason of my statements can be used against me in a criminal proceeding, except that if I knowingly and willfully provide false statements or information, I may be criminally prosecuted for that action."

It's not clear whether the waivers were ever authorized by the Justice Department, which decides whether cases are prosecuted. Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell declined comment about whether the immunity waivers were part of the security firm's contract with the State Department. ... (emphasis added)
So, the wholesale granting of immunity to any, and apparently every, Blackwater contracted mercenary involved in a shooting incident in Iraq, no matter how egregiously criminal, is not a bug, but rather a feature of State Department protocol. The rule of law simply does not apply to the Bush Administration and their hired guns. This is the way the State Department has run their little lawless operation all along. How nice.

The State Department has intentionally and routinely done this in an attempt to do everything they could to stop, and otherwise bugger up, any potential investigation and prosecution of their precious mercenaries. While it is true that there may not have been a good chance of a successful prosecution of these cases to start with thanks to Paul Bremer's Order 17, but the State Department sure did everything they could through delay, obfuscation, removal of evidence and witnesses, and, now we find, immunization, to screw up any possibility of prosecution. The pattern of conduct by State is neither that of an entity that thought the Blackwater conduct proper, nor that thought there was no potential culpability. The conduct of State screams cover-up and insolence to the rule of law, and the rights of humanity, from start to finish.

This is an insane way to investigate shootings that are clearly often questionable homicides. Immediately grant all the immunity you can to everyone involved? As a matter of routine? Amazing. The really interesting tidbit in the story is that Blackwater refuses to confirm it is part of their contract with the State Department. The bet here is that it is in the contract between Blackwater and the State Department. The whole State Department mercenary operation appears to have been designed to be completely lawless, and Blackwater won't even let it's high priced people talk to State without an even further grant of immunity. This is a sick setup.