US: State Dept. Tallies 56 Shootings Involving Blackwater on Diplomatic Guard Duty

Publisher Name: 
NY Times

The State Department said Thursday that
Blackwater USA security personnel had been involved in 56 shootings
while guarding American diplomats in Iraq so far this year. It was
the first time the Bush administration had made such data public.




Blackwater, a large, privately held security contractor based in
North Carolina, provided security to diplomats on 1,873 convoy runs
in Iraq so far this year, and its personnel fired weapons 56 times,
according to a written statement by Deputy Secretary of State John
D. Negroponte.




The State Department did not release comparable 2007 numbers for
other security companies, but the new Blackwater numbers show a far
higher rate of shootings per convoy mission than were experienced in
2006 by one of the company's primary competitors, DynCorp
International. DynCorp reported 10 cases in about 1,500 convoy runs
last year.




The New York Times reported Thursday that Blackwater's rate of
shootings was at least twice as high as the rates for other
companies providing similar services to the State Department in Iraq.




Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has asked Mr. Negroponte to
oversee the department's response to problems with security
contractors.




A government official who was briefed on an hourlong meeting
involving State Department officials on Thursday morning said that
Ms. Rice had appeared surprised at the report that Blackwater had
been involved in a higher rate of shootings than its competitors.




"She needs to be convinced that Blackwater's hands are clean," the
government official said. Ms. Rice was also said to be taken aback
by pressure from Representative Henry A. Waxman, the California
Democrat who is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and
Government Reform, who issued an angry letter to her this week
complaining about what he saw as the State Department's efforts to
block his panel's investigation into Blackwater.




The meeting on Thursday with Ms. Rice seems to signal that the State
Department's leaders now recognize that the Blackwater issue is more
serious than they had first thought, and that it may become harder
for the Bush administration to defend Blackwater and allow the
company to retain its prominent role in providing diplomatic
security in Iraq.




Since the Sept. 16 shooting in the streets of Baghdad involving an
American convoy guarded by Blackwater that left at least eight
Iraqis dead, the Bush administration has fended off public demands
by the Iraqi government for Blackwater to be evicted from the
country.




Instead, the administration has said that it will conduct an
investigation jointly with the Iraqis into the shooting, while
American government officials have repeatedly indicated that they do
not believe that the White House or the State Department would force
Blackwater out of the contract.




The Pentagon said on Wednesday that it had sent a team to Iraq to
investigate the role of security contractors there, in what appeared
to be an effort to put private contractors under greater control by
the United States military. The State Department quickly joined the
Pentagon, and said that it would also send a team to review the role
of contractors in Iraq.




Separately, a new study issued Thursday by Mr. Waxman's oversight
committee was highly critical of the company's performance in a 2004
case in which four Blackwater contractors were killed in the restive
Anbar Province city of Falluja. The committee concluded that witness
accounts and investigative reports conflicted with Blackwater's
assertion that its contractors had been sent to Falluja "with
sufficient preparation and equipment."




In a statement, Blackwater said that the committee's report was "a
one-sided version of this tragic incident."




"What the report fails to acknowledge is that the terrorists
determined what happened that fateful day in 2004," Blackwater said.
"The terrorists were intent on killing Americans and desecrating
their bodies."


AMP Section Name:War & Disaster Profiteering
  • 23 Private Security
  • 187 Privatization