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Waxman: State Department ‘Acting As Blackwater’s Enabler’

In this morning’s House Oversight hearing, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) sharply criticized not only Blackwater USA, but also the State Department, which has authority over the contractor.

Waxman pointed to a Dec. 2006 incident, in which a drunken Blackwater contractor shot the guard of the Iraqi vice president:

The State Department advised Blackwater how much to pay the family to make the problem go away and then allowed the contractor to leave Iraq just 36 hours after the shooting. Incredibly, internal e-mails documented the debate over the size of the payment. The charge d’affaire recommended a $250,000 payment but this was cut to $15,000 because the diplomatic security service said Iraqis would try to get themselves killed for such a large payout.

Waxman noted that in light of such evidence, it’s hard “not come to the conclusion that the State Department is acting as Blackwater’s enabler.” Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/10/waxmanblackwaterenabler.320.240.flv]

Later in the hearing, Blackwater CEO Erik Prince confirmed that the company’s rules are dictated by the State Department and are not the “same rules as soldiers.”

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Even after the most recent shooting incident in September, the State Department continued to cover up for Blackwater. The administration “discounted” an Iraqi report of the incident and instead supported Blackwater’s version of events.

Senior Iraqi officials have also “repeatedly complained to U.S. officials about Blackwater USA’s alleged involvement in the deaths of numerous Iraqis, but the Americans took little action to regulate the private security firm until” the most recent incident involving the deaths of 11 Iraqi civilians.

U.S. military officials are now pressing the State Department to “assert more control over” Blackwater, calling the debacle “worse than Abu Ghraib.”

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Transcript:

The committee’s investigation raises as many questions about the State Department’s oversight of Blackwater as it does about Blackwater itself.

On December 24, 2006, a drunken Blackwater contractor shot the guard of the Iraqi vice president. This didn’t happen out on a mission protecting diplomats. It occurred inside the protected Green Zone. If this had happened in the United States, the contractor would have been arrested and a criminal investigation launched. If a drunken U.S. soldier had killed an Iraqi guard, the soldier would’ve faced a court martial. But all that has happened to the Blackwater contractor is that he has lost his job.

The State Department advised Blackwater how much to pay the family to make the problem go away and then allowed the contractor to leave Iraq just 36 hours after the shooting. Incredibly, internal e-mails documented the debate over the size of the payment. The charge d’affaire recommended a $250,000 payment but this was cut to $15,000 because the diplomatic security service said Iraqis would try to get themselves killed for such a large payout.

It was hard to read these e-mails and not come to the conclusion that the State Department is acting as Blackwater’s enabler.