The Associated Press and USA Today received a correction for sloppy reporting about the armored vehicles that Blackwater security guards used at the September 16 Nisoor Square incident in Iraq.
USA Today ran an AP story on January 12 headlined "Blackwater fixes hinder shooting probe."
The report purported to show that the company destroyed evidence prior to a federal investigation of the incident, in which a reported 17 Iraqi civilians were killed.
The lead of the story stated: "Blackwater Worldwide repaired and repainted its trucks immediately after a deadly September shooting in Baghdad, making it difficult to determine whether enemy gunfire provoked the attack, according to people familiar with the government's investigation of the incident."
Three paragraphs down, AP reported, "The repairs essentially destroyed evidence that Justice Department investigators hoped to examine in a criminal case that has drawn worldwide attention."
The reader is led to believe that the company "destroyed evidence" in the high-profile case. The facts are different:
- The State Department - not Blackwater - owns the vehicles in question.
- The State Department requires Blackwater contractually to keep the vehicles properly repaired and maintained at all times.
- The State Department instructed Blackwater to repaint all the vehicles in the Baghdad fleet, including the ones struck by bullets at Nisoor Square, because the vehicles were of an "easily identifiable color and were painted as a precautionary measure in case they were being specifically targeted," according to Tyrrell.
Click here for the full text of Tyrrell's letter, as published in USA Today on January 23.
(Cartoon by James Mojonnier. See his artwork at www.jamesmojonnier.com.)