Saturday, January 19, 2008

Federal contracts required Blackwater to repair shot-up vehicles

After its armored vehicles were shot up by enemy gunfire during the September 16 incident at Nisoor Square in Baghdad, Blackwater made repairs as required under its State Department contract.

But the company is coming under criticism for destroying evidence in the process, even though no federal investigation was underway when the repairs were made.
It's another case of the security provider getting stuck between two departments of the federal government: the State Department, for which it protects US diplomats in Iraq, and the Justice Department, which opened an investigation of the Nisoor incident - well after Blackwater fixed the damaged vehicles.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell tells AP that any repairs "would have been done at the government's direction." According to AP, "Blackwater's contract with the State Department requires that the company maintain its vehicles and keep them on the road." That means the company acted properly in repairing the damaged vehicles. Blackwater also repainted its Baghdad fleet shortly after the incident, on State Department instructions, as a security measure to make the familiar white vehicles less conspicuous.

People who allege an obstruction of justice don't know what they're talking about. Especially because the repairs and paint jobs took place well before the FBI and federal grand jury investigations. The ruined evidence, as AP notes, would have ratified Blackwater CEO Erik Prince's word tht his men were fired upon at Nisoor Square and acted properly. AP reports that the repairs make it "harder for Blackwater to prove its innocence."

True to form, the State Department won't talk about it. According to AP, "The State Department would not comment on whether it ordered the repairs to the vehicles involved in the shooting."

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