By any journalistic standard, the reporting is sloppy. Culprits include: Press-TV of Iran; the normally reliable Warren Strobel of McClatchy Newspapers; the ever-defensive, cross-armed Brian Ross (pictured) and Jason Ryan of ABC News; a mixed bag of writers at the Associated Press, and Zachary Roth of TPM Muckraker.
The reports "cite only anonymous government sources, anonymous former employees, and former employees who fired by Blackwater for stealing weapons from the company," according to a Blackwater press release.
"While the company cannot comment on all of the inaccuracies because of its ongoing cooperation with investigators, there are some key factual errors to which it would like to respond," Blackwater says. "The following points address some of the more egregious errors contained in recent reporting:
- Blackwater has never shipped an automatic weapon to Iraq. A recent report that Blackwater has "shipped hundreds of automatic weapons to Iraq without the necessary permits" and "some of the weapons are believed to have ended up on the country's black market" is false. Blackwater has never shipped so much as one automatic weapon to Iraq.
- Blackwater held approved export licenses to ship more than the 798 total guns it shipped to Iraq. A recent media report claiming that '... the State Department found that Blackwater shipped 900 weapons to Iraq without the paperwork required by arms export control regulations,' could not be true because the total number of firearms Blackwater has shipped to Iraq is less than 900. Blackwater obtained export licenses in excess of the number of weapons actually sent to Iraq - and the U.S. government authorized the export of each of these weapons. The investigations referenced by the media do not allege that the company failed to obtain licenses or failed to ensure the government was aware of its actions; rather, the investigations concern Blackwater's not properly annotating the licenses, not timely submitting required reports, and not retaining required records.
- While Blackwater does not ship them, the limited number of automatic weapons that are in Blackwater's custody in Iraq were all exported by the U.S. government or by the manufacturer under U.S. government license. They are all fully accounted for, regularly inventoried, and required to be turned in to the U.S. government at the end of the associated contracts.
- Blackwater has never hidden anything inside a bag of dog food - not a gun, not a radio, nor anything else. A recent news story cited 'former employees' who claim that Blackwater hid weapons 'in large sacks of dog food.' This sensational claim is false. The company has, however, packed shipping pallets with valuable and pilferable items, including weapons, interior to [surrounded by] bags of dog food or other low-theft items. This common practice is done to prevent corrupt foreign customs agents and shipping workers from stealing the valuables. U.S. export statutes require licensing of controlled materials but do not dictate their placement within packaging.
- Blackwater follows all rules governing the type of firearms that can be carried by contractors in Iraq, to include contractual provisions, those outlined by the U.S. government, and those outlined by Iraq's Ministry of Interior. A recent report claiming that the company illegally shipped 'assault weapons' that it is prohibited from using in Iraq is blatantly false. All firearms shipped to Iraq by Blackwater were given proper U.S. government licenses. The firearms owned by Blackwater in Iraq are limited to handguns and civilian-variant carbines. It does not own or possess any 'M-4 assault weapons' in Iraq. All firearms used for diplomatic protection are government-issued.
- A story highlighting that an inspector 'discovered an unlicensed two-way radio hidden in a dog food sack' is both sensationalistic and false because the radio in question did not require a license and was never hidden inside a dog food sack. Blackwater applied for a license for the radio prior to shipment and obtained a written determination issued by the Commerce department that the radio did not require any license. Although the valuable and pilferable radio was packaged among other items - including dog food - in a 13-pallet shipment, it was not 'hidden in a dog food sack.' The commercial waybill and shipping invoice for the shipment both clearly reflected that the radio was in the shipment. We acknowledge that we have made numerous mistakes in complex and demanding area of export compliance over the years. However, the majority of those violations have been failures of paperwork and timeliness while supporting the United States and its allies, not nefarious smuggling or aid to enemies. This is in no way meant to diminish the seriousness of U.S. export control laws, but rather to clearly state: Blackwater has not committed any of the sensational violations that have been reported recently."