Monday, December 22, 2008

Independent Source Verifies Blackwater Team Was Under Fire at Nisoor Square

An independent source within the State Department's Tactical Operations Center in Baghdad has verified the account of Blackwater's Raven 23 unit, saying he was present at the Center when the radio calls came in that the convoy was under enemy fire at Nisoor Square.

The existence of such a source blows another huge hole in the US government's case against three former Marines and two former soldiers who served in the Raven 23 team on September 16, 2007. Prosecutors allege that the men deliberately and illegally killed innocent Iraqis without provocation. Apparently the defense is convinced that it has plenty of information to discredit the government's case, which some say is motivated by the Iraqi government's insistence on a prosecution in exchange for signing the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). If so, we'll probably see the hard evidence come to light as the defense makes its case.

The TOC is controlled by US State Department diplomatic security officials, not by Blackwater. Independent corroboration is likely to devastate the government's case, which rests on the idea that Raven 23 shot without provocation and therefore committed crimes.

Blackfive's Jim Hanson, co-host of the Blackfive show, tells G. Gordon Liddy what he learned from the source he developed within the TOC. Click here for the podcast. Hanson says on his blog that he knows the identity and the duty assignment of his source, who does not work for Blackwater.

He says in the interview, “the government’s case in this situation is highly leveraged on the idea that there was no incoming fire. That these gentlemen misperceived the situation and created a massacre."

Not so, Hanson says, with his source who was inside the TOC at the time. After reading the news accounts of the radio logs, the source called Hanson, who relates the following: “He heard these radio calls live. . . . he said they accurately reflect what was going on at the time. He heard these calls come in. As a matter of fact, the first call that he heard come in was, 'Contact, contact, contact.'"

"Contact" is shorthand for coming under enemy fire.

"And during that call he heard gunfire across the radio airwaves," Hanson continues, "It was obvious to him and to everyone else in that operations center that the folks who were calling in the radio seriously believed they were being attracked and were returning fire based on that. So it’s a tremendous blow to the government’s idea that this was some sort of cold-blooded massacre."

Hanson says he has about 30 photographs of the Raven 23 convoy after the incident, showing "several dozen bullet holes across the four vehicles that were involved in this convoy."

The source gave a vivid account of what he heard, real-time, over the radio in the TOC. "My source heard them describing Iraqi policemen in uniform and other folks in civilian clothes engaging them at this time."

Blackwater diplomatic security convoys had been attacked "at least five times in the previous week," according to Hanson. The nature of the radio calls on September 16, 2007, were consistent with the other calls when convoys came under attack. "They believed they were being ambushed by insurgents and were returning fire trying to exit the vehicles from the area."

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