Monday, December 8, 2008

Justice Department 'Reckless' in Assault on Blackwater Men

"Lawyers for the five Blackwater guards indicted by the Justice Department in connection with a 2007 shooting in Baghdad accused the government of overstepping its authority and recklessly staining the reputations of five decorated veterans who had honorably served their country," the New York Times reports today.

"Justice officials have faced trouble with the case nearly from the start," adds the Wall Street Journal. "Investigators from the State Department, which had jurisdiction over the guards, gave the men immunity in exchange for providing statements immediately following the incident. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrived to take over the probe weeks later, having to reconstruct a crime scene on public streets, and tracking down witnesses. The men said they fired in response to shooting from insurgents; some Iraqi witnesses disputed that there was any firing other than that by the Blackwater guards."

"These battlefield incident prosecutions are notoriously difficult to win no matter what the forum," says former Navy lawyer Tara Lee.

"Plaintiff attorneys also plan to argue that the men's work for the State Department doesn't fall under the authority of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, the law originally written to cover Pentagon contractors and now being used to prosecute the men," according to the Journal.

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