Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Prosecutors Use Admitted Killer to Twist Facts Against Blackwater Men

The turret gunner who admitted to killing civilians at Nisoor Square has made a false statement cooked by prosecutors in their bid to make the facts fit their case.

Jeremy P. Ridgeway pleaded guilty to the killings and is now seeking leniency by turning state's evidence against his former Blackwater colleagues. In the first paragraph of his "Factual Proffer In Support of Guilty Plea," he makes a false statement:
"Defendant Ridgeway's employment as a Blackwater contractor related to supporting the mission of the Defense Department in Iraq."
The statement is false because, as the proffer specifies, Ridgeway and colleagues were contractors for the Department of State.

This is an important point. Federal prosecutors are relying on the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA), which applies only to civilian contractors for the Department of Defense. MEJA was later amended to include contractors who "support" the "mission" of DoD, which is why prosecutors made Ridgeway use that wording in his proffer.

The prosecution's case is weak. We reported a year ago that the Justice Department would "shoehorn the facts" to make its allegations stick.

Blackwater clearly and explicitly is supporting the State Department's mission, not the Pentagon's, in Iraq. Its Worldwide Personal Protective Services contract is with the State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security, not with the military. The contract is to protect US Embassy civilian personnel - including diplomats and US Agency for International Development people - and, according to reports, explicitly places Blackwater security personnel in Iraq under the operational control of the State Department.

Constitutionally, the State Department is the highest-ranking cabinet agency, and therefore outranks the Defense Department under the law. DoD supports the State Department, not vice-versa.

Hat tip to The Skeptical Bureaucrat for pointing this out.

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