Exclusive: State Dept. E-Mails Say Blackwater Hurting U.S. in Iraq

Oct 25, 2007 12:37pm

Internal State Department e-mails, obtained by the Blotter on ABCNews.com, show top officials were extensively briefed about repeated incidents of Blackwater security guards killing innocent civilians more than two years ago. It was only in the last month that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took action to review the activities of Blackwater and other private security companies in Iraq. The assistant secretary of state who oversaw Blackwater and other contractors, Richard Griffin, resigned yesterday in the wake of a critical internal review. THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS Photos 1st Photos of Blackwater Sept. 16 Incident Blotter Despite Blackwater, State Officials Get Promotions Blotter State Department Official Resigns in Wake of Blackwater Criticism Blotter Dem: Blackwater Dodged Millions in Taxes Blotter Blackwater: Shoot First, Face Questions Later, Committee Says Blotter Exclusive: First Images of Controversial Blackwater Incident Blotter Report: Private Military Contractors Hurt War Effort Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. Yet, the e-mails show that State Department officials had extensive knowledge of a growing problem in the summer of 2005, and complained about a lack of a compensation program for civilian victims. "Obviously it is not pleasant meeting with these individuals with nothing more to offer than apologies, condolences and vague promises," wrote a State Department security officer based in al Hillah, Michael Bishop, to his superiors at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Read the full text of the e-mail. Other e-mails reveal how State Department officials in Washington maneuvered to stonewall inquiries by a reporter for the Los Angeles Times about a Blackwater incident in 2005 near the ABC News headquarters in Baghdad. Some Diplomatic Security officials in Baghdad wanted the case of Blackwater guards outside the ABC News offices referred for criminal prosecution, officials tell ABCNews.com. But the officials say State Department legal advisers told them "it was not feasible." According to another internal e-mail, the legal jurisdiction was "hazy." The only recourse in cases of wrongful deaths is "dismissal." Read the full text of the e-mail. In testimony today before a House investigating committee, Secretary Rice called for legislation so that "appropriate action" could be taken against armed contractors involved in killings. Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage.

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