New Blackwater Iraq Scandal: Guns, Silencers and Dog Food
Ex-employees: Security firm used dog food sacks to smuggle unauthorized weapons.
November 14, 2008— -- A federal grand jury in North Carolina is investigating allegations the controversial private security firm Blackwater illegally shipped assault weapons and silencers to Iraq, hidden in large sacks of dog food, ABCNews.com has learned.
Under State Department rules, Blackwater is prohibited from using certain assault weapons and silencers in Iraq because they are considered "offensive" weapons inappropriate for Blackwater's role as a private security firm protecting US diplomatic missions.
"The only reason you need a silencer is if you want to assassinate someone," said former CIA intelligence officer John Kiriakou, an ABC News consultant.
Six Blackwater employees are under investigation by another federal grand jury, in Washington, D.C., in connection with the shooting deaths of at least 17 civilians in September 2007 at a Baghdad traffic circle. Prosecutors are expected to return indictments in the next few weeks, according to people familiar with the case.
The investigation of the alleged dog food smuggling scheme began last year after two Blackwater employees were caught trying to sell stolen weapons in North Carolina. The two, Kenneth Cashwell and William "Max" Grumiaux pleaded guilty in February and became government witnesses, according to court documents.
Two other former employees tell ABCNews.com they also witnessed the dog food smuggling operation. They say the weapons were actually hidden inside large sacks of dog food, packaged at company headquarters in North Carolina and sent to Iraq for the company's 20 bomb-sniffing dogs.
Larger items, including M-4 assault weapons, were secreted on shipping pallets surrounded by stacks of dog food bags, the former employees said. The entire pallet would be wrapped in cellophane shrink wrap, the former employees said, making it less likely US Customs inspectors would look too closely.
In a statement, Blackwater did not address directly the allegations involving silencers but says "all firearms shipped to Iraq by Blackwater were given proper US government license." The statement denied Blackwater owned or possessed any M4 weapons in Iraq.
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