Saturday, November 17, 2007

FBI Mum on Blackwater

This blog, because of its interest in the question of private security contractors, has run a number of posts relating to Blackwater and the 16 September shooting at Nisoor Square, Baghdad. Heretofore we have written relatively little on the FBI's investigation, precisely because the mainstream media seemed to have the story sufficiently well-covered. But, at the request of an anonymous commenter, I decided to take a deeper look. And what I found was surprising.

Because so many news stories get recycled and spun so many times, I decided to go to the horse's mouth: the archive of FBI press releases. There have been, in total, three releases relating to Blackwater. None of them deal with the FBI's findings, since the investigation is not yet complete. The brevity of these press releases allows me to reproduce all of them here.

For Immediate Release
October 2, 2007

Washington D.C.
FBI National Press Office
(202) 324-3691


FBI Investigating Alleged Blackwater Shooting in Iraq

At the request of the Department of State, the FBI is sending a team to Iraq to assist in the ongoing investigation into the September 16, 2007, shooting incident allegedly involving Blackwater employees. The team will provide investigative assistance to the State Department investigators leading the investigation. For any additional information, we refer you to the State Department.


For Immediate Release
October 3, 2007

Washington D.C.
FBI National Press Office
(202) 324-3691


Security for FBI Personnel Investigating Blackwater

FBI personnel deployed to Iraq have been provided security by Blackwater USA during travels outside the Green Zone under the existing State Department contract. However, to avoid even the appearance of any conflict, the FBI team deployed from Washington to assist the State Department in the investigation of the events of September 16th will have any additional security needs provided by U.S. Government personnel.

John Miller
Assistant Director, Office of Public Affairs
Federal Bureau of Investigation


For Immediate Release
October 10, 2007

Washington D.C.
FBI National Press Office
(202) 324-3691


FBI Conducting Independent Investigation Into Alleged Blackwater Shooting in Iraq

At the request of the Department of State, the FBI has sent a team to Iraq to conduct an independent investigation into the September 16, 2007, shooting incident allegedly involving Blackwater employees. For any additional information, we refer you to the Department of Justice.

Now why would the FBI be so quiet about its investigation of Blackwater? A few days ago, CNN brought us the answer: the FBI's not done. CNN's website explains:

"To the best of our knowledge, the key people in this incident have yet to even speak with investigators," said Blackwater Worldwide spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell. She said it was her understanding that none of the five "key" Blackwater employees involved in the incident have been interviewed by the FBI.

In addition, a senior U.S. official who asked not to be identified told CNN that "most, if not all, of the shooters" in the September 16 killings "have not been interviewed."

An FBI representative refused to comment on Tyrrell's statement.

So when I see a headline like the one the New York Times ran a few days ago ("FBI Says Guards Killed 14 Iraqis Without Cause"), I am a little confused. The FBI has not said anything. Well, the New York Times article can only cite "civilian and military officials briefed on the case," and "government officials," whomever they may be. But if you did not read carefully, you would get the impression this is a closed case. In fact, the only admission the NYT gives that the FBI is still at work is to cite Ms. Tyrrell, the Blackwater spokeswoman, as saying "she would have no comment until the FBI released its findings."

I, for one, look forward to reading them.
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