Did Bush Justice Dept. Purposely Sabotage Blackwater Massacre Case?

Monday, January 04, 2010
Mohammed Hafiz shows a photo of his 10-year-old son, Ali Mohammed, who was shot to death by Blackwater guards (AP photo/Khalid Mohammed)

Iraqis were stunned to learn last week that charges against five Blackwater guards accused of the September 16, 2007, killing of 17 civilians and wounding of 20 have been dropped completely.

The federal government’s mishandling of the Blackwater trial began during the Bush administration, when the Department of Justice first prepared the prosecution’s case using evidence that the trial judge later threw out of court. In rendering his opinion, Judge Ricardo Urbina criticized prosecutors for not using “common sense” when they relied on forced testimony provided by the Blackwater guards to the State Department—evidence legal observers say was never going to be admissible because of protections against self-incrimination. In fact, Urbina wondered what Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth C. Kohl and his team were really up to when they ignored recommendations from other government attorneys (referred to as the “taint team”) to avoid borrowing from the State Department reports.
“The only conclusion the court can draw from this evidence is that Kohl and the rest of the trial team purposefully flouted the advice of the taint team when obtaining the substance of the defendants’ compelled statements, and in so doing, knowingly endangered the viability of the prosecution,” wrote Urbina in his opinion.
Kohl has been a Justice Department prosecutor for more than 20 years and cannot use inexperience as an excuse for his actions.
The former guards are not out of legal danger yet. It is possible the government could charge them with willfully providing false information in their statements and obstructing justice. Also, the Center for Constitutional Rights is preparing to sue the men in civil court on behalf of the Iraqis and their families who were involved in the September 2007 shooting in Baghdad, Iraq.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Iraqis Outraged as Blackwater Case is Thrown Out (by Rebecca Santana, Associated Press)
United States v. Paul Slough, et al. (U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia) (pdf)


marc 14 years ago
Interesting foreshadowing of this case came in Dec. 2007. Congressional staffers reported that DOJ personnel briefing Congress gave off the strong impression the were acting more as defense council for Blackwater than as prosecutors tasked with obtaining justice for the slaughtered Iraqis.

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