Monday, February 01, 2010

All In A Day's Work

Blackwater is in the news again. The company, which changed its name to Xe Services, is currently under investigation by the Justice Department for allegedly offering bribes to Iraqi officials after the Nisour Square incident in which 17 Iraqi civilians were gunned down by company employees. Iraq threatened to boot the company from the country after the outrage and eventually did pull the company's license. However, some employees contend that up to a million dollars was authorized to buy the company time and that license.

The investigation is being done under the aegis of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which forbids a company from bribing another country's officials. Getting a conviction under the act is, as the NY Times article indicates, extremely difficult because there rarely is any paper trail to assist prosecutors in gathering evidence. The government usually has to depend on whistleblowers within the company for any case to go forward. There just might be some of those whistleblowers in this case:

Several former Blackwater employees, however, had told The Times that Blackwater’s president at the time, Gary Jackson, authorized about $1 million for payments to Iraqi officials, with only a small portion intended for victims. While the documents apparently do not offer proof that Blackwater paid off any Iraqi officials, the American officials who have reviewed them say they suggest that officials at the United States Embassy in Baghdad were concerned enough about Blackwater’s plans to issue the warning to the company.

It certainly would not be a surprise if Blackwater is found to be guilty of bribery, given the nature of the company. What is a surprise, however, is that the US government is still doing business with the mercenaries: Blackwater/Xe still provides diplomatic security for the State Department in Afghanistan.

There's something dreadfully wrong with this picture.



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