Obama Demands Answers on Blackwater Immunity Deal
(2007-10-31) Barack Obama
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More Info: Blackwater
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Amy Brundage, 202-228-5511
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, United States Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) sent
the following letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice demanding
answers on reports that State Department officials offered Blackwater
guards immunity from prosecution, which may hinder a criminal
investigation into the September shooting that killed at least 17 Iraqis.
Obama has introduced legislation in the Senate to make private security
contractors in Iraq subject to federal criminal law; this bill has
already passed the House. Obama has also called for the head of
Blackwater to testify before the Senate. In February, Obama introduced
comprehensive legislation to increase oversight on private security
contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan; part of his legislation requiring
reporting to Congress on the role of contractors passed the Senate last
Below is a copy of the letter:
Dear Secretary Rice:
I am deeply troubled by news reports that the State Department promised
guards employed by Blackwater USA immunity from prosecution as part of
the Department's initial investigation into the September 16 shooting of
17 Iraqi civilians.
The seriousness of this incident – and its effect on the American
military's reputation in Iraq – necessitates the prosecution of the
appropriate Blackwater personnel if they are found to have committed
crimes. However, a full investigation and prosecution will be difficult
when all of the Blackwater guards – both in the vehicle convoy involved
in the shooting and the helicopters above – were apparently given
immunity by investigators from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, an arm
of the State Department. According to a law enforcement official
familiar with the investigation said, "Once you give immunity, you can't
take it away."
Although this matter has now been turned over from the State Department
to the FBI, prosecutors will have to prove that any evidence they use in
bringing charges against Blackwater guards was uncovered independently
without using the guards' statements to Bureau of Diplomatic Security
investigators. As any prosecutor knows, this is not impossible, but it
is extremely difficult.
Because the decision to give immunity to Blackwater guards was a serious
one and may potentially jeopardize any prosecution of those involved, I
ask that you respond to the following questions:
1) Were you aware of the decision to provide immunity to Blackwater
guards? If not, who made this decision?
2) Was the FBI or the Justice Department consulted before immunity was
provided to Blackwater guards?
3) Do you agree with the decision to provide immunity to Blackwater guards?
I ask you to provide responses to these questions by November 6, 2007.
United States Senator