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Doesn’t Blackwater Already Have Immunity?

I’m confused.

First we have this report from the terrorists’ allies at Reuters:

[AP caption:] Plainclothes contractors working for Blackwater USA take part in a firefight as Iraqi demonstrators loyal to Muqtada Al Sadr attempt to advance on a facility being defended by U.S. and Spanish soldiers, in this April 4, 2004 file photo in the Iraqi city of Najaf.

Blackwater guards offered immunity deals: report

Mon Oct 29

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. State Department investigators looking into the shooting deaths of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad last month offered immunity deals to Blackwater security guards, The New York Times reported on Monday.

The investigators from the agency’s investigative arm, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, did not, however, have the authority to offer such immunity grants, the newspaper said, citing U.S. government officials.

The offers represent a potentially serious investigative misstep that could complicate efforts to prosecute Blackwater employees involved in the incident, the newspaper said.

The officials, who were not identified, said Justice Department prosecutors, who do have the authority to offer such deals, had no advance knowledge of the arrangement, the newspaper said.

Most of the Blackwater guards who took part in the September 16 incident were offered what officials described as limited-use immunity, the report said.

Limited-use immunity means the private security guards were promised they would not be prosecuted for anything they said in interviews with the authorities as long as their statements were true, the Times said…

Foreign contractors in Iraq are immune from prosecution under Iraqi law under a decree issued by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in 2004.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press is reporting this:

Iraq bill would lift contractor immunity

By SINAN SALAHEDDIN, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD – The Iraqi government on Tuesday approved draft legislation lifting immunity for foreign private security companies, sending the measure to parliament, a spokesman said.

The question of immunity has been one of the most serious dispute between the U.S. and the Iraqi government since a Sept. 16 shooting involving Blackwater USA guards that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead.

The government’s decision followed reports that the State Department has promised Blackwater bodyguards immunity from prosecution in its investigation of last month’s shooting…

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the draft law approved Tuesday would overturn an immunity order known as Decree 17 that was issued by L. Paul Bremer, who ran the American occupation government until June 2004…

Three senior U.S. law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that all the Blackwater bodyguards involved — both in the vehicle convoy and in at least two helicopters above — were given the legal protection as investigators from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security sought to find out what happened. The bureau is an arm of the State Department.

The law enforcement and State Department officials agreed to speak only if they could remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the inquiry into the incident…

Congress also is expected to investigate the shootings, but a House watchdog committee said it has so far held off, based on a Justice Department request that lawmakers wait until the FBI concludes its inquiry.

But if the Blackwater contractors already have immunity, why do they have to be offered it again?

Or are they going to be prosecuted under US laws for alleged activities that happened in a foreign country?

For we also have this article from a couple of weeks ago, via the Associated Press:

House Passes Bill That Would Hike Penalties for U.S. Security Contractors in Iraq

Thursday, October 04, 2007

WASHINGTON —  The House passed a bill Thursday that would make all private contractors working in Iraq and other combat zones subject to prosecution by U.S. courts. It was the first major legislation of its kind to pass since a deadly shootout last month involving Blackwater employees.

Democrats called the 389-30 vote an indictment of the shooting incident there that left at least 13 Iraqis dead. Senate Democratic leaders said they planned to follow suit with similar legislation and send a bill to President Bush as soon as possible.

“There is simply no excuse for the de facto legal immunity for tens of thousands of individuals working in countries” on behalf of the United States, said Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas.

So it would appear the Blackwater contractors do indeed have immunity, despite any claims to the contrary. It would also appear that their actions in Iraq are not subject to any current US laws.

So what exactly is going on?

And when is the ACLU going to jump in here and defend the rights of those brave Americans working for Blackwater and helping to rebuild Iraq?

(Just kidding, of course.)

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, October 30th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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