Monday, November 17, 2008

New Blackwater Iraq Scandal: Guns, Silencers and Dog Food

The mind turns at once to the memory of the proud carriage of secretive, multi-millionaire, right-wing Christian, Bush-crony, Chairman and founder of Blackwater Erik Prince (whose Mother, Holland resident Elsa Prince Broekhuizen recently "pumped $450,000 into the Nov. 4 California ballot issue to ban gay marriage" - one of the "largest private donations to that" effort), when being questioned in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in October 2007 about the mountain of evidence concerning the illegal activities of his employees in Iraq when one hears from ABC News that a federal grand jury in North Carolina is "investigating allegations the controversial private security firm Blackwater illegally shipped assault weapons and silencers to Iraq, hidden in large sacks of dog food." Prince, well-known for choosing profit over patriotism as he cut corners at Blackwater in his relentless pursuit of money, is certainly aware that Blackwater, under State Department rules, "is prohibited from using certain assault weapons and silencers in Iraq because they are considered 'offensive' weapons inappropriate for Blackwater's role as a private security firm protecting US diplomatic missions." "The only reason you need a silencer is if you want to assassinate someone," said former CIA intelligence officer John Kiriakou, an ABC News consultant.

Six Blackwater employees are under investigation by another federal grand jury, in Washington, D.C., in connection with the shooting deaths of at least 17 civilians in September 2007 at a Baghdad traffic circle. Prosecutors are expected to return indictments in the next few weeks, according to people familiar with the case. The investigation of the alleged dog food smuggling scheme began last year after two Blackwater employees were caught trying to sell stolen weapons in North Carolina. The two, Kenneth Cashwell and William "Max" Grumiaux, pleaded guilty in February and became government witnesses, according to court documents. . . . In addition to the grand jury investigation, Blackwater sources say the company is facing a multi-million dollar fine for some 900 instances in which it violated State Department licensing requirements for the export of certain weapons and technical know-how. Blackwater acknowledged in its statements "numerous mistakes in complex and demanding area of export compliance," saying most of the violations were failures of paperwork not "nefarious smuggling." Of the 900 cases, about 100 of them have been referred to the Department of Justice for possible criminal prosecution, according to lawyers briefed on the case. Last month, Blackwater hired a team of former federal law enforcement officials and defense experts that it said would review the company's compliance with export laws. Andrew Howell, Blackwater's general counsel, said, "Ongoing reviews by the Department of Justice, State and Commerce have highlighted the need for a significant and systems-wide initiative. . . . Despite four separate federal grand jury investigations of its operations, Blackwater's contract to provide security services for the US State Department was renewed earlier this year. The contract pays Blackwater $250 million a year and runs for five years.
Don't you feel sad for poor, but proud, Erik who will undoubtedly have to run the shame gauntlet again? (Naaaaaaah!) Also fresh off the news circus - Citigroup announces layoffs of over 52,000 employees (with a sweet smirk of sympathy from Katie Couric), and (surprise me again!) James Dobson's Focus on the Family announces big layoffs after winning Prop 8! Suzan ______________________________

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