Middle East

Cable: Blackwater staff kept working in Iraq after ban

BAGHDAD: A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable says that “hundreds” of former employees of Blackwater, which was barred from Iraq over a deadly 2007 shooting, later worked with other firms guarding U.S. diplomats here.

Iraq announced in January 2009 that it would not renew Blackwater’s operating license due to a Sept. 16, 2007, incident in which guards protecting a U.S. diplomatic convoy opened fire in Baghdad’s busy Nisur Square, killing at least 14 civilians.

After that announcement, the U.S. State Department did not renew its contract with Blackwater, which has renamed itself Xe, for security services in Iraq.

But U.S. diplomatic cables released by whistleblower website WikiLeaks confirmed that ex-Blackwater employees kept working in Iraq with other security firms.

“There are many former Blackwater employees at other private security companies in Iraq, most notably Triple Canopy and DynCorp, providing security services to us,” said a Jan. 4, 2010, cable from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which was released on Aug. 30.

Another cable from Jan. 11, 2010, also expressed concern over Iraqi efforts to oust former Blackwater employees from the country, noting that it could reduce the capacity of Triple Canopy to provide embassy security.

“The embassy understands that Triple Canopy currently employs several hundred former Blackwater employees,” said the cable, which was also released by WikiLeaks Aug. 30.

The cable said that DynCorp, which provides aircraft support, also “employs dozens of ex-Blackwater employees.”

“Given how many former Blackwater employees are currently in the services of Triple Canopy, there is a serious possibility that the [Iraqi government’s] request that they leave Iraq will diminish the company’s ability to fulfil the embassy’s security requirements,” it said.

Despite U.S. misgivings, the Iraqi Interior Ministry announced in Feb. 2010 that it had given 250 former Blackwater employees seven days to exit Iraq and confiscated their residence permits, “in connection with the crime that took place at Nisur Square.”

The early 2010 move to oust ex-Blackwater employees came amid Iraqi outrage over a December 2009 ruling by a U.S. federal judge that dismissed criminal charges against five Blackwater employees accused of fatally shooting 14 people in Nisur Square.

A U.S. appeals court reopened the prosecution against four of them earlier this year.

It is not clear if the 250 who were ordered to leave were just some or all of the former Blackwater employees working for the U.S. in Iraq.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad referred all inquiries concerning whether former Blackwater employees were still employed by the U.S. in Iraq to Washington.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 05, 2011, on page 9.

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