Friday, November 02, 2007

Unaccountable - Terror as Foreign Policy

Private contractors are involved in American torture all over the world:

Jeremy Scahill

State to Blackwater: Nothing You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You in a Court of Law

Posted October 30, 2007 05:53 PM (EST)
Read More: Blackwater, Blackwater Hearings, Blackwater Immunity, Blackwater Iraq, Erik Prince Blackwater, Breaking Politics News
Apparently there is one set of rights for Blackwater mercenaries and another for the rest of us. Normally when a group of people alleged to have gunned down 17 civilians in a lawless shooting spree are questioned, investigators will tell them something along the lines of: "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law." But that is not what the Blackwater operatives involved in the September 16 Nisour Square shooting in Iraq were told. Most of the Blackwater shooters were questioned by State Department Diplomatic Security investigators with the understanding that their statements and information gleaned from them could not be used to bring criminal charges against them, nor could they be introduced as evidence. In other words, "Anything you say can't and won't be used against you in a court of law."
ABC News obtained copies of sworn statements given by Blackwater

Military law expert Scott Horton of Human Rights First says, "What the State Department has done in this case is inconsistent with proper law enforcement standards. It is likely to undermine an ultimate prosecution, if not make it impossible. In this sense, the objective of the State Department in doing this is exposed to question. It seems less to be to collect the facts than to immunize Blackwater and its employees. By purporting to grant immunity, the State Department draws itself more deeply into the wrongdoing and adopts a posture vis-a-vis Blackwater that appears downright conspiratorial. This will make the fruits of its investigation a tough sell."
Ratner says that while what was offered the Blackwater operatives is not immunity from prosecution, prosecutors would need to prove they did not use the sworn statements as part of their investigation. "Even though the person can be prosecuted if independent evidence is relied upon, often this is hard to demonstrate," he says. As an example of the problems such immunity can pose, Ratner points to the case of Oliver North. "He had been granted 'use immunity' and was then prosecuted, supposedly on the basis of independent evidence," Ratner says. "However, his conviction was reversed in the court of appeals because it could not be demonstrated that all of the evidence against him had an independent source outside of his own testimony."

While there may be some token prosecutions that stem from the recent uptick in reporting on contractor crimes in Iraq, the reality is that without private forces from Blackwater and its ilk, the US occupation of Iraq would be untenable. Nothing will be done that would actually jeopardize the use of such forces in the war zone. While Blackwater's conduct in Iraq is horrifying, it is important to remember that US ambassadors--all four who have served under the Iraq occupation--owe their lives to Blackwater's shoot-first-and-never-ask-questions cowboy tactics. They are the reason the company can brag it has never lost an American life it was protecting. Blackwater does its job and while it is essential to prosecute its operatives for their crimes, the ultimately responsible party is the entity that hired them and deployed them armed and dangerous in Iraq.


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