State Department promises Blackwater Employees Immunity from Prosecution
From a news story today via AP:
The State Department promised Blackwater USA bodyguards immunity from prosecution in its investigation of last month's deadly shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians, The Associated Press has learned.
The immunity deal has delayed a criminal inquiry into the Sept. 16 killings and could undermine any effort to prosecute security contractors for their role in the incident that has infuriated the Iraqi government.
"Once you give immunity, you can't take it away," said a senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.
State Department officials declined to confirm or deny that immunity had been granted. One official — who refused to be quoted by name_ said: "If, in fact, such a decision was made, it was done without any input or authorization from any senior State Department official in Washington."
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd and FBI spokesman Rich Kolko declined comment.
FBI agents were returning to Washington late Monday from Baghdad, where they have been trying to collect evidence in the Sept. 16 embassy convoy shooting without using statements from Blackwater employees who were given immunity.
Three senior law enforcement officials said 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.
It would seem that our State Department is telling us that while we are fighting the "War on Terrah" over there, killing or capturing those who do harm to Americans, the mercenaries that they have paid with American tax dollars to guard themselves can employ whatever tactics they choose, up to and including killing innocent Iraqi citizens, without fear of being prosecuted.
The story goes on to say that the Blackwater employees that were questioned spoke only after receiving so-called "Garrity" protections, requiring that their statements only be used internally and not for criminal prosecutions.
Garrity protections generally are given to police or other public law enforcement officers, and were extended to the Blackwater guards because they were working on behalf of the U.S. government, one official said. Experts said it's rare for them to be given to all or even most witnesses — particularly before a suspect is identified.
Just another example of how the Bush Administration does not care about the rule of law, but rather just wants to make up the rules as they go.
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