Blackwater is all over the news. In the last seventy-two hours, a series of breaking developments involving the notorious private military firm have come to light, ranging from their involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, and even Germany, as well as legal cases here at home. We speak with investigative journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a leading member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, who is launching an investigation into why two Blackwater contractors were among the dead in the December 30 suicide bombing at the CIA station at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Blackwater is all over the news. In the last seventy-two hours, a series of breaking developments involving the notorious private military firm have come to light, ranging from their involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, and even Germany, as well as legal cases here at home.
In the latest news, two former Blackwater operatives were arrested yesterday on murder charges stemming from their alleged involvement in the shooting deaths of two Afghan civilians in Kabul in May.
The news broke just hours after it was revealed Blackwater had reached a settlement with Iraqi victims of a string of shootings, including the Nisoor Square massacre, who had sued the company for what they called “senseless slaughter.” Blackwater is reportedly paying $100,000 for each of the Iraqis killed by its forces and between $20,000 to $30,000 to each Iraqi wounded. News of the settlement came a week after a federal judge dismissed manslaughter charges against five Blackwater operatives involved in the Nisoor Square massacre that killed seventeen Iraqi civilians.
Then, on Wednesday, prosecutors in Germany announced they had launched a preliminary investigation into a report that the CIA and Blackwater had planned a secret operation in 2004 to assassinate a German citizen in Hamburg with suspected ties to al-Qaeda.
Full transcript at Democracy Now.
We already covered some of this story with Rachel's reporting on MSNBC--Jeremy Scahill: Blackwater's Murky Role in Afghanistan.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky talked about what she plans to do to put an end to this madness.
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: Look, I’m introducing legislation called Stop Outsourcing Our Security, and the idea of that is that when we have mission-sensitive activities, inherently governmental functions in battle zones around the world, that we should have only people that bear the stamp of the United States government. And that means that that would include no private military contractors at all in those operations.
Now, look, when we have a situation where you can question whether or not these contractors can get away with murder—after all, this case against those shooters at Nisoor Square has been dismissed—hopefully that there will be another effort by the Justice Department to go after these people, because it was dismissed for prosecutorial misconduct, which is true. I think there were many mistakes made. But right now, these contractors are in a legal limbo. And so, if these individuals can get away with murder, imagine—you don’t have to imagine, you know what it does to our relations with the Iraqi government and with governments around the world. And now you’ve got a situation where Germany is asking, what were Blackwater people doing in Germany?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I’d like to ask you about that, in particular, Congresswoman. Here you have a situation not just of being involved in murder, but apparently of being involved in government-sanctioned assassination attempts. And that is being, to some degree, contracted out. Forget about whether the government should be involved in such a kind of assassination attempts, but to contract out that activity? That is really astounding.
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: This really is part of an ongoing investigation that I can’t talk about, but even the fact that there is that allegation, I think, gives one a picture of the degree to which Blackwater has been completely enmeshed in these secret operations. And, you know, at least the allegation that they are, I think is disturbing enough. And there is an investigation going on around activities, you know, like that.