Blackwater: Still in Business in Iraq

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Why is this man smiling? From the AP:

The State Department says it will renew Blackwater USA’s license to protect diplomats in Baghdad for one year, but a final decision about whether the private security company will keep the job is pending.

A top State Department official said that because the FBI is still investigating last year’s fatal shooting of Baghdad civilians, there is no reason not to renew the contract when it comes due in May. Blackwater has a five-year deal to provide personal protection for diplomats, which is reauthorized each year.

Iraqis were outraged over a Sept. 16 shooting in which 17 civilians were killed in a Baghdad square. Blackwater said its guards were protecting diplomats under attack before they opened fire, but Iraqi investigators concluded the shooting was unprovoked.

Since the “top State Department official” seems so blithe about the FBI investigation, it’s worth recalling that Justice Department faces probably insurmountable obstacles in bringing a prosecution based on the Nisour Square shootings. That’s despite the fact that the FBI determined that the guards had indeed opened fire without provocation.

Update: More from Reuters:

“I have requested and received approval to have task order six — which Blackwater has to provide personal protective services in Baghdad — renewed … for one year,” the head of diplomatic security, Gregory Starr, told reporters….

Asked whether the Blackwater Baghdad deal could be scrapped if the FBI investigation found wrongdoing, Starr said: “We can terminate contracts at the convenience of the government if we have to.”

“I am not going to prejudge what the FBI is going to find in their investigation. I think really, it is complex. I think that the U.S. government needs protective services,” he said.

“Essentially I think they do a very good job. The September 16th incident was a tragedy. It has to be investigated carefully,” he added.