The Blackwater Charges: What’s Being Alleged?

A series of shocking and lurid charges have been made against Erik Prince and Blackwater, the defense contracting behemoth he founded, in sworn statements filed in federal court Monday. Prince and or his company are variously accused of being motivated by an apocalyptic Christian worldview which glorified killing Muslims; of “encourag[ing] and reward[ing] the destruction of Iraqi life;” of illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq; of destroying incriminating evidence; of using child prostitutes; and even of murdering government informants.

The charges — which come from a former Blackwater employee, and a former US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company — appear to be largely unsubstantiated. Their existence was first reported by The Nation, and has since been covered by numerous blogs and a few mainstream outlets.The allegations are made in sworn affidavits, given under penalty of perjury,
that were filed in a federal court Monday, by human-rights lawyers suing Blackwater for alleged war crimes and other misconduct. A group of former Blackwater employees is awaiting trial on manslaughter charges for a 2007 shooting incident in a Baghdad square that left 17 Iraqis dead.

Some of the most serious of the new allegations, in more detail:

• The murder charge: The former Blackwater employee, identified only as “John Doe Number 2,” claims that, “based on information provided to me by former colleagues, it appears that Mr. Prince and his employees murdered, or had murdered, one or more persons who have provided information, or who were planning to provide information, to the federal authorities about the ongoing criminal conduct.” John Doe 2 adds that “on several occasions after my departure from Mr. Prince’s employ, Mr. Prince’s management has personally threatened me with death and violence.” The former Marine, identified as “John Doe Number 1,” refers to “suspicious circumstances” under which informants have been killed.

• The destruction of evidence charge: John Doe 2 claims:

On more than one occasion, Mr. Prince and his top managers gave orders to destroy emails and other documents. Many incriminating videotapes, documents and emails have been shredded and destroyed.

• The religious charge: John Doe 2 claims that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince “intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis.”

• The prostitution charge: John Doe 2 claims that Prince “failed to stop the ongoing use of prostitutes, including child prostitutes,” during his visits to Blackwater’s camp in Iraq.

• The weapons smuggling charge: John Doe 2 claims:

Using his various companies, [Prince] procured and distributed various weapons, including unlawful weapons such as sawed off semi-automatic machine guns with silencers, through unlawful channels of distribution.

It’s worth noting that the weapons-smuggling allegation is bolstered by an ABC News story from last year, which reported that a “federal grand jury in North Carolina is investigating allegations the controversial private security firm Blackwater illegally shipped assault weapons and silencers to Iraq, hidden in large sacks of dog food.”

But beyond that, there appears to be little available information to substantiate these sensational charges. And some observers are wary. A reporter for McClatchy, who has covered Blackwater closely, wrote in an email to a colleague that was inadvertently sent to TPMmucraker and other outlets:

I would be careful about how seriously I took this stuff…..The allegations are anonymous and part of a lawsuit that frankly is pretty shaky.

McClatchy has had some of the most accurate and incisive Iraq reporting since before the U.S.-led invasion.

In response to the claims, Blackwater, now known after a rebranding effort as “Xe,” has put out a statement saying it would respond “to the anonymous, unsubstantiated and offensive assertions put forward by the plaintiffs,” in a brief that will be filed August 1.

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