A senior official with the private security firm Blackwater threatened to kill a US State Department investigator in 2007 for attempting to review the group’s performance in Iraq.
An internal State Department memorandum featured by the New York Times Monday reveals how the investigator, Jean C. Richter, alerted his superiors following the incident, only two weeks before Blackwater mercenaries shot and killed 17 Iraqi civillians in Nisour Square.
According to Richter, a Diplomatic Security special agent, Baghdad’s Blackwater project manager, Daniel Carroll, threatened to kill him at the end of the month long investigation.
“Mr. Carroll’s statement was made in a low, even tone of voice, his head was slightly lowered; his eyes were fixed on mine,” Richter’s memo stated. “I took Mr. Carroll’s threat seriously. We were in a combat zone where things can happen quite unexpectedly, especially when issues involve potentially negative impacts on a lucrative security contract.”
State Department management analyst Donald Thomas Jr., who was also present during the incident, corroborated Richter’s comments in a similar statement as well.
US Embassy officials responded to the threat by siding with Blackwater, demanding the investigators leave the country immediately.
“The management structures in place to manage and monitor our contracts in Iraq have become subservient to the contractors themselves,” Richter said. “Blackwater contractors saw themselves as above the law.”
During his short time in Iraq, Richter’s investigation uncovered gross misconduct across the board. Not only was Blackwater deceptively overcharging the State Department, but Blackwater guards were found to be “drinking heavily and partying with frequent female visitors” while on duty.
Armored vehicles used by Blackwater to protect American diplomats were also found to be “poorly maintained and deteriorating,” with one $180,000 vehicle being damaged after four intoxicated guards crashed into a concrete barrier while on the way to a private party.
“A Blackwater-affiliated firm was forcing ‘third country nationals’ — low-paid workers from Pakistan, Yemen and other countries, including some who performed guard duty at Blackwater’s compound — to live in squalid conditions, sometimes three to a cramped room with no bed, according to the report by the investigators,” the article states.
Despite having their license to work in Iraq revoked, a 2010 cable published by WikiLeaks found the group to still be operating in the region. Due to continued controversy, Blackwater has since changed its name to Constellis Holdings.