A manger for private security contractor Blackwater threatened the life of a State Department agent investigating alleged abuses by the company in Iraq, saying he "could kill" the man without fear of reprisal, according to a new report in The New York Times.
The striking allegations are based on State Department documents chronicling a 2007 inquiry into Blackwater's operations in Iraq. Jean C. Richter, the investigator who was allegedly threatened by Blackwater's top manager in Iraq, wrote a scathing memo upon his return, in which he alleged that "Blackwater contractors saw themselves as above the law." According to MSNBC, Richter blamed lax management for creating a situation in which Blackwater contractors, rather than State Department officials, were "in command and control," alleging that "The management structures in place to manage and monitor our contracts in Iraq have become subservient to the contractors themselves."
According to the documents, Embassy officials sided with Blackwater rather than the investigators when a dispute escalated in August of 2007. Richter, along with State Department management analyst Donald Thomas Jr, reportedly discovered substantial contract violations by Blackwater. Contractors were reportedly storing assault weapons in their private rooms, where Blackwater personnel engaged in heavy drinking with "frequent female visitors." Blackwater was also over-billing the State Department while falsifying personnel records. In one incident, four Blackwater guards crashed a $180,000 armored vehicle after drunkenly commandeering it to drive to a party.
Thomas stated in the documents that he and Richter were warned to be "very careful" by some in Baghdad, as their investigation could potentially jeopardize Blackwater's lucrative contract, which was worth over $1 billion. During a meeting with Daniel Carroll, Blackwater's project manager in Iraq, the warnings transformed into open threats. According to Richter, Carroll told him "that he could kill me at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq." Richter said that he took the Blackwater manager's threat seriously, since they "were in a combat zone where things can happen quite unexpectedly, especially when issues involve potentially negative impacts on a lucrative security contract." Embassy officials sided with Blackwater, and ordered Richter and Thomas out of the country days later.
Just two weeks after Richter sent his memo, a Blackwater convoy traveling through Nisour Square opened fire on Iraqi civilians, killing 17 people. Despite claims that Blackwater contractors had been ambushed, military officials found no evidence of insurgent activity. As The Inquisitr previously reported, legal action against four of the Blackwater guards involved in the Nisour Square shooting is ongoing.