State Department Investigator Says Death Threat Ended Blackwater Inquiry

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A 2007 investigation into the Blackwater security firm's operations in Iraq was cut short after the firm's top manager in the area threatened to kill the State Department's investigator, according to State Department documents. The investigation was cut short just weeks before Blackwater guards killed 17 civilians in what investigators found to be an unprovoked attack. 

According to documents obtained by The New York Times, Blackwater Manager Daniel Carroll met with Special Agent Jean Richter and contractor Donald Thomas Jr. in their office to discuss their investigation into the firm's substandard dining hall facilities. That's when Carroll said "I can kill you right now where you sit and no one's going to do a thing about it because of where we are at," according to Richter's statement. Thomas corroborated his story and said in his statement that Carroll said "I could shoot and kill you here in Iraq and no one would do anything about it because that is the way it is here." Thomas made a comment comparing Iraq to the O.K. Corral and Carroll responded, "yes, that's right, because no one here cares." 

Richter wrote that Carroll made the threat with "a low, even tone of voice, his head was slightly lowered; his eyes were fixed on mine." He took the threat seriously, as he and Thomas had also been warned to be careful about their investigation, which threatened lucrative security contracts. Their investigation found:

  • Blackwater reduced its security details on diplomats without notifying the State Department
  • Some guards carried weapons they weren't certified or trained to use and kept the weapons in their private rooms
  • The guards drank, partied and had "female visitors" in their rooms
  • Four Blackwater guards took a drunken joyride in a heavily armored $180,000 vehicle to go to a private party (they crashed into a wall) 

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In his August 31 memo to the State Department, Richter wrote that Carroll's threats were only further evidence that Blackwater thought they were "the de facto authority," "'above the law'" and "'ran the place.'" Richter also argued that oversight of the Blackwater contractors was "subservient" to the contractors and "superficial at best." Local embassy officials sided with Blackwater over Richter and ordered him and Thomas to leave the country. 

Weeks after the incident cut Richter's investigation short, Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. The guards claim that they were under attack, but investigators haven't found any evidence of insurgent activity in the area at the time. Soon afterward, the State Department followed up on Richter's report, with few results. Now, four contractors are on trial for the massacre, after five guards were cleared in 2009

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.