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Biesecker reports: "The federal prosecution of five former employees of the private security firm Blackwater has crumbled after the defendants said they were acting at the behest of the CIA by providing five guns as gifts to King Abdullah II of Jordan."

 (illustration: ABC News)
(illustration: ABC News)

Blackwater Felony Charges Dropped, They Were Following CIA Orders

By Michael Biesecker, Associated Press

23 February 13


ALEIGH, N.C. - The federal prosecution of five former employees of the private security firm Blackwater has crumbled after the defendants said they were acting at the behest of the CIA by providing five guns as gifts to King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Federal prosecutors indicted former Blackwater president Gary Jackson and four others in 2010 on a long list of felony firearms violations involving dozens of weapons, including 17 M-4 military assault rifles and 17 Romanian-made AK-47s.

All charges against three of the accused were dismissed Thursday at the request of prosecutors after a federal judge ruled earlier this month to reduce several of the felony charges to misdemeanors.

Under a plea agreement, Jackson and former company vice president William Matthews admitted guilt Thursday on misdemeanor charges related to record keeping violations, resulting in $5,000 fines and four months house arrest. They had originally faced decades in prison on 12 felony charges each.

"At the time the Department of Justice brought this case I don't think they knew all of the facts," Kenneth Bell, Jackson's lawyer, said Friday. "Through three years of discovery and litigation, I think they came to know the facts, and did the right thing once they understood the facts."

Thomas Walker, a U.S. attorney for eastern North Carolina, stressed that the case did result in guilty pleas.

"Accountability is important even if it was the former president and vice president of Blackwater," Walker said. "At the end of the day, no one is absolved from properly reporting the movement of firearms and the defendants' pleas of guilty stand for that proposition."

Thursday's guilty pleas ended one of several criminal cases and lawsuits filed in the last decade against Blackwater, which was founded in 1997 in North Carolina by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince and awarded massive no-bid security contracts from U.S. government at the beginning of the Iraq War.

The company's overseas operations became the focus of international scrutiny when Blackwater guards were involved in a series of high-profile overseas shootings, the most notorious being the 2007 shootings in Nisoor Square in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqis dead. Five former Blackwater employees currently face federal manslaughter charges stemming from the shootings.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided Blackwater's 7,000-acre training compound in Moyok, N.C., in 2008, seizing the automatic weapons. The company, which was registered with the ATF as a federal firearms dealer, claimed it was simply storing the guns owned by the Camden County Sheriff's Office, which had only a handful of deputies.

The company was limited by its federal firearms license in how many automatic weapons it could legally own. But law enforcement agencies are not. Blackwater contracted a sheriff's department employee as a "weapons custodian" at the company's compound, where the assault rifles were routinely used in training exercises with Blackwater's clients. Prosecutors said the arrangement was intended to subvert the federal restrictions on how many automatic weapons could be at the company's facility.

Several of the federal charges were related to a Bushmaster M4 rifle, three Glock handguns and a Remington shotgun presented to King Abdullah and his traveling entourage during a 2005 visit to Blackwater's headquarters. Prosecutors said the weapons were part of a bid for Blackwater to land a lucrative security contract with Jordan and that registration records tracking the guns were later falsified to claim the weapons were sold to individuals.

Though many documents in the court file are still under seal for national security reasons, it appears the government's case began to unravel last year when defense lawyers produced sworn statements from two retired CIA officials who said they knew about the weapons presented to the king.

John Macguire, who described himself as a CIA officer for 23 years ending in 2005, and Charles Seidel, who said he was CIA station chief in the Jordanian capital of Amman in 2005, said they would be willing to testify about their knowledge of government involvement if the spy agency allowed it.

"I have information related to the transfer of firearms to the King of Jordan described in numerous counts of the indictment and how the U.S. government's authorization for the transfer of those weapons took place," Maguire said in a statement filed with the court.

A group of investors bought Blackwater in December 2010 from Prince, renaming the company Xe. It changed names again the following year, becoming ACADEMI.

On Friday, company spokeswoman Kelly Gannon said none of the former Blackwater executives worked for ACADEMI or the current ownership.

Last year, ACADEMI settled federal criminal charges against the company, paying a $7.5 million fine over the firearms violations, lying to federal regulators, illegally shipping body armor overseas and passing secret plans for armored personnel carriers to firms in Sweden and Denmark without U.S. government approval.

The Arlington, Va.-based company settled lawsuits brought by survivors of the Iraqi civilians killed during the Baghdad shooting. ACADEMI also settled a lawsuit brought by families of former Blackwater security guards who were killed and mutilated during a botched mission through Fallujah in 2004.

Two of the Blackwater employees' charred bodies were photographed hanging from a bridge while a crowd of Iraqis that included children cheered, producing one of the most indelible and disturbing images of the war.

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+20 # tedrey 2013-02-23 10:16
Let's get this straight. Otherwise illegal actions (like falsifying records) are not prosecutable if any CIA official knew about them, but said and did nothing? Did I get that right?

I should have thought the CIA officials would also have been prosecutable.
+21 # wantrealdemocracy 2013-02-23 10:32
Repeal the law that set up the CIA. They and Homeland Security must be ended. They are the Gestapo, a private army and secret police of our dictator. Many refer to him as our President, but when he signed the NDAA he took the power to have anyone of us killed with no charges, no trial, no chance to defend ourselves, he became our dictator. Sig Heil!
+25 # nice2blucky 2013-02-23 11:16
It is illegal to give an illegal order.

It is illegal to follow an illegal order.

The prosecutor should be fired, and someone who hold law over politics should take over the case.
+14 # nice2blucky 2013-02-23 11:28
Also note that ALL CHARGES were dropped because -- not all, but -- SEVERAL of the felony charges were dropped.

This is severe professional misconduct and these prosecutors have no business representing the US government.

Jails are full of lesser offenders, and I'd like to see the precedent for dropping felony charges -- and the legal basis -- because SOME of many charges were subsequently dropped.
+7 # BobbyLip 2013-02-23 11:38
Hey, guys, lighten up already! It's not like somebody stole a loaf of bread or something. Les miserables R us. This country is totally whack!
+9 # nice2blucky 2013-02-23 11:43
So let me get this straight... because it sounds like an open and shut case -- no pun intended.

The defendants admitted "they were acting at the behest of the CIA by providing five guns as gifts to King Abdullah II of Jordan."

Does this not sound like cause for considering reducing the sentence, not for dropping charges?

Since when is admitting guilt a get-out-of-jail -free card?
+16 # intheEPZ 2013-02-23 12:01
Just to clear up any confusion, this story proves that Blackwater, a.k.a Xe, a.k.a Academi is just a special forces branch of the US government's military (i.e. fascist killing machine), and anything they do (like anything We do) is lawful because We do it. Because, after all, We are exceptionally just, moral, and rich, and We, above all other nations, are a nation of Laws, and G.O.D. is clearly on our side, or We would be poor, dark-skinned, and disposable like those who are killed by the weapons We (and our mercenaries) use on them and dispense to dictators. If President Obama had any integrity about the gun violence thing, he would extend the ban on assault weapons to the sale or gift of weapons to other governments as well. Let them make their own WMDs. We have no business being the "greatest purveyors of violence in the world today" (MLK, 1963) when we can't even afford decent health care and child poverty in America is an international disgrace. This lack of accountability is shocking, but all too predictable. We need bring back laws criminalizing war profiteering of any kind.
+11 # smilodon1 2013-02-23 12:38
This defense didn't work at Nuremberg so how come it works now?
+10 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-02-23 13:51
Because the USA was prosecuting someone else at Nuremberg & it's the defendant now: & the USA can do no wrong, right?
+10 # reiverpacific 2013-02-23 13:15
More crimes committed under the bloated C.I.A. "Black Budget" unaccountable even to the president.
Must make y'all feel REALLY patriotic!
And this is just the tip of the iceberg -remember them as Blackwater prowling the streets of New Orleans post-Katrina, like vigilantes seeking who they might devour and the Dimwits Cabal's initial response to the "Rescue" effort?
+4 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-02-23 13:50
Oh, well, I’m glad: the CIA was in charge: that makes it all right, eh? So sorry to be concerned about rampant crime if the CIA condones it....
+4 # KrazyFromPolitics 2013-02-23 15:33
Our corruption will kill us before climate change.
+6 # hobbesian 2013-02-23 16:04
Them rabbits in charge of the "lettuce", again.... why o why does this happen, again and again? What is it at the top that goes so soft on crime at the top? Is there no oxygen in the air up there? Sunlight is not penetrating? Is this an Old Boys' Club, and nothing but? This is TERRIBLE. "I'm above the law, it doesn't apply to me."
+4 # hoodwinkednomore 2013-02-23 19:26
Screw the CIA

These war-mongers are out of their minds. All these 'human' killing monsters were once mere babes, as innocent as the babies they so routinely blow up now. What happened to their senses? If this is what the military produces, killers, who come home and kill more, (and themselves in record numbers now) doesn't this raise any huge red flags to any of the experts we have up there in the Pentagon or the Hill?

A flipping no-brainer: Screw the CIA!
+2 # Vermont Grandma 2013-02-23 23:47
So, let me see if I get this. If the CIA tells Joe to murder my neighbor and Joe does so, he'll get off because the CIA told him to do so. So an unelected secret part of the US government can give anyone it wants a pass from following US laws. This IS scarey. And illegal.
+1 # Seanmack 2013-02-24 05:14
Your attitude resonates with mine, Hoodwinked (and, no doubt, with many, many others)but the truth of the matter is that the CIA (and those they work for) hope that's as far as it goes: an un-acted upon opinion. Their attitude is like yours but somewhat different: Screw The People. There's a big problem here: They know how to do it, and have had years of practice. We don't. Raise red flags in the Pentagon or on the Hill? Of course. Over half a century ago Pres. Eishenhower warned us of them, and JFK tried to do something, but...the sheeple fell for the 'lone gunman' conspiracy theory fell back into their tv-sponsored stupor. There'll be no solution to this madness until we realize there is no democracy here and we're as free as the ground we walk upon.
+1 # Name2 2013-02-24 06:20
“I'll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office."
--George Walker Bush
Washington DC, 12 May, 2008
0 # hawaiigram 2013-02-24 15:12
So the CIA is above the law? Must have missed the press release . . .

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