* The Nisour Square shootings:
An Iraqi investigation concluded that the Blackwater guards were not under attack when they opened fire. As a result, the Iraqis asked the State Department to pull Blackwater out of Iraq.
The FBI is leading the most active American-led investigation of the shootings. The FBI investigation superseded a preliminary State Department investigation which consisted primarily of taking written statements from Blackwater witnesses and hence largely absolved BW of blame.
A joint U.S.-Iraqi commission, with the predominant U.S. component coming from the military, is reportedly having trouble getting any information while the FBI investigation is ongoing.
The United Nations plans to investigate deaths caused by the U.S. military and contractors in Iraq, including the recent Blackwater case in Baghdad.
* Small arms smuggling:
Federal prosecutors are investigating whether employees of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh, N.C., is handling the investigation with help from Pentagon and State Department auditors, who have concluded there is enough evidence to file charges. Update: NBC reports that federal investigators are probing whether Blackwater sent silencers to Iraq without the proper permit.
* Tax evasion:
Last week, Waxman’s oversight committee charged that Blackwater had hidden "tens of millions of dollars, if not more" in Social Security, Medicare and retirement taxes by classifying its security guards in Iraq as independent contractors. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Barack Obama (D-IL) followed up by writing a letter to the Treasury Department asking for an investigation, and John Kerry (D-MA) called for the Senate Finance Committee to investigate.
After stonewalling a reporter’s inquiry about a Christmas Eve 2006 incident, where a drunken Blackwater guard allegedly killed a security guard for Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi, the State Department moved past its own initial administrative review of the incident. Condoleezza Rice told the oversight committee that the case was referred to the Justice Department, but that a lack of evidence had hobbled the investigation.
Somehow, given this Administration, I have a feeling nothing much is going to come of any of this.
UPDATE: A good question —
This isn’t just a rhetorical question. There certainly may be reasons I’m not aware of. But why does Blackwater need silencers in Iraq? If they’re conducting offensive missions, sniping, raids, etc., it would make sense. But for purely defensive security missions protecting State Department employees? Again, not just a rhetorical question — it’s certainly not my area of expertise. I’d be curious to hear from folks who know more about the subject.
The fact they appear to have smuggled them into the country doesn’t weigh heavily in favor of an innocent explanation.