American mercenary company Blackwater (now known as Academi, to ensure even more lucrative contracts) has an appalling record of human rights abuses. Gawker recently obtained a massive cache of documents that highlight this cowboy firm:
Blackwater, the private mercenary firm that became synonymous with Bush-era war profiteering and reckless combat-tourism,announced yesterday that it has changed its name to Academi (after a previous incarnation as Xe Services) in a bid to distance itself from its history of wanton lawlessness. We’ve obtained a 4,500-page record of that history in the form of State Department incident reports documenting every time a Blackwater guard shot at an Iraqi between 2005 and 2007.
We got them in response to a Freedom of Information Act request we filed four years ago. They come from the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which was charged with overseeing and monitoring the contractors hired by State to secure its diplomats and other VIPs in the war zone. While firms like DynCorp and Triple Canopy make frequent appearances, the reports are dominated by Blackwater, which was paid roughly $1 billion between 2004 and 2009 to provide “worldwide protective services” for State Department personnel. (It continues to surreptitiously weave its tentacles into various government contracts; hence the name changes.)
In Iraq, Blackwater’s “protective services” consisted in large part of preemptively shooting any car that drove near its convoys. Page after page of the reports feature drivers (and occasionally boat pilots) who were fired upon simply because they drove “aggressively,” attempted to pass, or didn’t heed warnings to keep their distance. There was no routine mechanism for following up with the drivers to determine if they were injured or were actually hostile. Blackwater (and DynCorp and Triple Canopy) guards roamed Iraqi cities and highways, ignoring traffic rules and shooting at other drivers literally at will, and driving on. According to a 2007 investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform [pdf], between 2005 and 2007 Blackwater operatives fired on Iraqis at least 195 times, or an average of 1.4 times per week. That included an infamous Baghdad firefight at Nisour Square that killed 17 civilians.
On February 19, 2007, a Blackwater motorcade carrying a dignitary to a local juvenile prison was attempting to make a left turn when a parked white four-door sedan entered oncoming traffic. “The lead [vehicle’s] rear gunner…noticed that the lone occupant had a device in his hands,” reads a report on the incident. “Suspecting that the vehicle may be a Vehicle-Born Explosive Improvised Device, [redacted] fired one round from his rifle into the grill of the suspicious vehicle…. The impact of the round caused the driver to bring the vehicle to an immediate stop. He raised his hands in the air revealing that he held a cell phone.” The same Blackwater team fired on cars three other times that day.