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Video: Money talks for Blackwater in Iraq

  1. Closed captioning of: Money talks for Blackwater in Iraq

    >>> many reasons

    >>> the new york times is out with a bombshell of an investigative report that reveals plans from blackwater to bribe its way out of trouble after they shot and killed 17 people in baghdad in 2007 . the outrage it provoked against blackwater , "the new york times" cites four of the executives saying they approved secret bribes to be paid to iraqi officials to silence the criticism and allow them to stay in iraq . it was authorized by blackwater 's president at the time, gary jackson . when confronted about the scheme, the chairman and founder, eric prince did not dispute there was a bribery plan. it was intended for officials in the ministry. none of the four former executives say they know whether or not it was delivered to the iraqi officials. they say they do know the cash was sent from the companies operational hub in jordan to rick gardner who was a manager in iraq and still works for the company. there are a number of ways it could turn out to be illegal. if blackwater followed through with the bribes, the company or officials could violate the act. it bans bribes to foreign officials. there's the prospect that it bribed officials about the shooting. we don't know whether or not it will be held to account the allegations if proven. we know a grand jury is investigating it where the company with headquartered and one of the executives said he's also given details of the scheme to federal prosecutors . joining us now is a reporter for "the nation" and author of " blackwater the rise of the world." thanks for being with us.

    >> thank you.

    >> could this result in criminal charges?

    >> sure. let's remember, we are talking the single worse massacre committed by a private force in iraq . it was the biggest diplomatic crisis at the time. you had the iraqi government saying they were ban frd the country, then doing an about face. they remain there to this day. if you had blackwater officials attempting to bribe iraqis, that's tampering with a district. they have been informed of the officials. very serious. on the issue of iraqi officials changing their tune, we don't know if the bribes were paid to iraqi officials. you are saying the iraqi government did radically change their mind about how badly they wanted blackwater out of the country. sb absolutely. it's a country with deep political ties. eric prince has a home in wyoming where dick cheney has one. the state department was always defending blackwater . you had a one, two punch where they were paying hush money to the families of the people it shot dead. the state department was facilitating it. you had condoleezza rice tell ing them to stand down. the issue that comes up is is there an additional layer to it? did they pay off the officials?

    >> the times story ends with this coe da. that iraq decided this spring to not give blackwater a license to operate in the country after all. the exact thing they were supposed to protect them against. they took away the contract and gave it to triple canopy . aren't they still in iraq ?

    >> yeah. they have a contract for aviation services. they are still armed in iraq indefinitely. triple canopy hired them. you know who is guarding hillary clinton in afghanistan now? blackwater . you know who guards congress members? blackwater . why is president obama keeping these guys on the payroll? there's never been a company in recent history that made the case that corporations are corrupt, illegal organizations.

    >> you cannot get rid of the company or the firms because we are not capable as a government or military doing what they do without them.

    >> they will say it's nonsense. blackwater knows where bodies are buried. they work on the assassination program and regarding all the senior officials, they know about what happened in iraq and afghanistan. they are not guys you want on the other side of the fence if you are running things in washington. jere jeremy, thanks. thank you for coming on the show tonight. it's good to see you.

updated 11/11/2009 5:38:54 AM ET 2009-11-11T10:38:54

Former top executives at Blackwater Worldwide say the U.S. security contractor sent about $1 million to its Iraq office with the intention of paying off officials in the country who were angry about the fatal shootings of 17 civilians by Blackwater employees, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Four former executives described the plan under the condition of anonymity, the newspaper said.

Iraqis had long complained about ground operations by the North Carolina-based company, now known as Xe Corp. Then the shooting by Blackwater guards in Baghdad's Nisoor Square in September 2007 left 17 civilians dead, further strained relations between Baghdad and Washington and led U.S. prosecutors to bring charges against the Blackwater contractors involved.

The State Department has since turned to DynCorp and another private security firm, Triple Canopy, to handle diplomatic protective services in the country. But Xe continues to provide security for diplomats in other nations, most notably in Afghanistan.

The former executives told the Times that the payments were approved by the company's then-president, Gary Jackson. They did not know if he came up with the idea.

It's also not clear whether the payments were actually delivered, or which Iraqi officials were intended to receive them. Any payments would have been illegal under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans bribes to foreign officials. The company has paid legitimate compensation to several victims of the shootings, the Times reported.

'Baseless allegations'
Two of the former executives said they were directly involved in discussions about paying Iraqi officials, and the other two said they were told about the discussions by others at Blackwater.

Jackson, who resigned as president of Blackwater early this year, criticized the newspaper when reached by phone and said, "I don't care what you write."

Xe spokesman Mark Corallo said the company disputes "these baseless allegations" and had no comment on former employees.

The plan to pay Iraqi officials caused a rift within the company, the former executives said.

They said ex-Blackwater vice chairman Cofer Black, a former top CIA and State Department official, learned of the plan while in Baghdad discussing compensation with U.S. Embassy officials. The sources said he confronted Prince, who acknowledged the plan, and Black resigned the next year.

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Video: Report: Blackwater bought Iraqi silence

But in a statement to The Associated Press late Tuesday, Black said he never confronted Prince "or any other Blackwater official regarding any allegations of bribing Iraqi officials and was unaware of any plot or guidance for Blackwater to bribe Iraqi officials."

Five Blackwater guards involved in the Nisoor Square shooting are scheduled to face trial on federal manslaughter charges in February in Washington. A sixth guard pleaded guilty in December. Iraqi victims are also suing the company and its founder, Erik Prince.

The Iraqi government suspended the firm's license after the shooting and demanded that Blackwater be expelled from the country within six months. Iraqi authorities denied Xe an operating license in early 2009, but the company has continued to have some presence in the country. In September, the State Department announced it had extended a contract with a Xe subsidiary to provide air support for protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq.

A wide-ranging federal grand jury investigation is being conducted on Xe's operations. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh declined to comment to the Times on the probe and did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday evening by The Associated Press.

Several former Blackwater employees told the Times they have been interviewed by prosecutors or the grand jury on various topics, including alleged weapons smuggling. Two former employees have pleaded guilty to weapons charges and are believed to be cooperating with prosecutors.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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