Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blackwater Bribes

On September 16, 2007, employees of the private military corporation Blackwater (now called Xe Services) shot and killed seventeen Iraqis in Baghdad. In a tragic episode, Blackwater employees began firing at Iraqis in response to gunfire that American officials say came from other members of their own unit. An FBI investigation determined that at least fourteen of the deaths involved unjustified killings. Last December, five Blackwater employees were charged with manslaughter in connection with the case; all pleaded not guilty. A sixth employee, also charged with manslaughter, pleaded guilty.

Today the New York Times reports that four former executives at Xe Services allege that the company approved $1 million for secret payments to Iraqi government officials in an effort to calm the furor over the 2007 killings. If payments of this nature were in fact made, they would constitute a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars the payment of bribes by American companies to foreign officials.

Xe Services was denied a license to operate in Iraq in January 2009, forcing the State Department to terminate its $1 billion security contract with the company.