Posts Tagged Nisour Square

Legal News: Erik Prince Statement On Raven23 Court Of Appeals Ruling

     I am heartened by the Court of Appeals ruling today and am grateful the Court finally recognized the unique nature of a Blackwater Contractor’s relationship with the federal government. These men volunteered to serve their country in deadly environments not once, but twice. Each of them served in the Armed Forces, then volunteered to serve again as contracted security professionals. They served our nation with distinction and have always deserved better treatment. At trial, the US Attorney steadfastly maintained that our men initiated the firefight in Nisour Square without provocation. I was shocked when the US Attorney finally admitted, on the record, that was not the case. I hope the attorneys who appear to have deliberately misrepresented the evidence before the trial court face investigation and appropriate disciplinary action. -Erik Prince

Folks, this is hopeful news and that statement up top is an exclusive statement from Erik Prince for the Feral Jundi readership. I also posted a statement below from the Free Raven23 Facebook Page below. That page is managed by the friends and family of these men. Below that, I was also able to get a statement from Christin Caveness Slough.

My own commentary on this is that this whole deal has been incredibly political and these men have suffered because of that. This is also significant to the discourse out there, because every article or book or commentary that references the Nisour Square incident, will now have to include this history. That is if they care about the truth, or telling the whole story. –Matt

PLEASE READ ALL AND SHARE!

We received a decision today. It is not true justice, but it is a SMALL step closer to reuniting our families. But we have a LONG road to go and humbly ask for your prayers.
Nick’s conviction was overturned (because his jury did not hear evidence of his innocence), but the government has the ability to retry him. We don’t yet know if that will happen, how long it will take to decide, or what will happen to Nick during the interim (kept in custody or released).
One of Evan’s convictions was overturned.
He, Paul, and Dustin will be re-sentenced due to the misapplication of the federal weapons law to secure their 30-year mandatory minimum sentences. We don’t yet know when their resentencing will be held.
We need prayer warriors more than ever:
(1) release and no retrial for Nick; and (2) time served at re-sentencing for Dustin, Evan, and Paul SOON. 

Free Raven 23 website here.
Free Raven 23 Facebook Page here.

Christin Cavness Slough statement.

While I am thrilled that Nick Slatten’s completely erroneous conviction has been vacated, the remaining convictions being upheld is why I no longer trust, or respect, our federal judicial system. There was an opportunity here for the court to finally show that it could deliver justice within the clearly framed boundaries of the law and failed to even issue a coherent or unified opinion. It is an additional small victory that the court finally recognizes that the federal weapons law, used to force 30 year mandatory minimum sentences, was woefully misapplied however calling it a tragedy that it was applied in the first place would be a gross understatement. We remain hopeful that all four of these men will be home where they belong sooner rather than later, but this was not the firm step in that direction that we had hoped or that the law required.

Ex-Blackwater contractor gets murder conviction tossed by federal appeals court
August 04, 2017

A federal appeals court Friday overturned a former Blackwater security contractor’s first-degree murder conviction in connection with a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that killed 14 Iraqi civilians and injured 17 others.
In a split decision, the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit ruled a lower court erred by not allowing Nicholas Slatten to be tried separately from his three co-defendants in 2014.
Slatten, 33, had been sentenced to life in prison for his role in the shooting, in which prosecutors claimed he had fired the first shots.
The court also ordered new sentences for the three other contractors — Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Herd — who were each found guilty of manslaughter and firearms charges carrying mandatory 30-year terms.
The judges determined those sentences were “grossly disproportionate to their culpability for using government-issued weapons in a war-zone.” Prosecutors had charged the men with using military firearms while committing another felony. That statute, typically employed against gang members or bank robbers, had never before been used against overseas security contractors working for the U.S. government.
It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors planned to try Slatten again for murder.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is reviewing the opinion and has no further comment at this time,” spokesman William Miller told Fox News
At the weeks long trial three years ago, federal prosecutors and defense lawyers presented very different versions of what triggered the September 2007 massacre in Nisour Square.
The government described the killings as a one-sided ambush of unarmed civilians, while the defense said the guards opened fire only after a white Kia sedan seen as a potential suicide car bomb began moving quickly toward their convoy. After the shooting stopped, no evidence of a bomb was found.
In issuing their ruling benefiting the defendants, the judges said they were in no way excusing the horror of events they said “defies civilized description.”
“In reaching this conclusion, we by no means intend to minimize the carnage attributable to Slough, Heard and Liberty’s actions,” said U.S. Circuit Judge Karen L. Henderson, writing for the court. “Their poor judgments resulted in the deaths of many innocent people.”
Fox News’ Jake Gibson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Story here.

 

 

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Legal News: Free Raven 23

Well it is good to be back home and I have been playing catch up on the latest news coming from the PMSC world.  On Facebook and Linkedin I have been able to connect with lots of great people and friends, and I have been getting some outstanding information from the community.

For my first post on the blog I found this outstanding organization being run by the friends and family of Raven 23 and I wanted to get their message out there. For those that do not know who Raven 23 are, here is a quick run down of what happened to them from their support website.

Paul Slough, Dustin Heard, Nick Slatten and Evan Liberty set out with 15 of their Blackwater teammates as part of Tactical Support Team Raven 23, to secure a busy square in Baghdad’s Red Zone. Blackwater, under contract with the U.S. Department of State, was responsible (among other things) for diplomatic security in the country of Iraq.

Raven 23 was responding to a distress call from another team which had been attacked on venue. In the distance, they could see the large plume of black smoke where a VBIED (vehicle-born improvised explosive device) had been detonated. They were to secure a route of egress through Nisour Square, which was a task they had completed numerous times previously; a seemingly straightforward task. Unfortunately, things haven’t been straightforward since.

After all four vehicles in the convoy had taken up their positions in the square, a white Kia lurched out of stopped traffic towards the convoy, and the security team used escalating force to stop the vehicle. They had to consider the risk of this vehicle also being a VBIED very seriously, as coordinated attacks were on the rise. There was a pattern developing where enemy forces would make an attack for the sole purpose of perpetrating a second, larger attack on responding forces. Eight team members, not including the four defendants, testified that they either perceived the white Kia to be a threat, or that they agreed that from other points of view in the convoy that it could be perceived a threat. No one should have been convicted of anything related to the white Kia based on this testimony alone, but that is only a fraction of the story.

The four vehicles were set up in a moon shape stretching along the southern side of the traffic circle. The third vehicle (the Command Vehicle), which contained three of the defendants (Liberty, Slatten & Slough) was facing directly into the south of the square, broadside to all oncoming traffic in that direction.

Almost simultaneously to the white Kia threat, the convoy began receiving incoming small arms fire (AK-47), disabling the Command Vehicle which subsequently had to be towed. The side of the vehicle was pock marked by the incoming fire, and a teammate in the vehicle behind began yelling that they were taking contact (fire) from people dressed as Iraqi Police. Whether or not they were actually employed as Iraqi Police we will never know, as IP uniforms are as readily available in the street markets of Iraq as fake designer bags are on the side streets of Washington, D.C.

All of the incoming fire, and the fact that it was coming from people dressed as Iraqi Police, was documented on the team’s contact logs. To believe that the team was not under attack would be to believe that multiple individuals either scripted the entire thing in advance or that they ad-libbed an entire attack while simultaneously participating in a one-sided gunfight, both of which are entirely ludicrous, and contrary to eyewitness testimony and physical evidence.

A complicated firefight ensued as the team hooked up a tow rope from one vehicle to the other, and tried to exit the circle to the north. The exit was made even more complicated by the fact that part of the circle was closed to traffic due to repairs being made from a VBIED just a few months prior. Eventually, almost ten minutes later, the team was able to exit the circle and return to the Green Zone.

What I wanted to share was the touching and impactful video that the friends and family put together, to present their side of the case.  To highlight the politics, and the inconsistencies presented by the prosecution. The full weight and force of the US government legal system was brought to bear on these men, and I feel it is only right to present their side of the whole deal.

If you feel like supporting Free Raven 23, I have provided some links to their website and FB page. From there you can sign petitions and donate money to help out the families.  –Matt

 


 

Website for Free Raven 23 here.

Facebook page for Free Raven 23 here.

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Publications: State Department’s QDDR And Private Security Contractors

The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) is a sweeping assessment of how the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) can become more efficient, accountable, and effective in a world in which rising powers, growing instability, and technological transformation create new threats, but also new opportunities. At its core the QDDR provides a blueprint for elevating American “civilian power” to better advance our national interests and to be a better partner to the U.S. military. Leading through civilian power means directing and coordinating the resources of all America’s civilian agencies to prevent and resolve conflicts; help countries lift themselves out of poverty into prosperous, stable, and democratic states; and build global coalitions to address global problems.

I just went through the QDDR and tried to find all the parts that talked about security contractors. They talk about contractors in general, and from what I gather there really isn’t anything new or radical about DoS’s position. They still want to use more federal civilians to do this work or to supervise contractors, and they want to increase and improve upon contractor oversight. And I think they are doing that. Hell, they have plenty of reports and lessons learned to go off of.

What is important to point out though is that State is wanting to do more forward looking and strategic planning, just so budgeting could reflect that. That is good, because companies can then plan accordingly for that kind of strategic planning. It adds more stability to the process, and it allows companies to better prepare for what State or USAID really need.

Along those lines, I posted a brief introduction to State’s new bureau below. It is called the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations or CSO. This is the group that will:

-Get ahead of change. While the scale and types of future crises cannot be predicted, the complex nature and cascading effects of 21st century challenges require a more forward-looking State Department. CSO will support the State Department’s ability to anticipate major security challenges by providing timely, operational solutions.

-Drive an integrated response. CSO will build integrated approaches to conflict prevention and stabilization by linking analysis, planning, resources, operational solutions, and active learning and training. The bureau will call on its civilian responders to deploy in a timely manner to areas of instability in order to bring the right mix of expertise to each unique situation.

-Leverage partnerships. CSO will work with a range of non-governmental and international partners to prevent conflict, address sources of violence, build on existing resiliencies, and promote burden-sharing. In particular, CSO will encourage greater involvement of local civil society – including women, youth, and the media – to prevent and respond to conflict.

State has also recognized that we are experiencing a very fast moving and complex world environment right now. The Arab Spring, the global economy, wars, and revolutions in the various countries of the middle east and world are opening new opportunities for the US government. It takes a flexible ‘smart power’ approach to take advantage of that. Contractors are a big part of that flexible smart power approach.

We are also crucial to filling vacuums of capability and security. Iraq is a prime example. Because of politics in Iraq and in the US, US troops are no longer welcome. But in order to insure our investment of blood and treasure in Iraq doesn’t go to waste, and for our strategic interest in the region to continue to be met, it is vital to maintain a presence and apply that smart power there. DoS used to rely on a combination of the military and their security contractors to provide the security necessary to perform their diplomatic missions outpost security. Now security contractors, with Diplomatic Security personnel managing that effort, will have to accomplish the task. And the insurgency in Iraq is still active, and Iran is still supplying weapons to opposition groups. In other words, the troops might be gone, but the danger of attacks are still there.

As to interesting points about private security contractors, I thought this one was interesting:

-Video recording systems and tracking systems installed in vehicles.

I just think it is very interesting that Erik Prince was pushing for video cameras in the vehicles, way before the Nisour Square incident, and State fought that. Now of course, video cameras in vehicles is policy. Which is great, because now there will be an official video record that can be presented in regards to the performance, good or bad, of a security contractor and their team. The video does not lie, and it will eliminate the ‘he said, she said’ game. Plus it will help in a court of law, much like how they are used in law enforcement.

And in a world where security contractors can easily be thrown under the bus based on politics or whatever, a tape of an incident could make all the difference in proving a security contractors actions were sound and based on a solid threat. Or to prove that ‘yes, the motorcade was fired upon first, and here is the video to prove it’. A tape can also help to get rid of poor contractors, or can add a better picture of the incident for an after action review. Although we will see how it is used, good or bad, and only time will tell.

Which brings me to my next point. I know how important these guys are, everyone in this industry knows how important security contractors are, and State/USAID knows just how important we are. Too bad the public doesn’t know this, because no one in State or USAID promotes how important we are to the press or public? A great example was the silence from DoS about the whole Kabul Embassy attack?  Contractors definitely saved the day there, but the public hasn’t a clue about that performance or effort.

I guess Secretary Clinton’s new policy on armed guards on boats is a start, but I definitely would like to see these agencies give more of an effort to recognize the good efforts and sacrifice of the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend them? Or at least acknowledge just how important we really are to their mission and strategic goals? – Matt

 

From the QDDR on Private Security Contractors
Enhance and improve private security contractor oversight and accountability.
State uses private security contractors to help meet the extraordinary security requirements in critical threat and non-permissive environments.  Through operational changes already implemented and an examination conducted as part of the QDDR, State is ensuring proper management, oversight, and operational control of the private security contractors we deploy overseas.  We institutionalized many of these changes through the new Worldwide Protective Services contract awarded in September 2010, which incorporates lessons learned to ensure that private security contractors perform their requirements in a professional, responsible, culturally sensitive, and cost effective manner.  Specific steps we have taken include:
Ensuring professionalism and responsibility through improved direct oversight of security contractor personnel:
-Direct hire Diplomatic Security personnel directly supervise protective motorcades;
-Diplomatic Security personnel reside at off-site residential camps in Afghanistan;
-Revised mission firearms policies strengthen rules on the use of force and new less-than-lethal equipment fielded to minimize the need for deadly force; and
-Video recording systems and tracking systems installed in vehicles.
Improving the image of the security footprint through enhanced cultural sensitivity:
-Mandatory cultural awareness training for all security contractors prior to deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan;
-Revised standards of conduct, including a ban on alcohol; and
-Interpreters included in protective security details.
Achieving greater efficiencies through new contract terms:
-One set of terms and conditions, enhancing the ability to provide appropriate and consistent oversight;
-Reduced acquisition timelines;
-Larger number of qualified base contract holders, thereby increasing competition and controlling costs;
-Timely options in the event a company fails to perform;
-More efficient program management compared to multiple, stand-alone contracts; and
-Computerized tracking of contractor personnel to aid in reviewing personnel rosters used to support labor invoices.
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Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations
The Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) advances U.S. national security by driving integrated, civilian-led efforts to prevent, respond to, and stabilize crises in priority states, setting conditions for long-term peace.

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Iraq: Civilians To Take US Lead After Military Leaves Iraq

One American official said that more than 1,200 specific tasks carried out by the American military in Iraq had been identified to be handed over to the civilians, transferred to the Iraqis or phased out.

To move around Iraq without United States troops, the State Department plans to acquire 60 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, called MRAPs, from the Pentagon; expand its inventory of armored cars to 1,320; and create a mini-air fleet by buying three planes to add to its lone aircraft. Its helicopter fleet, which will be piloted by contractors, will grow to 29 choppers from 17.

The department’s plans to rely on 6,000 to 7,000 security contractors, who are also expected to form “quick reaction forces” to rescue civilians in trouble, is a sensitive issue, given Iraqi fury about shootings of civilians by American private guards in recent years. Administration officials said that security contractors would have no special immunity and would be required to register with the Iraqi government. In addition, one of the State Department’s regional security officers, agents who oversee security at diplomatic outposts, will be required to approve and accompany every civilian convoy, providing additional oversight.

*****

     I wanted to cut this portion out for the reader to focus in on. Does anyone see the possibility here for some real problems if the insurgents in Iraq wanted to target this ‘civilian leadership’ specifically? There is the potential here for multiple ‘Nisour Square‘ scenarios, because it will be this heavy duty contractor army that will be engaging with insurgents if they atttack. And no doubt, the bad guys will love to start a fight in highly populated areas, much like they did with the Nisour Square ambush.

     What I would like to hear is if State will stand by this ‘contractor army’ they have created, if in fact they had to actually use their weapons? I mean, you guys are arming them and giving them all of this military hardware to use? Because as much as the media, DoS, Iraq and the entire world would like to believe, civilian casualties happen in war zones, or non-permissive environments. (whatever we want to call Iraq now) It is unfortunate, but they happen. No one plans on a tragedy like this happening, except for the enemy.

     Of course no one wakes up one day and says ‘I want to kill civilians’, except for the enemy. When these types of incidents happen, it is extremely damaging to the psyche and to the morale of all involved. It is avoided at all costs, but sometimes this stuff happens. So that is why I continue to ask this question of ‘if you are going to ask these men to protect you in Iraq, and they have to use deadly force, are you going to back them up if they actually kill someone?’. Worse yet, are you guys going to back them up if a stray bullet in that fire fight accidently kills a civilian? Or will you be throwing your heroes into an Iraqi or American prison, for an accident they had no intention of committing?

     Finally, as the combat troops leave, and the ‘civilians’ take over, the realities of this war zone are still there. Only when the enemy has lost the will to fight, can you truly say the war is over. So in my mind, I totally think that Al Qaeda and company or any of the Iranian backed groups will continue to cause problems. Not only for Iraq, but for this civilian leadership and cadre left in Iraq. Contractors will be using military hardware like MRAPs and Blackhawk Helicopters, and taking over the various 1,200 military tasks in the country, but will they get the same treatment and legal protections that the military had when they were in Iraq? Because I certainly would hate to see contractors being thrown under the bus, like what happened with Xe, just for trying to do their job in a war zone. –Matt

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Civilians to Take U.S. Lead After Military Leaves Iraq

By MICHAEL R. GORDON

August 18, 2010

WASHINGTON — As the United States military prepares to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, the Obama administration is planning a remarkable civilian effort, buttressed by a small army of contractors, to fill the void.

By October 2011, the State Department will assume responsibility for training the Iraqi police, a task that will largely be carried out by contractors. With no American soldiers to defuse sectarian tensions in northern Iraq, it will be up to American diplomats in two new $100 million outposts to head off potential confrontations between the Iraqi Army and Kurdish pesh merga forces.

To protect the civilians in a country that is still home to insurgents with Al Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias, the State Department is planning to more than double its private security guards, up to as many as 7,000, according to administration officials who disclosed new details of the plan. Defending five fortified compounds across the country, the security contractors would operate radars to warn of enemy rocket attacks, search for roadside bombs, fly reconnaissance drones and even staff quick reaction forces to aid civilians in distress, the officials said.

“I don’t think State has ever operated on its own, independent of the U.S. military, in an environment that is quite as threatening on such a large scale,” said James Dobbins, a former ambassador who has seen his share of trouble spots as a special envoy for Afghanistan, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo and Somalia. “It is unprecedented in scale.”

White House officials expressed confidence that the transfer to civilians — about 2,400 people who would work at the Baghdad embassy and other diplomatic sites — would be carried out on schedule, and that they could fulfill their mission of helping bring stability to Iraq.

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Legal News: U.S. Appeals Ruling In Blackwater Case That Involved A Baghdad Shooting

   This was expected.  Hell, even the Vice President of United States was all over this.

   Although I tend to think that if prosecutors could not win this thing while violating the constitutional rights of these individuals, I don’t think they will be able to do much with some other angle.  Politically it looks great and helps to appease Iraq, but legally speaking? Whatever.

   Why not appeal some rulings on some military cases as well? Lots of political capital there and why stop at contractors? I am sure we could find some soldiers that accidently killed some civilians in Iraq during some fire fight, and I am sure those families would love to sue those soldiers or see them hang? –Matt

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U.S. appeals ruling in Blackwater case that involved a Baghdad shooting

Saturday, January 30, 2010

U.S. appeals ruling in Blackwater case

The U.S. government appealed a ruling by a federal judge that threw out all charges against five Blackwater Worldwide security guards in a Baghdad shooting.

Prosecutors have said the guards killed 14 Iraqi civilians and wounded 20 others in an unprovoked attack in Nisoor Square on Sept. 16, 2007.

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Legal News: The Real Blackwater Scandal–Prosecutorial Abuse

The judge calls it “the government’s reckless violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights.” 

*****

   Finally, some push back.  This thing was highly politicized from the beginning, and the DoJ was right in there, thinking of anything they could possible do to get these guys.

   So we take a giant crap on the Marines at Haditha, or the Navy SEALs who gave a terrorist a fat lip, or the Blackwater guards who were fighting for their lives in a firefight in Iraq that resulted in civilian casualties, and yet we release hundreds of detainees from Gitmo because of a lack of evidence during their capture on the battlefield? Pfffft. The enemy is laughing at us. –Matt

Edit: 01/07/2010 – And the Washington Post weighs in with a similar theme. Judge Made The Right Call In Blackwater Case 

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The Real Blackwater Scandal

JANUARY 3, 2010

Another example of prosecutorial abuse in a political case.

No, not as the left would have it, that Blackwater still exists. The scandal is that the Justice Department’s case against five former security guards for the military contractor unraveled late last week in what appears to be another instance of gross prosecutorial misconduct, as abusive Justice lawyers went after an unsympathetic political target.

The indictments—which were thrown out by D.C. District Judge Ricardo Urbina in a derisive and detailed 90-page opinion—stemmed from a 2007 firefight in Baghdad’s Nisour Square that left 14 Iraqis dead and others wounded. The government contends that five Blackwater guards, who were providing tactical support for the State Department after an IED exploded in the vicinity of a meeting with Iraqi officials, went on an unprovoked killing spree against unarmed civilians. The guards maintain that they came under attack by insurgents and were responding in self-defense to a mortal threat.

Judge Urbina dismissed the charges because prosecutors misused sworn statements the guards were compelled to make to investigators after the shooting, under the threat of job loss. This was routine practice under military contracting rules, though the statements could not be used in criminal prosecutions. Promptly after the Nisour incident these statements were also leaked to the media, which ran with the narrative of modern-day Hessians gone berserk.

“In their zeal to bring charges against the defendants in this case,” Judge Urbina ruled, prosecutors had violated Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination by using these compelled statements to formulate their case and ultimately obtain indictments against the guards. The judge calls it “the government’s reckless violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights.”

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