It's one thing when some left-wing congressman from Vermont starts yapping about Blackwater in an effort to score some cheap political points against President Bush. It's another thing entirely when the Federal Bureau of Investigations finds that 14 of 17 contractor shootings in Iraq were unjustified. This should raise some difficult questions -- even for Abu Muqawama's legions of Blackwater-defenders -- because, keep in mind, the big picture here is the ongoing counterinsurgency effort in Iraq. And these shootings, well, don't help that at all.
WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 — Federal agents investigating the Sept. 16 episode in which Blackwater security personnel shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians have found that at least 14 of the shootings were unjustified and violated deadly-force rules in effect for security contractors in Iraq, according to civilian and military officials briefed on the case.
The F.B.I. investigation into the shootings in Baghdad is still under way, but the findings, which indicate that the company’s employees recklessly used lethal force, are already under review by the Justice Department.
Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to seek indictments, and some officials have expressed pessimism that adequate criminal laws exist to enable them to charge any Blackwater employee with criminal wrongdoing. Spokesmen for the Justice Department and the F.B.I. declined to discuss the matter.
The case could be one of the first thorny issues to be decided by Michael B. Mukasey, who was sworn in as attorney general last week. He may be faced with a decision to turn down a prosecution on legal grounds at a time when a furor has erupted in Congress about the administration’s failure to hold security contractors accountable for their misdeeds.
Representative David E. Price, a North Carolina Democrat who has sponsored legislation to extend American criminal law to contractors serving overseas, said the Justice Department must hold someone accountable for the shootings.