As Iraq descends into civil war and as four former Blackwater employees stand trial in New York for alleged crimes related to a September 2007 civilian massacre in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, the State Department has released documents from a 2007 report by Deputy Division Chief Jean Richter containing explosive allegations against the private defense firm. According to The New York Times, Jean Richter was sent to Iraq in August of that year to investigate reports that the contracting firm Blackwater had failed in its duties to provide quality food and sanitation systems for US soldiers serving at a base in the war-torn nation.
Upon arrival, Richter asked Blackwater official Daniel Carroll, the project manager in charge of the camp suffering from inadequate facilities, why the firm had failed to respond to complaints regarding dining conditions that were affecting troop morale. Said Richter in his statement about the meeting, “In his response to my inquiries, Mr. Carroll claimed that the WPPS II Camp Baghdad was not technically Department of State property and therefore not under Chief of Mission (COM) Authority. Mr. Carroll accentuated this point by stating that he could ‘kill me’ at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq. A second individual present, Mr. Donald Thomas, then made a remark that compared the lawless working environment in Iraq to the ‘OK corral.'”
American embassy officials then took to Blackwater’s defense and ordered the State Department investigators to leave Iraq, complaining that the investigation had hampered the embassy’s relationship with the private contracting firm. Upon returning to the US, Jean Richter penned the highly-critical report which has just recently surfaced, noting the fact that the US government was losing control over Blackwater’s activities. Richter said in his statement, “The management structures in place to manage and monitor our contracts in Iraq have become subservient to the contractors themselves.” Going further, Richter said, “To me, it was immediately apparent that the Blackwater contractors believed that they were the de facto authority and acted accordingly, in an alarming manner.”
Just weeks after Richter sounded the alarm about corruption in the relationship between the State Department and Blackwater, the firm was implicated in the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians in the massacre at Nisour Square, which severely hampered the intended US mission in Iraq, ultimately crushing any chances that Iraqis would sign on to allow US forces to remain in the area after 2011. Blackwater employees have also been accused of widespread wrongdoing, ranging from the killing of civilians, heavy drinking, and an incident in which inebriated contractors wrecked a $180,000 vehicle while enroute to a party. Contractors were also using weapons which they were not certified to use, changing security policies without State Department approval, and allowing equipment to fall into disrepair, risking the lives of US diplomats and negatively affecting the living conditions and morale of US soldiers.
In October of 2007, following the Nisour Square massacre, the State Department interviewed Richter and another investigator, Daniel Thomas, Jr., who had witnessed the implied death threat, but ultimately took no other action in response to the allegations. As an added note, Russell Brandom, a writer for The Verge, pointed out on Twitter that “the Obama Administration is actively trying to imprison” James Risen, the author of the piece from The New York Times that originally sourced Richter’s statement about Blackwater. In 2009, Blackwater rebranded itself as “Xe” and was sold in 2011 to investors who renamed the company “Academi.”