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Scahill on Blackwater

Fresh off the latest revelation that the CIA contracted Blackwater for an assassination effort, here’s Jeremy Scahill, Blackwater’s most dogged pursuer, writing in The Nation to remind people about the breadth of the private military firm’s relationship with the agency. This quote in particular helps explain some of the legal backstory I wrote about earlier today:

“What the agency was doing with Blackwater scares the hell out of me,” said Jack Rice, a former CIA field operator who worked for the directorate of operations, which runs covert paramilitary activities for the CIA. “When the agency actually cedes all oversight and power to a private organization, an organization like Blackwater, most importantly they lose control and don’t understand what’s going on,” Rice told The Nation. “What makes it even worse is that you then can turn around and have deniability. They can say, ‘It wasn’t us, we weren’t the ones making the decisions.’ That’s the best of both worlds. It’s analogous to what we hear about torture that was being done in the name of Americans, when we simply handed somebody over to the Syrians or the Egyptians or others and then we turn around and say, ‘We’re not torturing people.’”

But perhaps the most rococo aspect of Scahill’s piece is unrelated to the assassination program. In a federal court case brought by family members of the victims in Blackwater’s 2007 shootings in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, the company is asking the Justice Department to view the U.S. government, and not Blackwater, as the real defendant in the case.

In his motion, Blackwater lawyer Peter White of the powerhouse firm Mayer Brown argued that the company was working for the State Department in Iraq and therefore was on official business when the alleged killings and injuries of Iraqis took place. White cites the 1988 Westfall Act, which prohibits suits against government employees for their actions on behalf of the government and states that the government will assume liability for any lawsuits against employees.

I went into the wrong business.

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