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Hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee - Blackwater USA's Iraq Mission

Interview

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee - Blackwater USA's Iraq Mission

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

REP. JIM COOPER (D-TN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I took my 88- year-old mother to the movies the other day. We saw a movie called, "No End in Sight" -- it's really more of a documentary than a movie. In the middle of it they say that, "the following footage was filmed by a U.S. security contractor and he, or she, set the film footage to their own music," so sounds like MTV -- driving, rock music. But the video footage is truly startling. It's shooting up cars -- apparently on a street in Baghdad, killing civilians -- to this driving, rock music.

Is the State Department aware of this film? Or have you made enquiries as to which contractor, employee, or independent contractor shot this footage?

MR. GRIFFIN (?): No, I'm not familiar with the footage.

REP. COOPER: And you're not familiar with the fact that it's being shown all over America?

MR. GRIFFIN (?): I'm not familiar with the footage.

REP. COOPER: Ambassador Satterfield -- same answer?

MR. SATTERFIELD: I'm aware of that footage. It's outrageous. The U.S. government responded in just that fashion at the time it was initially circulated, I believe that was some years ago. It may be featured in a movie today, but the film footage is not new. It does not reflect, in any way, the standards of conduct that are prescribed by our regional security office on the operation of any private security contractor, operating in Iraq -- not today and not then.

REP. COOPER: So you've not seen it, but you know it's not true.

MR. SATTERFIELD: I have seen that footage.

REP. COOPER: Well, Mr. Ambassador, you say in your testimony, "In those rare instances when security contractors must use force, management officials at the embassy conduct a thorough review to ensure that proper procedures were followed. Ambassador Negroponte testified something similar just days ago.

The committee tried to find out about an incident that happened on November 28, 2005. That's when a Blackwater convoy deliberately smashed into 18 different cars en route to and from the Ministry of Oil. Blackwater's own internal memo on the incident said that Blackwater's tactical commander on that mission, quote "Gave clear direction to the primary driver to conduct to these acts of random negligence, for no apparent reason," end of quote.

We have the Blackwater memo right here, the Blackwater aviation team that was accompanying the convoy pointed out the problems. It also says that when Blackwater officials responsible were questioned about this incident, they gave statements -- official statements -- that your own employees said were, quote, "deemed to be invalid, inaccurate, and at best dishonest reporting."

Okay, so we got a problem here, and the State Department investigates the problem. Well, when the committee asked the State Department about this incident, we got no response. So we don't know whether that means you investigated it and won't tell us or you didn't investigate it. Which is it?

MR. GRIFFIN: There were a number of incidents that the committee requested reports on six days ago. I regret that we were unable to pull all those reports together in time for the hearing. We will certainly provide those reports for the record.

REP. COOPER: We requested this in March this year, so it's been more like six months than six days. Are you saying that Blackwater's recordkeeping is better than yours?

MR. GRIFFIN: No, I'm saying that there were a number of other requests made six days ago, and I don't have instant recall of all of them, but we will certainly get a report to you about this particular incident.

REP. COOPER: Another question. Blackwater testified they've tried -- hired away a number of military personnel, and Secretary Gates is even worried about that and has talked about non-compete agreements. How many diplomatic security folks have they hired away?

MR. GRIFFIN: I'm not aware that they've hired any.

REP. COOPER: Do you take that as an insult they don't covet your employees?

MR. GRIFFIN: No.

REP. COOPER: Do you take it as an insult that we have to have extra help in so many places around the world, including Haiti? Are you not training your folks up to that level?

MR. GRIFFIN: I take that as an indicator of the environment that we're operating in in a number of posts around the world.

REP. COOPER: Have you requested the money or the training or the resources to train your people up to the level that we need them in Jerusalem and Port-au-Prince, Kabul and Baghdad and Basra and lots of places around the world?

MR. GRIFFIN: My people have the training necessary to work in those areas, and they are working there. But we don't have the numbers of people that it would take to fully staff all of those operations, and we don't have all of the various areas of expertise as I mentioned, such as helicopter pilots and medics and armorers and mechanics, et cetera.

REP. COOPER: Have you asked for the additional resources so that you could augment your forces to meet the mission in those areas?

MR. GRIFFIN: We have requested additional resources. But again, the question includes whether or not you hire a full-time government employee who is an employee for 25 or 30 years when the mission might only last two years. So certainly, you know, there's a middle ground somewhere.

REP. COOPER: So the State Department is saying we're exiting from Iraq in two years?

MR. GRIFFIN: No, I'm just saying it's that we have deployed in other places going back to 1994, and certainly at the beginning of a mission it's hard to predict exactly how long the operation will go on, but that we have operated in a number of different countries using these protective security specialists.

REP. WAXMAN: Gentleman's time has expired.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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