Hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform - Blackwater USA; Private Security Contracting in Iraq & Afghanistan
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REP. STEPHEN LYNCH (D-MA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I want to thank the witness for his perseverance here today and for helping the committee with its work.
We've heard a lot today about the loss of accountability when an inherent government function -- in this case, duties that are incidental to the prosecution of law -- are subcontracted out to private entities. And as Mr. Shays and Mr. Platts have mentioned earlier -- my Republican colleagues -- I also have had an opportunity to view firsthand, on more than a few occasions, the work of Blackwater employees. I would guess that in the dozen or so occasions when I've traveled with my colleagues to Iraq and Afghanistan -- your area of operation, principally -- I would bet at least half of those times, for at least a portion of our time there, we've been protected by Blackwater employees. And based on my own personal experience, I have to say, from personally what I have seen and what I have experienced, those people who were protecting us who were Blackwater employees did a very, very good job. I have to give you credit for that. They are brave employees -- brave Americans in a very hostile environment.
And I find myself right now at this committee having a difficult time criticizing those employees, because I am in their debt. You know, that's a very hostile environment and they do a good job on our behalf, which brings me to my problem: If I have a problem criticizing Blackwater and criticizing the employees and some of the times that you've fouled up, what about the State Department? The State Department employees -- you protect them every single day. You protect their physical wellbeing, you transport them, you escort them. And I'm sure there is a heavy debt of gratitude on the part of the State Department for your service, and yet they are the very same people who are in our system responsible for holding you accountable in every respect with your contract and the conduct of your employees. And I know from my own experience in the time there that that's an impossible conflict for them to resolve.
And I have here in my possession -- and I'm going ask them to be entered into the record in a minute -- some internal e-mails from the State Department. And these documents that the committee's received raise questions, again, about the State Department's oversight of Blackwater's activities under the contract. Even in the cases involving the death of Iraqis, it appears that the State Department's primary response was to ask Blackwater to make monetary payments to, quote-unquote -- this is from the e-mails -- "to put these matters behind us" -- these are the death of Iraqi civilians -- rather than to insist upon accountability or to investigate Blackwater personnel for potential criminal liability. The most serious consequence faced by a Blackwater personnel for misconduct appears to be termination of their employment.
And even though Secretary of State John Negroponte asserted that every incident in which Blackwater fires its weapon is, quote, "reviewed by management officials to ensure the procedures were followed," the documents that we have before the committee don't indicate that. I do have some e-mails, though. And this one is dated -- I'll ask these to be entered into the record, Mr. Chairman.
REP. WAXMAN: Without objection, so ordered.
REP. LYNCH: This is July 1st, 2005 from RSO Al-Hillah. This is a situation where Blackwater personnel fired and killed. It says, "This morning I met with the brothers of an adult Iraqi male who was killed by a gunshot to the chest at the time and location where the PSD -- in this case Blackwater -- team fired shots in Al-Hillah on Saturday, June 25th, 2005. The gentleman in question was killed." And then it says, "Gentlemen, allow me to second the comments on the need for Blackwater to provide funds ASAP for all the reasons enunciated in the past. We are better off getting this case and any similar cases behind us quickly. Again, the Department of State needs to promptly approve and fund an expedited means of handling these situations. Thanks." And it mentioned $5,000 for the family there.
Again, another e-mail dated December 26th, 2006 and it says -- this is again a situation where a Blackwater personnel killed an individual civilian, innocently standing near an area where the convoy was traveling. It criticizes the way the charge d'affaires was talking about, quote, "some crazy sums. Originally she mentioned 250,000 (dollars) and later 100,000 (dollars). Of course, I think that a sum this high will set a terrible precedent. This could cause incidents with people trying to get killed by our guys to financially guarantee their family's future."
REP. WAXMAN: The gentleman's time is expired.
REP. LYNCH: Yeah, I'm going to wrap up here. And again, I'm going to ask these to be placed in the record.
The question is, based on that arrangement --
REP. WAXMAN: I'm afraid the gentleman's time is expired.
REP. LYNCH: Does it not make sense that an independent inspector general, instead of the State Department inspector general, review these? I mean, I think it would help the credibility of the company to have an independent inspector general reviewing these cases instead of having the State Department basically make you pay up --
REP. : Mr. Chairman, I have high regard for the gentleman from Massachusetts but he's gone three -- or two or three minutes over his time.
REP. WAXMAN: The gentleman's time has expired.
I need to ask the witness: We have two questioners remaining. If you would like to take a break now, that would be fine, or there are about 10 minutes of questions remaining.
MR. PRINCE: If there's two questions left, I'll take them and then let's be done.
REP. LYNCH: Mr. Chairman, do you want to give the witness a chance to answer that last question?
REP. WAXMAN: Well, the gentleman considerably exceeded his time limit. We had actually given you considerably more than the five minutes due to a mistake in the clock. So I think we need to keep this in regular order.
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