Report: Blackwater probe abandoned after threat

A State Department investigation of Blackwater’s activities in Iraq was abandoned after the company’s top manager there threatened “that he could kill” the chief U.S. investigator, The New York Times reported in the newspaper's Monday editions. 

The top investigator, Jean C. Richter, was dispatched to Iraq in 2007 with Donald Thomas Jr., a State Department management analyst, to review Blackwater’s operations.

Richter met with Daniel Carroll, Blackwater’s project manager in Iraq, to discuss the probe.

Carroll said “that he could kill me at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” Richter wrote in a memo to senior State Department officials in Washington, according to previously undisclosed documents the Times reviewed.

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“I took Mr. Carroll’s threat seriously,” Richter wrote. “We were in a combat zone where things can happen quite unexpectedly, especially when issues involve potentially negative impacts on a lucrative security contract.”

Thomas witnessed the exchange and confirmed what was said, the Times said.

Richter and Thomas were ordered to leave by U.S. Embassy officials in Baghdad because they were accused of disrupting their activities. Embassy personnel sided with Blackwater and were seen as too close to the contractor. They returned to Washington and wrote a critical report of the company.  

Weeks later, Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. Four guards are now on trial in Washington. It’s the second time the U.S. government has tried prosecuting the case, the Times noted.

The shootings factored into Iraq’s decision the following year to reject an agreement that would have kept U.S. forces in the country past 2011, the Times said.

Richter and Thomas had been investigating a number of violations by Blackwater. They found that the company reduced the number of guards for embassy personnel without receiving approval from the State Department.

They also determined that Blackwater employees stored automatic weapons and ammunition in their private rooms and were carrying weapons they weren’t certified for or authorized to use.