The FBI agents have found out that senior officials in the US Justice Department intentionally attempted to undermine the case of Blackwater security guards’ fatal shooting of Iraqi civilians in 2007, internal emails revealed.
The FBI has planned to charge the American contractors with crimes, including weapons charges, manslaughter and attempted manslaughter that could send them to prison for the rest of their lives.
Several emails, obtained by the New York Times, however, revealed that the department’s senior officials were against the move and sought to drop some of the charges in an effort to lighten the sentences.
In September 2007, Blackwater security guards opened fire on unarmed Iraqi people near a bustling traffic circle with machine guns and grenade into Baghdad’s crowded Nisour Square, killing at least 17 people and wounding several others.
In December 2008, as the Justice Department prepared to ask a grand jury to vote on an indictment, the lead FBI agent, John Patarini received an email from Kenneth Kohl, a federal prosecutor who had written, “We are getting some serious resistance from our office to charging the defendants with mandatory minimum time.”
Patarini, however, replied, “I would rather not present for a vote now and wait until the new administration takes office than to get an indictment that is an insult to the individual victims, the Iraqi people as a whole, and the American people who expect their Justice Department to act better than this.”
He also forwarded it to colleagues and superiors.
Four former Blackwater contractors are scheduled to be sentenced at a federal court on Monday. Dustin L. Heard, Evan S. Liberty, Nicholas A. Slatten and Paul A. Slough were convicted at trial in October.
The Department is seeking sentences of 57 years for Slough, 51 years for Liberty, 47 years for Heard and life in prison without parole for Slatten.
Last week, federal prosecutors wrote in court documents that “the crimes here were so horrendous — the massacre and maiming of innocents so heinous — that they outweigh any factors that the defendants may argue form a basis for leniency.”
An FBI supervisor, Andrew McCabe, encouraged top FBI officials to continue with the case, saying the Justice Department was “delaying and reducing” the indictment.
“This is the latest in what has become a troubling habit by DOJ,” he wrote.