The New York Times has published fascinating, previously undisclosed documents about a private contractor with billions of dollars in government contracts.
These State Department memos feature a government investigator who said Blackwater had created an environment where the people who were supposed to be monitoring them "have become subservient to the contractors themselves." (Via U.S. Department of State / The New York Times)
Specifically, that Blackwater guards had gotten out of control and were acting "above the law" in Iraq.
That memo was dated August of 2007, weeks before the infamous Nisour Square shooting — in which Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 civilians, including a 9-year-old boy. (Via RT)
Before that, investigator Jean Richter was looking into complaints about food quality and sanitary conditions at a Blackwater compound. The investigation cited more than a few concerns.
BILL KARINS, MSNBC ANCHOR: "The probe faulted contractors on several fronts from weapons violations to heavy drinking with women visitors. In one incident, four drunk guards crashed an armored vehicle on the way to a private party."
On top of that, Richter reported the leader of Blackwater in Iraq, Daniel Carroll, argued Richter had no authority to investigate him.
"Mr. Carroll accentuated this point by stating that he could 'kill me' at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq." (Via U.S. Department of State / The New York Times)
The report also suggested Blackwater had overbilled the State Department. Despite reporting those faults and the death threat, the American Embassy in Iraq ultimately sided with Blackwater and ordered the investigators to leave the country.
Founded by a former Navy SEAL, Blackwater was providing security for American diplomats in Iraq at the time. Richter noted he took the threats seriously and had been told to be careful investigating the company, with its bold reputation and lucrative contract. (Via CNN)
Less than a month later, that critical moment: Blackwater security detail opened fire in Nisour Square, killing 17 people. Although Blackwater reported someone fired on them first, military investigators found no evidence to support that. (Via The Washington Post)
The fallout was immediate. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demanded the U.S. terminate Blackwater's contract in Iraq and later refused to sign a treaty allowing American troops to stay in the country past 2011. (Via Flickr / United States Forces Iraq)
Still, journalist Jeremy Scahill's book "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army" notes Blackwater received a $100 million contract only two weeks after the Nisour Square shootings.
In 2011, a congressional report found the U.S. had wasted as much as $60 billion due to fraud and abuse by private contractors in general. At the time, more than 260,000 contractors worked in war zones for the departments of Defense and State. That report blamed — among other things — poor oversight by the U.S. government.
The New York Times reports a month after the shootings and two months after Richter reported the threat on his life, a State Department official told reporters a special panel hadn't found any evidence of contractor misconduct before the massacre.