US: State Dept. intercedes in Blackwater probe

by Peter Spiegel, LA Times
September 26th, 2007

The State Department has interceded in a congressional investigation of Blackwater USA, the private security firm accused of killing Iraqi civilians last week, ordering the company not to disclose information about its Iraq operations without approval from the Bush administration, according to documents revealed Tuesday.

In a letter sent to a senior Blackwater executive Thursday, a State Department contracting official ordered the company “to make no disclosure of the documents or information” about its work in Iraq without permission.

The letter and other documents were released Tuesday by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), whose House committee has launched wide-ranging investigations into contractor abuses and corruption in Iraq.

The State Department order and other steps it has taken to limit congressional access to information have set up a confrontation between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Waxman, who has repeatedly accused the State Department of impeding his inquiries.

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Lawmaker says Rice interfered with Iraq inquiry

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A leading Democratic lawmaker on Tuesday accused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of interfering in congressional inquiries into corruption in Iraq’s government and the activities of U.S. security firm Blackwater.

Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman said State Department officials had told the Oversight and Government Reform Committee he chairs they could not provide details of corruption in Iraq’s government unless the information was treated as a “state secret” and not revealed to the public.

“You are wrong to interfere with the committee’s inquiry,” Waxman said in a letter to Rice. “The State Department’s position on this matter is ludicrous,” added Waxman, a vocal opponent of the Bush administration’s Iraq policies.

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Update: Rice apologises for US security firm shootings

Yep, looks like Blackwater is going nowhere. 

Ewen MacAskill in Washington
Tuesday September 18, 2007
The Guardian

Members of Blackwater scan Baghdad from their helicopter
Members of Blackwater scan Baghdad from their helicopter. Photograph: Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty
 

The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, apologised to the Iraqi government yesterday in an attempt to prevent the expulsion of all employees of the security firm Blackwater USA.The ministry of interior yesterday took the decision to expel Blackwater after eight Iraqi civilians were killed and 13 wounded in Baghdad when shots were fired from a US state department convoy on Sunday.

Diplomats, engineers and other westerners in Iraq rely heavily on protection by Blackwater. The Iraqi decision created confusion on the ground, with uncertainty over whether protection was still available and whether Blackwater staff should leave the country immediately.

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September 11: What You “Ought Not to Know”

by Greg Palast

Watch the BBC Report / Read the Transcript
September 10, 2007- On November 9, 2001, when you could still choke on the dust in the air near Ground Zero, BBC Television received a call in London from a top-level US intelligence agent. He was not happy. Shortly after George W. Bush took office, he told us reluctantly, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the FBI, “were told to back off the Saudis.”

We knew that. In the newsroom, we had a document already in hand, marked, “SECRET” across the top and “199-I” – meaning this was a national security matter.

The secret memo released agents to hunt down two members of the bin Laden family operating a “suspected terrorist organization” in the USA. It was dated September 13, 2001 — two days too late for too many. What the memo indicates, corroborated by other sources, was that the agents had long wanted to question these characters … but could not until after the attack. By that time, these bin Laden birds had flown their American nest.

Back to the high-level agent. I pressed him to tell me exactly which investigations were spiked. None of this interview dance was easy, requiring switching to untraceable phones. Ultimately, the insider said, “Khan Labs.” At the time, our intelligence agencies were on the trail of Pakistan’s Dr. Strangelove, A.Q. Khan, who built Pakistan’s bomb and was selling its secrets to the Libyans. But once Bush and Condoleeza Rice’s team took over, the source told us, agents were forced to let a hot trail go cold. Specifically, there were limits on tracing the Saudi money behind this “Islamic bomb.”

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