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Government Pursues Charges Against Blackwater Guards in Iraqis’ Deaths

Federal charges against five Blackwater Worldwide guards were unsealed Monday in relation to a 2007 incident in Baghdad that left 14 Iraqis dead and another 20 injured. NPR reporter Dina Temple-Raston discusses the charges and the legal strategy on both sides.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Nearly 200,000 civilian contractors have been paid more than $85 billion to serve the U.S. government and military in Iraq. The five Blackwater security guards indicted by the Justice Department today are all former military. A sixth guard has already admitted guilt.

    They could face 30 years in prison for opening fire with machine guns and grenade launchers on unarmed Iraqi civilians.

    For more on the government's case and the contractors' defense, we turn to Dina Temple-Raston, who covers the FBI for National Public Radio.

    Welcome.

  • DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, National Public Radio:

    Thank you very much.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Bring us up to date. Remind us what the circumstances were of this alleged shooting in Baghdad in September of 2007.

  • DINA TEMPLE-RASTON:

    Well, on Sept. 16, 2007, a convoy of Blackwater SUVs came into this traffic circle that was very crowded in Baghdad. And on that, everyone seems to agree; what happened next is sort of up for debate.

    Now, the Blackwater people say that what happened is a car started moving forward when they ordered it to stop. They thought the car was actually a suicide car bomber, and so they opened fire. And they've also said some insurgents fired at them.

    But the FBI and the Department of — sorry, the Department of Defense and the Iraqi government have all investigated all of this. And they didn't find any sort of provocation for the shooting. And that's what's at issue now.