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Increasingly Venal Justice Department Settles on Gentle Punishment for Ex-Blackwater Executives

Blackwater Worldwide’s logo (Creative Commons-licensed photo on Wikipedia in the public domain)

Two ex-Blackwater Worldwide executives pled guilty to one count of “failing to make and maintain records related to firearms.” They were sentenced by a federal judge to three years probation, four months house arrest with stipulations and fined five thousand dollars.

To understand how gentle this sentence happens to be and how it clearly shows the United States Justice Department threw the case, Gary Jackson, former president of Blackwater, and William Wheeler Mathews Jr., a former vice president, were indicted on April 16, 2010, on twelve counts and five counts respectively.

The charges were for illegally possessing machine guns; making false statements about weapons; knowingly receiving and possessing unregistered firearms; “corruptly” persuading another person and engaging in “misleading conduct toward another person with intent to alter and conceal an object with the intent to impair the object’s availability for use in an official proceeding”; knowingly falsifying and making “a false entry in a record, document and tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct and influence” an investigation. The conspiracy was furthered through the purchase of short barrel rifles, machine guns and shipping firearms to the King of Jordan or his entourage.

Both Jackson and Matthews Jr. possessed AK47s, Steyr machine guns and Bushmaster M4 rifles illegally. Some of the rifles illegally possessed had their barrels shortened but were not registered with short barrels.

Jackson falsely completed a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) form to conceal the fact that a Glock 19 handgun, Bushmaster M4 rifle and Remington shotgun had been “gifted” to the King of Jordan and/or his entourage. Multiple counts described how they had lied in official documents about weapons given to the King of Jordan to obstruct an investigation. The employees also conspired to get around export restrictions so they could ship the weapons to Jordan.

Despite all the evidence outlined in the indictment, Jackson and Mathews did not plead guilty to any weapons charges. They did not even plead guilty to all the obstruction of justice charges. The Justice Department dropped the other more serious charges and settled for having them plead guilty to failing to maintain proper records on firearms they possessed. Prosecutors accepted four months of house arrest and a measly five thousand dollar fine that could easily be recouped through the next mercenary contracting gig.

Jackson and Mathews were not the only ex-executives facing charges. Judge Louise W. Flanagan decided to dismiss all charges against Andrew Howell, Blackwater’s former general counsel, and Ana Bundy, a former vice president. Howell and Bundy, at the direction of defendants, had moved 14 shortbarreled rifles owned by Blackwater from the Moyock facility in North Carolina to a different armory so they would not be found during an inspection by the ATF on March 26, 2009. This was done to “frustrate” a federal investigation. But that was apparently not a significant criminal act worth having litigated in court.

Another employee, Ronald Slezak, a former weapons manager, had all the charges he faced dropped by prosecutors. He had been indicted for falsely representing himself as the purchaser of weapons that were gifted to the King of Jordan and/or his entourage multiple times in 2005. The same year he also “escorted an ATF inspection team to Blackwater/Xe’s [Federally  Licensed  Firearms  Dealer] records which he well knew contained falsified” documents. But the Justice Department decided to let all that go and allow Slezak to escape prosecution.

As seems to be typical for Blackwater employees, he has a history of being wild and violent with weapons:

In January 2006, Blackwater suspected that one of its accounting managers was secretly sharing trade secrets with a competitor. The manager, Curtis Smith, said he was brought into a conference room at Blackwater to meet with Bill Mathews, an executive vice president.

In a court filing, Smith said Mathews had a reputation for wild and violent behavior and was known to carry concealed weapons.

“A year earlier, during Smith’s job interview, Mathews had waved two handguns in the air. Smith had also been informed that Mathews had once kicked in a conference room door and burst in with a rifle.”

In the room were two Blackwater executives, both former Navy SEALs, “capable of inflicting serious bodily injury with their bare hands.”

Mathews produced a sworn statement with Smith’s name on it and told Smith he had one opportunity to sign the document. Smith said he found several mistakes.

“Each time Smith identified a misstatement, Mathews became aggressive in tone and physical posturing. … Smith feared for his personal safety [and] … believed that he was not free to leave the room and that he had no choice but to sign the document.”

Smith signed the document. When Blackwater sued him and two other men for stealing trade secrets, Smith countersued Blackwater for wrongful imprisonment.

Both Jackson and Mathews faced a civil lawsuit for their role in the Nisoor Square murders of innocent Iraqis in Baghdad on September 16, 2007. The complaint in the lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) alleged, “Blackwater created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company’s financial interests at the expense of innocent human life.”  It sought ” punitive damages in an amount sufficient to punish Erik Prince and his Blackwater companies for their repeated callous killing of innocents.” The lawsuit was settled on January 6, 2010.

In a complaint filed by CCR, it alleged Jackson and Mathews “repeatedly referred to ‘laying Hajiis out on cardboard’ and used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as “ragheads” or “hajiis.” This ideology fit in with Erik Prince, who formed Blackwater. He openly referred to operations against Iraqis as efforts that were part of a “Crusade.” Teams were assigned names with religious significance like “Templar 21.” The conduct was reinforced by the fact that the United States government retained their services, even as they were hunting down Iraqis.

Interestingly, the civil lawsuit named Bundy, Jackson, Mathews for smuggling “illegally altered and outfitted weapons into Iraq by polywrapping them and hiding them in dogfood.” It accused Bundy of overseeing the smuggling of the weapons at the direction of Prince, Jackson and Mathews.

In November 2009, it was reported by the New York Times, “Top executives at Blackwater Worldwide authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support after a September 2007 episode in which Blackwater security guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad,” according to former Blackwater employees

During an October 2, 2007, congressional hearing, Rep. Jan Schakowsky said, while questioning Prince, “In 2004, Gary Jackson, the President of Blackwater USA admitted that your company had hired former commandoes from Chile to work in Iraq, many of which served under General Augusto Pinochet, the former dictator of Chile. As you must know, his forces perpetrated widespread human rights abuses, including torture and murder of over 3,000 people.”

In August 2012, Blackwater agreed in a settlement with the Justice Department to pay $7.5 million for arms sales violations including “unauthorized sales of satellite phones in Sudan; unauthorized military training provided to foreign governments, including Canada’s; illegal possession of automatic weapons; and other violations.” But, seven and a half million does not seem like much of a fine at all, especially since the company can continue operating and easily recoup the costs through contracts.

The individuals who worked at Blackwater—which was renamed Xe and which is for now named Academi (until the cabal’s next criminal act gains widespread attention)—These individuals have engaged, encouraged and conspired to cover up criminal and murderous acts. They habitually commit crimes because it is the nature of the company’s operations. But the Justice Department overlooked all of that and allowed Blackwater to greymail them in court and threaten to expose how this was all going on under the direction of the CIA. That is why they settled on the one minor charge with a lenient sentence.

Though this case involves a notorious and well-known contractor, the Justice Department does not want Americans to care about the outcome of this case because they know it reflects poorly on the department. It is not listed in the FBI’s “top ten news stories” for this week. The press release announcing the settlement was not posted to the Justice Department’s website.

What this shows is the Justice Department cannot prosecute private mercenary contractors because they will reveal covert operations that would lead to scandal. It cannot prosecute HSBC bank executives that allowed drug cartels or terrorists to use their services because it would have “destabilized” the entire banking system. For this same reason, no case against senior executives of any bank on Wall Street has been brought that prosecuted financial fraud that led to the 2008 financial meltdown.

Essentially, as a bank executive, if you have a large enough presence in the US economy, there is no limit to the illicit or illegal activity you can engage in and still do no time in jail. And, if you are a CIA officer who engaged in torture, there will be no prosecutions because the Justice Department does not want anyone in the CIA to fear if they do their job they might be prosecuted.

The Justice Department these days zealously pursues whistleblowers, “hacktivists,” activists or mentally unstable Muslims whom the FBI had informants push to commit some kind of FBI-concocted terrorist act. They may decide to get creative and methodically develop charges through a grand jury investigation in order to go after a publisher of information like WikiLeaks. The zeal in which they pursue these people will never exist in cases against bank executives or private contractors or any other senior officials of corporations.

With each day that unfolds in the lawsuit, the penalties BP faces for polluting and decimating life in the Gulf of Mexico because of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster are reduced more and more. And, If the Justice Department isn’t engaged in the politics of personal destruction, it is joining some case against a sports star like Lance Armstrong.

It is blatantly clear the Justice Department is no more than a bunch of self-styled defenders of justice and the rule of law who are impotent, incapable, disinterested or, at worst, complicit in challenging lawless conduct that seems to become more prevalent in society each and every day. Those who should have the power to go after criminals with power in corporations or parts of government do not dare to challenge them and instead go after individuals with little to no power. By being fervent in their pursuit of justice in some cases and spiritless in other cases, employees of the Justice Department directly weaken the rule of law they are supposed to protect.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."