Friday, September 21, 2007

'Officials': U.S. Attorneys Office investigating arms smuggling by Blackwater employees in Iraq; Weapons may have been sold to PKK

Above: PKK fighters in Iraq. The PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. According to officials in Washington, the investigation grew from internal Pentagon and State Department inquiries into U.S. weapons that had gone missing in Iraq. It gained momentum after Turkish authorities protested to the U.S. in July that they had seized American arms from PKK fighters, and provided serial numbers.

Feds probe whether Blackwater USA smuggled weapons into Iraq

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether employees of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, officials said Friday.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh, N.C., is handling the investigation with help from Pentagon and State Department auditors who have concluded there is enough evidence to file charges, the officials told The Associated Press...

Officials with knowledge of the case said it is active, although at an early stage. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, which has heightened since 11 Iraqis were killed Sunday in a shooting involving Blackwater contractors protecting a U.S. diplomatic convoy in Baghdad.

The officials could not say whether the investigation would result in indictments, how many Blackwater employees are involved or if the company itself, which has won hundreds of millions of dollars in government security contracts since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, is under scrutiny.

Read the rest at the News Observer

Feds Probe Blackwater Weapons Smuggling

In Saturday's editions, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that two former Blackwater employees - Kenneth Wayne Cashwell of Virginia Beach, Va., and William Ellsworth ``Max'' Grumiaux of Clemmons, N.C. - are cooperating with federal investigators...

The News and Observer, citing unidentified sources, reported that the probe was looking at whether Blackwater had shipped unlicensed automatic weapons and military goods to Iraq without a license...

Investigators are determining whether the alleged Blackwater weapons match those taken from the PKK.

It was not clear if Blackwater employees suspected of selling to the black market knew the weapons they allegedly sold to middlemen might wind up with the PKK. If they did, possible charges against them could be more serious than theft or illegal weapons sales, officials said.

Read the rest at the Guardian

Feds Probe Blackwater Over Alleged Weapons Smuggling

The North Carolina investigation was first brought to light by State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard, who mentioned it, perhaps inadvertently, this week while denying he had improperly blocked fraud and corruption probes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Krongard was accused in a letter by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, of politically motivated malfeasance, including refusing to cooperate with an investigation into alleged weapons smuggling by a large, unidentified State Department contractor.

In response, Krongard said in a written statement that he "made one of my best investigators available to help Assistant U.S. Attorneys in North Carolina in their investigation into alleged smuggling of weapons into Iraq by a contractor."

His statement went further than Waxman's letter because it identified the state in which the investigation was taking place. Blackwater, based in Moyock, N.C., is the biggest of the State Department's three private security contractors.

Read the rest at Fox News

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