Obtained Emails Show FBI, DOJ Fought Over Charges In Blackwater Shooting Case

from the and-nobody-won dept

The DOJ and the FBI aren't seeing eye-to-eye -- and apparently haven't for years. The FBI has been stiff-arming the DOJ's Inspector General over the past several months, preventing him from doing his job of providing oversight for the DOJ's many law enforcement agencies. The FBI appears to have gone rogue.

Maybe it isn't the FBI deciding it's above accountability. Maybe it's because it doesn't view the DOJ as a useful entity... or even a trustworthy ally -- even as the FBI is technically a part of the DOJ. At its heart, the FBI is a law enforcement agency. It pursues bad guys and turns them over to be locked away. It firmly believes in the inherent "rightness" of its mission, even when its investigative activities have partially devolved into terrorism-related shots on unguarded goals.

Emails obtained by the New York Times provide some insight to the friction between the FBI and DOJ over the handling of the Blackwater case. In 2007, Blackwater -- a private company hired by the State Department to provide security in Iraq -- opened fire on civilians in Baghdad, injuring 20 and killing 17. The FBI's investigation concluded that 14 of the 17 Iraqis were killed "without cause." The FBI wanted to stack charges in order to assure the contractors felt the full consequences of their actions. The DOJ, on the other hand, wasn't so sure.

The F.B.I. had wanted to charge the American contractors with the type of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and weapons charges that could send them to prison for the rest of their lives for the shooting, which left more than a dozen Iraqis dead and many others wounded in September 2007.

But at the last minute, the Justice Department balked. In particular, senior officials were uncomfortable with bringing two machine-gun charges, each of which carried mandatory 30-year prison sentences.
The lead agent, John Patarini, felt that dropping this mandatory chunk of prison time would allow those involved to walk away from killing 17 civilians with five-to-seven year sentences. This outcome may have been more aligned with the DOJ's sense of justice (after all, the contractors were required to carry weapons by the State Department) but it didn't mesh with the FBI's more law enforcement-oriented definition of justice. So, Patarini decided to play politics.
Mr. Patarini was incensed. “I would rather not present for a vote now and wait until the new administration takes office than to get an indictment that is an insult to the individual victims, the Iraqi people as a whole, and the American people who expect their Justice Department to act better than this,” he replied.
Playing politics only made sense. The charge itself is a political by-product -- a relic from the Drug War's decade-long obsession with crack. This charge was legislated into existence solely to stack charges against drug dealers to turn low-level possession charges into decades-long stints in federal prisons.

The DOJ's reluctance to use a law it had wielded so willingly against drug dealers and gang members in the past against federal contractors who gunned down dozens of Iraqis is troubling. The FBI's desire to see Blackwater's employees face lengthy prison sentences is also troubling, considering it's usually all too happy to do the same thing to people accused of far less heinous behavior.

The regime shift the FBI felt would keep the weapons charges alive also changed the DOJ's stance. Nothing in the obtained emails states explicitly why the DOJ reconsidered its position, but its recent statements on the Blackwater case are closely aligned with Special Agent Patarini's 2008 desire to see the contractors sentenced to decades in prison.
Echoing the emails from nearly seven years ago, the Justice Department said the sentences would “hold the defendants accountable for their callous, wanton and deadly conduct, and deter others wielding the awesome power over life or death from perpetrating similar atrocities in the future.
The only winners here are those who know how to game the political system. The FBI knew it needed a friendlier DOJ, which required a friendlier White House. But the FBI doesn't play politics to the extent the DOJ does. No matter how inflamed its sense of injustice, there was little chance the DOJ would fight the previous administration to pursue gun charges against the employees of a major political donor. Seven years later, the DOJ finally feels comfortable using a bad law to put four killers in jail for an extra-long time. There's no "right" here. There's only the sickening interplay of political expedience.

The FBI fought the DOJ -- not for the greater good -- but for much smaller, much more temporary ends. The FBI wants to put bad guys away. The DOJ's position isn't as clear-cut. It's quick to throw the book at certain defendants, but it's just as likely to investigate allegations of police misconduct and civil rights violations. Although both are ostensibly aimed at the same goal -- justice -- the DOJ is the weaker of the two, more prone to cutting the accused some slack and far more willing to criticize the FBI's colleagues and allies: the local law enforcement agencies it often partners with. Because of this, the FBI views the DOJ as unworthy of its respect -- just as likely to sell it out as back it up. The DOJ may be the FBI's parent agency, but it's clear the FBI views it as ineffective and impotent.

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Filed Under: blackwater, doj, fbi, law enforcement
Companies: blackwater


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  • identicon
    Sheriff Fatman, 15 Apr 2015 @ 3:16pm

    The FBI's desire to see Blackwater's employees face lengthy prison sentences is also troubling, considering it's usually all too happy to do the same thing to people accused of far less heinous behavior.


    I don't follow the logic here. Because the FBI is willing to throw the book at minor criminals, it shouldn't do the same thing in more serious cases?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2015 @ 3:34pm

      Re:

      I think the point is the FBI's use of creative interpretation of laws.. Because they apply the same tactic to those accused for minor offences.

      The FBI shouldn't default to creative interpretation ALL the time. Given, sometimes it can apply.. But their willingness to do it ALL the time is a problem.

      It's the FBI's default setting - which also isn't Justice. In this instance it isn't a bad thing.. But the habitual nature of the thing is.

      I could be wrong though, this is just my assertion of what the author might mean. But I agree that the author needs to clarify this point or elaborate on it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2015 @ 3:25pm

    Dear FBI/DOJ

    The question I think both of these agencies need to start asking in their decision making is..

    How does this system help the American people?

    Next time the FBI creates a fake plot or the DOJ undermines transparency they need to be asking how any of this helps the American people?!

    There was a point in my life I had tremendous respect for the FBI and believed Justice was a value held in this nation.. Maybe I was simply naive in my younger years.. But nowadays the FBI looks no different than organized crime (it's scarier at times) and the DOJ certainly doesn't stand for Justice..

    Rather than 'gaming the system' can't we simply have a system that 'exists for the people'?

    Is it really so hard to remember the people both your agencies have sworn to represent.

    The only winners in this system are the bad guys.. *sigh*

    Kudos to the lead agent though for taking a stand and recognizing that these Blackwater employees needed to be held accountable.

    It's just a shame that in order to do so it had to play out the way it did.

    We went from 'too big to fail' to 'too big to jail' and in the meantime the REALLY dangerous criminals pass under the radar.

    Climate change suddenly doesn't seem like such a bad thing anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2015 @ 3:32pm

    Could it have anything to do with the FBI being full of cops and the DOJ being full of lawyers?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DanAudy, 15 Apr 2015 @ 4:51pm

    I feel like something was left out in the article explaining how these charges are related to the War on (some types of) Drugs. It certainly isn't common enough knowledge or obvious enough that you can just go from talking about charges for indiscriminate murder to talking about how the charge was created to put low level dealers in prison without explanation - there is no logical connection between these two without expounding further.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DanAudy, 15 Apr 2015 @ 4:51pm

    I feel like something was left out in the article explaining how these charges are related to the War on (some types of) Drugs. It certainly isn't common enough knowledge or obvious enough that you can just go from talking about charges for indiscriminate murder to talking about how the charge was created to put low level dealers in prison without explanation - there is no logical connection between these two without expounding further.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2015 @ 5:07pm

      Re:

      Bump. This article does seem to hop between talking points and there's quite a few points that need elaborating.

      Personally, I see the willingness to prosecute the Blackwater employees as a good thing.. But the obstacles it took to get there as a bad thing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 4:13am

        Re: Re:

        The real question is whether or not the higher ups at the company / in the gov will face prosecution...probably not

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2015 @ 8:12pm

    Justice maybe won... 14 people are dead for no good reason.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      me, 16 Apr 2015 @ 3:45am

      Re: what this guy said.

      In the meantime civilians are dead, and the DOJ fought to protect their killers. I dont often defend the FBI, but in this case they're werent in the wrong.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    afn29129 (profile), 15 Apr 2015 @ 11:23pm

    Send them back to Iraq to stand trial.

    Since the murders happened in Iraq then sent them back there to stand trial.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 12:43am

    So the FBI is like "f**k it! he/she's guilty!" while the DOJ feels like it has to respect due process a little more.

    Yeah... nothing new to see here really.
    FBI agents have been viewing themselves as "supercops" who never get it wrong since at least the 1940's.

    And you can thank John Edgar Hoover for that mentality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2015 @ 12:06pm

    "against the employees of a major political donor"
    Because ofcourse they can get away with anything if they have the money...

    How much people did the boston bombers killed? What was the response?
    Yep, the government still doesnt give two fucks about anyone who isnt Amerikkan!!

    Still not as bad as the iranian passenger jet thing where the responsible people even got some nice medals for the murder of those civilians.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 20 Apr 2015 @ 12:58pm

    " But at the last minute, the Justice Department balked. In particular, senior officials were uncomfortable with bringing two machine-gun charges, each of which carried mandatory 30-year prison sentences.

    The lead agent, John Patarini, felt that dropping this mandatory chunk of prison time would allow those involved to walk away from killing 17 civilians with five-to-seven year sentences. "

    To me the most disturbing thing is that killing 17 people results in 5-7 years in prison, and carrying an illegal weapon gets you 30-60. That is seriously messed up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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