Three senior law enforcement officials said all the Blackwater bodyguards involved — both in the vehicle convoy and in at least two helicopters above — were given the legal protections as investigators from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security sought to find out what happened. The bureau is an arm of the State Department.
The investigative misstep comes in the wake of already-strained relations between the United States and Iraq, which is demanding the right to launch its own prosecution of the Blackwater bodyguards.
The FBI took over the case early this month, officials said, after prosecutors in the Justice Department’s criminal division realized it could not bring charges against Blackwater guards based on their statements to the Diplomatic Security investigators.
Officials said the Blackwater bodyguards spoke only after receiving so-called "Garrity" protections, requiring that their statements only be used internally — and not for criminal prosecutions.
It’s not clear why the Diplomatic Security investigators agreed to give immunity to the bodyguards, or who authorized doing so.
Bureau of Diplomatic Security chief Richard Griffin last week announced his resignation, effective Thursday. Senior State Department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said his departure was directly related to his oversight of Blackwater contractors.
That anonymous statement may be the clue to the mystery.
This is clearly wrong.
Given that the military subjects Marines to murder charges in cases like Haditha, charges that could result in severe criminal penalties being handed down, how can the State Department justify giving blanket immunity to Blackwater’s "freelance" soldiers?