by J.M. Phelps
Members of Blackwater are petitioning the Supreme Court in an effort to find the justice that has eluded them.
It was September 16, 2007, when a Blackwater security team – following a very massive explosion in Nisour Square, Baghdad – responded to assist another team in the protection of a U.S. diplomat. These teams were Raven 23 and Raven 4, respectively. While operations were being conducted to escort the official to safety, a vehicle-borne IED threat converged near the convoy. The vehicle was signaled multiple ways to stop, but did not. A firefight ensued and consequently, a number of Iraqis were injured and killed.
Regardless of how one feels about Blackwater’s involvement in the Nisour Square incident, there are four men who deserve a just interpretation of the law, particularly the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA).
Blackwater protecting diplomat in Iraq. While multiple other errors have been outlined in the case, “The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act is written specifically for people that are serving the Department of Defense (DoD),” says former Blackwater vice president and chief operating officer, Bill Mathews. He concludes, “…if you’re not working directly for the DoD, the MEJA doesn’t apply. In the Blackwater case, none of the teams were working for the Department of Defense. They were working for the Department of State, thus the MEJA by its own terms should not have applied.”
Early in the case, jurisdiction was allowed where it did not apply when a defense motion concerning MEJA was ignored. Because there was no ruling from the court, an appeal by the defense was prevented. The appeal would have likely been favorable for the defendants had the judge actually made a responsible ruling. Is it unreasonable to wonder if this was done purposefully?
If MEJA stands as it appears to have been haphazardly interpreted and subsequently denied any further thought, there will be serious implications for contract personnel all over the world. Former legal advisor to the National Security Council, Michael J. Edney, stated in his testimony that “[e]xpanding wide bands of Federal criminal law abroad to employees and contractors of all Federal agencies, including our intelligence community, could threaten vital national security operation if not done with exceptional care.” The Supreme Court is currently considering whether they will take on the task of addressing this very important matter in Slough v. United States.
While the Supreme Court ponders with the best interest of all those involved, countless other American patriots who believe in the rule of law have resolved MEJA does not apply to four members of the tactical support team (TST), Raven 23 – Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Paul Slough, and Nicholas Slatten.
Prior to the arrival of Blackwater in Iraq, security for diplomatic offices was provided by an Army unit. At this time, the “security team” would have been supporting the mission of the State Department, not the mission of the DoD. It’s a boundless interpretation of the law to conclude Blackwater was supporting the mission of the DoD when they were contracted by the State Department to provide protective service details (PSDs) and TSTs specifically for a USAID (United States Agency for International Development) worker attending a meeting one mile north of Nisour Square. Thankfully, one of the PSDs escorted her immediately to their vehicles and safely back to the Green Zone.
According to a divided panel of the DC Circuit, these men were said to be “employed by the Armed Forces,” even though they were contracted by the State Department to fulfill protective responsibilities to the State Department. The line was blurred, suggesting they were supporting the DoD’s mission to rebuild Iraq while fulfilling their duties to the State Department by protecting a diplomat.
Drawing this sort of conclusion would expand the extraterritorial bounds of U.S. Law, and threaten peacekeeping, institution-building, and intelligence interests worldwide. It’s illogical to conclude contractors for the State Department or employees of national intelligence agencies would be considered within the jurisdiction of this over-reaching interpretation of MEJA.
To imply this meeting supported the role of the DoD while members of Raven 23 were protecting a USAID official offers nothing but confusion about their MEJA status. If they were contracted by the DoD, there would be a clear indication of such, but there is not. According to the majority, “Blackwater without question employed the defendants to protect State Department personnel.”
To extend the definition of those “employed by the Armed Forces” under MEJA would make every future non-Defense employee, contractor, or intelligence official an employee of the Armed Forces and subject to the same blurry interpretation of U.S. Domestic criminal law as the members of Raven 23.
Is this interpretation what Congress intended? I think not. If MEJA was allowed to extend to all federal employees, contractors, and intelligence operatives, where would those involved in counterintelligence, intelligence, or security details ever find protection abroad? Surely, we are not a country that relies on circumventing traditional laws in order to conduct our operations. That would be blatantly unconstitutional.
Blackwater was contracted by the State Department to solely provide diplomatic security in Iraq. The four men of Raven 23 still in prison today were not employed by the Armed Forces under MEJA. Clearly, they were performing their private security responsibilities to the State Department – not the DoD – at the time of the unfortunate incident that injured and killed a consistently disputed number of Iraqis.
According to hopeful family members, the case is moving forward with a petition for a writ of certiorari to review the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Paul Slough, and Nicholas Slatten sit in prison awaiting the response from the Supreme Court of the United States of America – imprisoned by the same country whose State Department hired them to defend a U.S. diplomat.
J.M. Phelps is a Christian activist and journalist. Below is his previous report.
The Department of Justice, particularly the FBI, continues to reveal itself as a corrupt organization that hasn’t ceased to play political favorites – and that should concern all Americans.
How does a group of highly skilled ex-Seals and ex-Special Forces – some even coming out of retirement to be contracted by the U.S. government – end up betrayed and convicted for following orders? The brave men of Blackwater are still fighting this battle.
You may or may not recognize the name Blackwater. It began as a privately-owed training facility, but after a few Islamic terrorist attacks against our nation, namely the USS Cole and 9/11, it didn’t take long for the company to begin assuming an even greater role. Morphing into a contracted security company rather than solely a training company, it provided support to the federal government in a lot of high-risk areas around the globe.
For the Department of State, for example, they provided protective details to protect and defend U.S. diplomats. More than 40 people working for Blackwater were killed in action, while providing this protection, yet no one under their protection was ever harmed.
The days of Blackwater, however, were numbered, following a security incident which occurred in Nisour Square, Baghdad, on September 16, 2007. On that day, Raven 4 – a diplomatic security team – had a close call with a vehicle detonating an IED (improvised explosive device) near their convoy. Raven 4 sent up a distress signal, triggering a lot of activity from their tactical operations center and other teams in the field. Another security team, Raven 23, quickly responded to the distress call.
Bill Mathews, former Blackwater vice president and chief operating officer, recalled those moments in a recent conversation with me:
“Their alert level has gone up as high as it possibly can. They are expecting a fight. Many of the attacks that our guys were killed in were multi-staged, multi-phased ambushes, which are often initiated with an IED and then followed up with small arms fire or more IEDs. Very infrequently was it a single strike. There’s usually a coordinated effort, so when you are responding to a distress signal, you are expecting a second attack of some type.”
Raven 23 received incoming fire from different directions upon entering Nisour Square. Another vehicle rolled into their convoy and, following protocol, they engaged, killing the occupants of the vehicle in the process. The occupants, it turned out, were deemed civilians – not suicide bombers.
Reports vary on the actual number killed. However, the number of people is irrelevant. What sparked a political lightning rod and became relevant was the fact that civilians were killed and the Iraqis blamed the United States. A media uproar ensued against the men of Blackwater for killing so-called “civilians.” Mathews explains:
“In Iraq, everyone that you’re fighting against is a civilian. There’s no one wearing a uniform that you’re fighting against. Every single combatant, insurgent, or jihadi that you’re fighting is wearing civilian clothes. To make the claim that everyone is a civilian is a misnomer and very misleading.”
It is also incredibly misleading and irresponsible to ignore the fact that this particular vehicle was a white Kia sedan; and in the weeks prior to the attack in question, the teams had been specifically briefed on an IED threat from a white Kia sedan. The men who engaged the vehicle fully believed they were under attack and responded as they have been trained to respond.
Nonetheless, the incident resulted in the prosecution of four individuals: Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty, Paul Slough, and Nicholas Slatten. Three were tried on a federal weapons charge, which has a 30-year minimum sentence. The fourth, Slatten, was convicted of murder and received a life sentence.
It must be noted the case was dismissed offhandedly by Judge Ricardo Urbina the first time it was brought up. Mathews says:
“It was dismissed rather harshly with the judge telling the Department of Justice that they had trampled on the Constitutional rights of the four men in question ….
“The second time the case was brought, it was brought in a very peculiar fashion, because it was filed and assigned to one particular judge and within a couple of hours of it being assigned, it was re-assigned to the judge that has it now. Somehow, even though it‘s supposed to be a blind draw, this case gets specifically withdrawn from one judge and re-assigned to this judge, Judge Royce Lamberth, that has it now.“
Judge Lamberth produced the four convictions, all of which were appealed. It’s becoming more and more obvious there’s something sinister at work here. Even though someone else has actually stated responsibility for the death for which Nicholas Slatten was originally tried, they still plan to bring this case against him for the fourth time to re-convict him of murder. The government has refused to let any of them out of prison, despite the facts and circumstances of the case.
The Department of Justice, particularly the FBI, continues to reveal itself as a corrupt organization that hasn’t ceased to play political favorites – and that should concern all Americans. Many of the same people in the news prominently today were very much a part of bringing the case against Blackwater.
Andrew McCabe, who is under a lot of scrutiny for his role in the Russia probe and the infamous “dossier” is one of those people. There are emails from McCabe, leaked by Wikileaks, chastising the Department of Justice for not moving fast enough to convict the operatives of Blackwater. Additionally, emails exist from Hillary Clinton after the first case had been thrown out of court, in which she expressed grave concern about finding a way to placate the Iraqis.
Mathews tells me:
“There are a number of emails that summarize meetings that were held with Iraqi diplomatic officials where they complained and wanted all of the Blackwater people in jail, and responses from our diplomats essentially promising to make that happen. There was very much a political witch hunt afoot to castigate and condemn these guys. They didn’t really have a chance. I still don’t think they have a chance because the same people that were responsible for where they are now are still the ones in power today.”
The case against the men of Blackwater appears, regrettably, to be more of a vain attempt at diplomacy and building of a relationship with the Iraqis. Rather than trying to objectively investigate the truth of what happened on September 16, 2007, four men have become the scapegoats of our government.
Ironically, Hillary Clinton walks free and wins a Democratic presidential nomination while under federal investigation, and Andrew McCabe sets his eyes on retirement in March 2018. Meanwhile, four Americans continue to serve time in the very country for which they chose to risk their lives.
“As a Seal, we are taught from Day 1 that we never leave a man behind. I feel l like we’ve left four men behind. I’ll do everything I can do to help them.”
Toward that end, a campaign has been launched urging individuals to support Raven 23, and every American patriot has the duty to ask his or her congressman to get involved in cleaning up the mess of the likes of Hillary Clinton and Andrew McCabe.
“Greater love has no one than this,
that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
(John 15:13, ESV)
J.M. Phelps is a Christian activist and journalist based in the Southeastern U.S.
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