Daily Archives: December 14, 2007

Secret prison system could provide legal cover for destroyed CIA torture tapes

Associated Press | Dec 12, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) – The CIA’s clandestine network of overseas prisons may provide the agency with the legal cover it needs when it comes to destroyed videotapes of terror suspect interrogations.

The CIA destroyed the tapes in November of 2005. Months before, a judge had ordered the Bush administration to safeguard “all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay.” But the two terror suspects shown in the destroyed tapes weren’t at Guantanamo Bay.

This week lawyers asked the judge who gave the order to schedule a hearing on the issue. The judge has given the government until Friday to respond.

Meanwhile, The American Civil Liberties Union has filed court documents claiming the destruction of the tapes violates a judge’s order in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Blackwater To Build Rural Calif. Training Camp


AHN News | Dec 13, 2007

by Danilo Gagelonia

San Diego, CA (AHN) – Government security contractor Blackwater Worldwide announced Wednesday it will proceed with plans to construct 11 firing ranges, a driving track and a helipad in a valley north of Potrero, small hamlet some 45 miles east of San Diego, Calif.

Residents on Tuesday had recalled five town officials who endorsed the project.

Company vice president Brian Bonfiglio, who oversees Blackwater West, said, “Regardless of who’s sitting in that seat, we are proceeding.”

Residents are worried the training camp would bring traffic, noise and pollution to Potrero.

They’re also against Blackwater’s activities in Iraq where company guards were involved in the disputed killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in September and now a focus of congressional and criminal investigations.

Bonfiglio said,”If my project was in with the county three years ago we wouldn’t be having this problem because the views on the war were very different. Everyone who’s tired of the war sees us as attached to that.”

Final decision on the project is with the San Diego County board of supervisors, which won’t be announced until after environmental impact reports are completed in 2008.

China Says Dalai Lama Wants Feudal Tibet

AP | Dec 13, 2007

BEIJING (AP) — China accused the Dalai Lama on Tuesday of wanting to restore feudalism to his exiled homeland of Tibet and dismissed a report by the spiritual leader’s government accusing Beijing of sidelining Tibetans and endangering the remote region’s environment.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regular briefing that “Tibet has achieved prosperous social, cultural and economic development. People are leading a happy life.”

Qin said Tibet’s “cruel and dark feudal system, which the Dalai Lama clique dreams of restoring” was the “one thing that has been destroyed and will never be restored.”

He would not respond directly to a report published Monday by the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile that said Beijing should stop dictating and give Tibetans a say in how the high plateau region is developed.

“I don’t want to comment on the report because they have distorted the facts and told so many lies,” Qin said. “The basic goal of the Tibetan government-in-exile, no matter what they say, is to not recognize that Tibet is part of China. Their goal is to split Tibet from China.”

The report suggested China was to blame for Tibet’s low literacy rate and the erosion of Tibetan culture, partly because of a new railroad linking Beijing to the capital, Lhasa, which has brought an influx of the Chinese Han majority and huge numbers of tourists.

The railway is also making it easier for Beijing to mine Tibet, which is rich in iron, copper, zinc and other minerals, and speed construction of numerous dams that will provide hydroelectric power needed to fuel China’s growing economy.

Tibet, the world’s highest plateau, is the source of rivers that feed hundreds of millions of people, and such projects could “seriously decrease the water supplies” across South and Southeast Asia, the report said.

Chinese Communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951 and Beijing continues to rule the region with a heavy hand. Beijing enforces strict controls on religious institutions and routinely vilifies the 71-year-old Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 amid an aborted uprising against Chinese rule.

China says it has ruled Tibet for centuries, although many Tibetans say their homeland was essentially an independent state for most of that time.

. . .


Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth

China deepens religious repression in Tibet

The government had started building police stations close to, or even in, monasteries

Reuters | Dec 9, 2007

BEIJING, Dec 10 (Reuters) – Religious repression in the Chinese ruled Himalayan region of Tibet is tightening, with authorities intensifying pressure on monks to denounce the exiled Dalai Lama, a new report said on Monday.

The government had started building police stations close to, or even in, monasteries, limiting the number of monks or nuns and making them take exams to prove their loyalty to China, the London-based Tibet Watch said.

Though visitors to Tibet may notice rebuilt and restored monasteries and monks and nuns apparently able to freely practise Buddhism, it is only for show, the group said.

“Monks have also told us of returning to monasteries that are more like museums. Monks and nuns talk of having money donated for the upkeep of monasteries and nunneries snatched by the Chinese authorities,” Anne Holmes, Acting Director of Free Tibet Campaign, said in a statement.

China has ruled Tibet with an iron hand since its troops took control in 1950. But many in Tibet still pledge loyalty to the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama, despite Beijing’s condemnation of him as a traitor for staging a failed uprising against Chinese rule and fleeing to India in 1959.

China denies religious repression and regularly defends its rule in Tibet, saying the Communists ended centuries of serfdom and brought prosperity to the underdeveloped region.

Tibet Watch said China was trying to crack down on Tibetans’ devotion to their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, with a series of new measures, including detaining and torturing monks and nuns who refuse to denounce him.

Tibet Watch quoted an unidentified nun as describing what happened to her when soldiers found she was wearing a picture of the Dalai Lama around her neck, as China has banned his image being show in the country.

“They saw the photo and when I would not give it to them, the soldiers rushed over and beat me. When my companions cried out that a nun was being killed, they were beaten and thrown across the room,” she said.

“I was punched and kicked and blood was spouting from my mouth. Then I was tied to a pillar and kicked on my chest many times,” the nun added.

China must respect religious freedom in Tibet, the report added.

“How can China ever expect to be a respected player on the world stage when it does everything in its power to control and undermine the religious beliefs that are a basic human right of the Tibetan people?” Holmes added.

India ‘Star Wars’ plan risks new arms race

· Missile defence would protect big cities by 2010

· Plan revealed as Pakistan tests short-range missile

Guardian | Dec 14, 2007

by Randeep Ramesh

India aims to have a missile defence system able to track and shoot down incoming warheads by 2010, scientists in the capital announced yesterday, in a move that analysts say could spark a new arms race in the region.

The announcement would see India join an elite club of countries that have such military capabilities – with the US, Russia and Israel. It came just days after Pakistan tested a cruise missile capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

India’s top military scientist, Dr VK Saraswat of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation, said: “If I keep quiet and wait for [a missile] to fall on my city and then start sending my own deterrent missile … a lot of damage is done. It is essential you have a system which will first take on that kind of a threat.

“Because we have a ballistic missile defence system … a country which has a small arsenal will think twice before it ventures,” he added, in an apparent reference to nuclear-armed rival Pakistan.

Last week the Indian military demonstrated its missile defence systems by shooting down a warhead off its east coast. Saraswat said that within three years, major cities such as Delhi and Mumbai would be under a protective shield.

India is also beefing up its armoury. It has announced a nuclear-capable missile with a range of 3,700 miles – far enough to hit Beijing or Rome.

Analysts say Pakistan’s rapid build-up of short- and medium-range missiles is of special concern to India despite an ongoing peace process between the two.

K Subrahmanyan, a writer on defence issues, said that India needed to raise the “uncertainty levels for Pakistan”.

“Pakistan is acquiring advanced missile technology from China. No missile defence system is perfect, but if we can knock out three out of every five warheads, it means our adversary has to fire more rockets. It is a means of deterrence.”

Analysts in Pakistan say such thinking is hastening an arms race. “The first impulse is to ask how does Pakistan get [a missile defence system],” said Ayesha Siddiqa, a defence analyst. “The next will be to increase the number of missiles to make sure it has enough to evade the shield.”

Other countries are also racing to develop “Star Wars” technologies. This year, after Tokyo saw North Korea test ballistic missiles and conduct a nuclear test, Japan’s parliament authorised $2.5bn (£1.3bn) to develop a missile defence system. The US, which has run 36 missile defence tests since 2001, has authorised an annual spend of a half a trillion dollars on a missile shield.

There are no indications of the cost of the Indian missile defence system, but many analysts say there are better uses for India’s money. “The US can afford such follies, but a developing country like India cannot,” said Bharat Karnad from Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research. “We should be getting more missiles, not finding ways of shooting them down.”

Hear Voices? It May Be an Ad

No, he’s not crazy: Our intrepid reporter Andrew Hampp ventures to SoHo to hear for himself the technology that has New Yorkers ‘freaked out’ and A&E buzzing. Photo Credit: Yoray Liberman

An A&E Billboard ‘Whispers’ a Spooky Message Audible Only in Your Head in Push to Promote Its New ‘Paranormal’ Program

AdAge.com | Dec 10, 2007

By Andrew Hampp

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — New Yorker Alison Wilson was walking down Prince Street in SoHo last week when she heard a woman’s voice right in her ear asking, “Who’s there? Who’s there?” She looked around to find no one in her immediate surroundings. Then the voice said, “It’s not your imagination.”

Indeed it isn’t. It’s an ad for “Paranormal State,” a ghost-themed series premiering on A&E this week. The billboard uses technology manufactured by Holosonic that transmits an “audio spotlight” from a rooftop speaker so that the sound is contained within your cranium. The technology, ideal for museums and libraries or environments that require a quiet atmosphere for isolated audio slideshows, has rarely been used on such a scale before. For random passersby and residents who have to walk unwittingly through the area where the voice will penetrate their inner peace, it’s another story.

Ms. Wilson, a New York-based stylist, said she expected the voice inside her head to be some type of creative project but could see how others might perceive it differently, particularly on a late-night stroll home. “I might be a little freaked out, and I wouldn’t necessarily think it’s coming from that billboard,” she said.

Less-intrusive approach?

Joe Pompei, president and founder of Holosonics, said the creepy approach is key to drawing attention to A&E’s show. But, he noted, the technology was designed to avoid adding to noise pollution. “If you really want to annoy a lot of people, a loudspeaker is the best way to do it,” he said. “If you set up a loudspeaker on the top of a building, everybody’s going to hear that noise. But if you’re only directing that sound to a specific viewer, you’re never going to hear a neighbor complaint from street vendors or pedestrians. The whole idea is to spare other people.”

Holosonics has partnered with a cable network once before, when Court TV implemented the technology to promote its “Mystery Whisperer” in the mystery sections of select bookstores. Mr. Pompei said the company also has tested retail deployments in grocery stores with Procter & Gamble and Kraft for customized audio messaging. So a customer, for example, looking to buy laundry detergent could suddenly hear the sound of gurgling water and thus feel compelled to buy Tide as a result of the sonic experience.

Mr. Pompei contends that the technology will take time for consumers to get used to, much like the lights on digital signage and illuminated billboards did when they were first used. The website Gawker posted an item about the billboard last week with the headline “Schizophrenia is the new ad gimmick,” and asked “How soon will it be until in addition to the do-not-call list, we’ll have a ‘do not beam commercial messages into my head’ list?”

“There’s going to be a certain population sensitive to it. But once people see what it does and hear for themselves, they’ll see it’s effective for getting attention,” Mr. Pompei said.

More disruptions

A&E’s $3 million to $5 million campaign for “Paranormal” includes other more disruptive elements than just the one audio ad in New York. In Los Angeles, a mechanical face creeps out of a billboard as if it’s coming toward the viewer, and then recedes. In print, the marketing team persuaded two print players to surrender a full editorial page to their ads, flipping the gossip section in AM New York upside down and turning a page in this week’s Parade into a checkerboard of ads for “Paranormal.”

It’s not the network’s first foray into supernatural marketing, having launched a successful viral campaign for “Mind Freak” star Criss Angel earlier this year that allowed users to trick their friends into thinking Mr. Angel was reading their mind via YouTube.

“We all know what you need to do for one of these shows is get people talking about them,” said Guy Slattery, A&E’s exec VP-marketing. “It shouldn’t be pure informational advertising. When we were talking about marketing the show, nearly everyone had a connection with a paranormal experience, and that was a surprise to us. So we really tried to base the whole campaign on people’s paranormal experiences.”

So was it a ghost or just an annoyed resident who stole the speaker from the SoHo billboard twice in one day last week? Horizon Media, which helped place the billboard, had to find a new device that would prevent theft from its rooftop location. Mr. Pompei only takes it as a compliment that someone would go to the trouble of stealing his technology, but hopes consumer acceptance comes with time. “The sound isn’t rattling your skull, it’s not penetrating you, it’s not doing anything nefarious at all. It’s just like having a flashlight vs. a light bulb,” he said.

DARPA’s Control Freak Technology

Darpa shows its LifeLog ASSIST handywork off, at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. Soldiers there, wearing a ton of cameras and sensors, go on mock-patrols through a simulated Iraqi village — recording the whole thing. (Defense Tech)

TruthNews | Dec 11, 2007

BY Kurt Nimmo

According to Wired, the Pentagon is “about to embark on a stunningly ambitious research project designed to gather every conceivable bit of information about a person’s life, index all the information and make it searchable…. What national security experts and civil libertarians want to know is, why would the Defense Department want to do such a thing?”

Once again, “security experts and civil libertarians” fail to understand the authoritarian, psychopathic mind. Our rulers do these sort of things because they are the ultimate control freaks, paranoid and suspicious of the average person — or rather what the average person may do in order to get rid of the controllers, the parasites, who are compelled to spend billions of dollars on such projects, that is to say billions fleeced off the people they want to monitor and control. As usual, the excuse is they have to protect us from the terrorists, never mind they created the terrorists, too.

“The embryonic LifeLog program would dump everything an individual does into a giant database: every e-mail sent or received, every picture taken, every Web page surfed, every phone call made, every TV show watched, every magazine read,” Wired continues. “All of this — and more — would combine with information gleaned from a variety of sources: a GPS transmitter to keep tabs on where that person went, audio-visual sensors to capture what he or she sees or says, and biomedical monitors to keep track of the individual’s health.”

In fact, a large part of this is already in place, thanks to the NSA’s vacuum cleaner approach to searching for “al-Qaeda phone calls,” cataloguing millions of phone calls each and every day, reading email, snooping internet destinations with the help of the telecoms. As for GPS, you have one in your cell phone, as well as a way for the snoops to listen in on what you say, even when you think the phone is switched off.

If the government had its way — and it may very well in a few years, thanks to the bovine nature of the average American — you will be chipped or at minimum have an RFID in your wallet or purse, thus they will be track where you go and when.

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US military in denial over ‘pain ray’

US military vehicle equipped with the Active Denial System (Photo: US Department of Defense)

Guardian | Dec 13, 2007

Concern over the safety of a crowd control system in tests sparks fears about its use in operational situations

by David Hambling

Crowd control always presents a problem for the military and police. How do you keep people away from a site without direct physical confrontation, when someone is almost sure to get hurt? Tear gas has variable effects and depends on wind; rubber bullets have killed. But what about a system that inflicts pain at a distance, without contact?

That’s the idea behind the Active Denial System now being tested by the US military. It is designed to cause excruciating pain without injury by projecting a beam of energy about two metres across. Victims describe the sensation as like a giant hairdryer on maximum heat, and no human can withstand it for more than a few seconds. It’s certainly effective, but the report of how a test subject received second-degree burns raises doubts over how harmless it is.

The system, informally known as the “pain ray”, works by producing a beam of short-wavelength microwaves that only penetrate about 0.4mm into the skin, rapidly heating the epidermis. Tests have shown that the beam will not cause cancer, infertility or damaged eyeballs. Heating skin to 55C causes intolerable pain, but no injury – any higher could be hazardous.

The US Air Force says over-exposure shouldn’t occur: “While the intensity of the beam varies with range, the safety margin and effects calculations have taken the maximum beam intensity into account. The repel effect will be virtually identical at short or long ranges until the effects dissipate beyond the system’s effective range.” Dr Juergen Altmann, physicist with the Bochum Verification project, isn’t convinced. His calculations suggest a dangerously narrow safety margin.

Safety concerns

In April, the system underwent field testing to determine its effectiveness in different situations. A report on a testing accident was obtained recently by Wired journalist Sharon Weinberger using the Freedom of Information Act. In one scenario the beam was to be used to prevent “Red Force” players from setting up an improvised explosive device “at a very far distance”. (The maximum range is classified, but thought to be about 750 metres.)

Earlier that day it had been used successfully at 75% power level and three-second duration. According to the report: “ADS Operator P4 set power to 100% for four-second duration, so as to be effective at the longer range.” A problem prevented the test from taking place – the system’s magnet requires supercooling and can be temperamental in hot weather. The commander decided to move on to the next scenario, which would test the beam by driving away Red Forces attempting to carry out surveillance at much closer range.

Unfortunately, the crew forgot to change the settings. When the system was fired, “Red Forces Role Player P3 immediately knew that he had received a stronger than usual shot from the ADS; he gave the quit signal and left the field.” The quit signal, raising one hand, has been used throughout Active Denial trials to indicate that a subject wishes to end testing.

The description of the injuries has been censored from the report: all we can see is that they are covered by 11 numbered points. An Air Force statement says: “the injury was classified as a second degree burn,” a type characterised by blistering. Local newspapers reported that the airman suffered burns on both legs and spent two days in the Joseph M Still Burn Centre in Augusta, Georgia. The official report puts the injury cost at $17,748.

Clearly the safeguards do not prevent operator error. “This document confirms my analysis that the intensity and dose to the target subjects is left to the discretion of the operator,” says Dr Altmann. “Not only can he or she re-trigger on the same person without giving appropriate cooling time, but also the strength of the beam and duration can be changed during action. Both lead to the possibility of second- and third-degree burn injury, which becomes life-threatening if more than 20% to 50% of body surface is affected.”

Classified information

Steve Wright of Leeds Metropolitan University expresses similar concerns. “If this means that these parameters do not have automatic safety overrides in place, there is the option of using this weapon to facilitate maiming injuries or punitive incapacitation – and this was at four seconds. We do not know what injuries would emerge for longer than this because US authorities have seen fit to heavily censor the biomedical information from the public record.”

If the system were used in Iraq, Wright believes safety considerations might be overlooked. “In the fear-filled conditions of a live and hostile confrontation, the natural temptation would be to turn the weapon up to full power to be certain that people taken down by it stayed down.”

Altmann agrees that foreign use could be more dangerous. “In tests with their own personnel the US military are certainly relatively cautious,” he says. “It is not difficult to imagine, on the other hand, what can happen in an occupied country.”

Moreover, reports from previous tests show that reflections of the beam can cause hotspots more than twice as strong as the main beam. Software designed to check mobile phone signal strength has been used to predict where these might appear, but it is not part of the system.

Proponents argue that it is better to risk causing a few minor burns than to use live ammunition, often the only alternative. Opponents are worried that if Active Denial is deployed, it could be the start of a new form of high-tech oppression. “One day the manufacturer will sell it, perhaps to security forces of allies with less sensitive tendencies,” says Wright. “Can one imagine this weapon being turned on democratic forces in Pakistan, for example, and the authorities using restraint?”

California town up in arms over Blackwater training camp

AFP | Dec 12, 2007

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — A tiny town in southern California is up in arms over an attempt by under-fire private security firm Blackwater to build a massive training center on its doorstep, official records showed Wednesday.

Residents of Potrero early Wednesday voted to replace five local planners who expressed support for Blackwater’s proposed 824-acre (333 ha) facility at a disused poultry farm in the town, roughly 42 miles (67 kilometers) east of San Diego.

Local media reported that residents of Potrero — which has a population of around 800 — were opposed to the center on the grounds that it would increase noise and disturbance. Concerns had also been raised that Blackwater may somehow become involved in policing the nearby US-Mexico border.

The San Diego County Registrar of Voters said on Wednesday residents had voted to replace the five members of a planning group that had supported the bid. A final decision on Blackwater’s training center will be taken by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

Blackwater has faced severe criticism following an incident in Baghdad in September in which 17 Iraqis were killed after guards employed by the firm opened fire in a crowded neighborhood.

The Iraqi government described the shooting as a crime but the company maintains its staff only began shooting after coming under attack as they protected a convoy.

Blackwater in Baghdad: “It was a horror movie”


Exclusive testimony from witnesses and victims provides the most in-depth, harrowing account to date of the U.S. security firm’s deadly rampage in Iraq.

Salon.com | Dec. 14, 2007

By Jennifer Daskal

For Khalaf, a 38-year-old Iraqi, Sept. 16 started like many other sunny summer workdays. He donned his police uniform — a white shirt, navy trousers and hat — and headed to Baghdad’s busy Nissour Square. By 7 a.m. he was out in the street, directing the flow of traffic coming from the multi-laned Yarmouk access road into the square. When he spotted four large all-terrain vehicles with guns mounted on top, he did what he always did. He stopped traffic and cleared the area for what he knew, from the tell-tale sign of the two accompanying helicopters, to be a security firm’s convoy.

At first, this seemed completely normal for the totally abnormal world of Baghdad in September 2007. “Convoys are common,” explained Khalaf. But this convoy made an unexpected U-turn, drove the wrong way around the one-way square, stopped in the middle of it and started shooting. Fifteen minutes later, 17 Iraqi civilians were dead, dozens more wounded, and a white sedan that had been engulfed in flames contained two bodies charred beyond recognition.

“It was a horror movie,” said Khalaf, describing the aftermath of the now notorious Blackwater shootings.

I interviewed Khalaf on Nov. 30, in a small conference room inside a hotel in Istanbul, Turkey. In one of the most in-depth collection of testimonials to date regarding Blackwater, Khalaf was among five witnesses and victims flown from Baghdad to meet with Susan Burke, William O’Neil and their team of lawyers and investigators. The team is suing Blackwater on behalf of the victims of the Sept. 16 shooting.

That lethal incident was a watershed moment that brought intense scrutiny to the problems caused by private contractors, which have effectively operated with impunity as they’ve brought violence and widespread ill will to U.S. operations in Iraq.

With experience learned from a similar lawsuit filed two years ago against U.S. contractors implicated in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison scandal, Burke O’Neil is perhaps the only law firm in the nation that could so quickly gather eyewitness and victim accounts, make the right legal arguments and begin the process of holding Blackwater to account.

Sadly, this lawsuit may be the only way that the victims and their families receive remotely adequate compensation for their losses.

Khalaf recounted the events of that day to a hushed room of lawyers with laptops. He watched, he said, as the Blackwater convoy made the U-turn toward the street where he stood directing traffic. As the convoy stopped, Khalaf watched as a large man with a mustache standing atop the third car fired several shots in the air. Khalaf turned back toward the Yarmouk road to see what might have spurred the shooting and heard a woman yell, “My son! My son!” He ran three cars back to a white sedan to find a woman holding a young man slumped over and covered with blood.

The man was Ahmed, a 20-year-old medical student at the top of his class, and the woman his mother, Mohasin, a successful dermatologist and mother of three.

“I tried to help the young man, but his mother was holding him so tight,” said Khalaf. “I raised my left arm high in the air to try to signal to the convoy to stop the shooting,” he said, thinking that it would respond to such a gesture by a police officer. He described how he crouched by the car, his right arm reaching inside, his head out and left arm up in the air, signaling to the convoy, his gun secure in its holster. Then the mother was shot dead before his eyes.

The shooting then turned heavier, Khalaf said, his eyes red-brimmed and serious. He hid behind the police traffic booth, but shots came directly at him, hitting the adjacent traffic light and booth’s door, and he fled back across Yarmouk road to safety behind a hill. Along with a few hundred others, he stayed there as the chaos unfolded, watching as the helicopters circling above the street started shooting at those below.

Fifteen minutes later, the four-car convoy continued around the square and drove away. Amid the wreckage, colorful clouds billowed into the air from the convoy’s parting gift — multicolored smoke bombs.

In remarks prepared for delivery before a congressional hearing in October, Blackwater chairman Erik Prince claimed company guards “returned fire at threatening targets,” including “men with AK-47s firing on the convoy” and “approaching vehicles that appeared to be suicide car bombers.” Prince’s prepared testimony also asserted that one of the vehicles had been disabled by the “enemy fire” and had to be towed. And he contended that the helicopters never fired on those below. (These remarks were never actually delivered; the Department of Justice launched an investigation the day before the hearing and asked the committee not to discuss the details of the Sept. 16 incident. Prince’s remarks were subsequently reported in the Washington Post.)

But the accounts of Khalaf and others contradict each of Prince’s assertions. Khalaf, who was there before the shooting began, said he never saw anyone fire on or approach the convoy. He watched as all four cars drove away as the 15-minute shooting spree ended, and huddled in fear as the helicopters began firing. He thought the helicopters would start spraying those who were hiding behind the hill for safety from the street-level threat.

Khalaf’s observations are backed up by official accounts, including leaked FBI findings, which concluded that at least 14 of the 17 shooting deaths were unjustified, and statements by military officials disputing Blackwater’s claim that its guards had been fired upon or under any sort of attack. The Iraq government’s own investigation found no evidence that the guards had been provoked or attacked, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s spokesperson called the shootings “deliberate murder.”

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