DOJ's integrity takes another massive hit in Blackwater case

Wednesday, June 20, 2018
J.M. Phelps (

Dept. of Justice 2In an astounding eleventh-hour disclosure, the Department of Justice has revealed that an Iraqi policeman at the center of the Nisour Square investigation of September 16, 2007, involving Blackwater has ties to insurgency. This is the second Brady violation committed by the DOJ during the years-long prosecution that many say is politically motivated and rooted in error

After convictions in 2014, three of the men – Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty and Paul Slough – appealed, among other things, their mandatory minimum sentences of 30 years. Those sentences were overturned on an 8th Amendment violation. The fourth, Nicholas Slatten, was convicted on the sole count of murder. His conviction was overturned due to mishandling of the case by the federal district court judge. The appeals were granted in 2017. Despite an overturned conviction for Slatten, the government argued he should remain imprisoned pending a retrial that is scheduled to begin on Monday (June 25, 2018). 

In the weeks leading up to retrial, Slatten's legal team renewed their request, ongoing since 2007, asking the government turn over any intelligence files relating to anyone – alleged victim or policeman involved in the investigation – in Nisour Square having ties to terrorist or insurgency organizations. Since 2007, the DOJ has maintained no such information exists. However, in a sudden response to Slatten, the assistant U.S. attorney refused to confirm or deny such information existed, while filing an ex parte, under-seal motion with the court for protection to withhold whatever information they obviously had.

In response to the request for protection under CIPA, Slatten's counsel filed an emergency Motion to Compel. After an in-camera, ex parte review, Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled the government would be turning over some information, but "no additional" [information], in a baffling court order that mooted the Motion to Compel – despite the government being compelled to produce the information as a result of the Motion.

The information that the government produced was a "summary of classified" intelligence, which surely leaves the counsel for Slatten frustrated because a number of the attorneys have clearance sufficient to view such information. The summaries reveal Colonel Faris Saai Abdul Karim, who was key and central to the entire investigation conducted by the U.S. and Iraqi authorities, apparently has ties to the Iran-based Jaysh al-Mahdi:

The docketed Motion reveals:

"The United States Government has information that in 2004, an Iranian Intelligence agent ('agent') was hopeful that he/she could cultivate ties with an applicant to the Iraqi National Intelligence Service. The applicant was referred to as 'Lieutenant Colonel Karim' ('Karim')...The agent had long-standing ties with 'Karim' through personal family contacts. The agent served under cover as a member of the Badr Corps. 'Karim' knew the agent as a Badr Corp member, and in this context, provided the agent with a steady stream of 'information.' ...In March 2004, 'Karim' applied to the Iraqi National Intelligence Service. 'Karim' promised the agent he would remain loyal to him and continue their relationship."  

The docketed Motion continues:

"The United States Government has information that in February 2008, an associate of a figure in the Iran-based Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) ('associate'), attempted to verify the planning of a raid by United States and Iraqi forces via a 'Colonel Karim' ('Karim') presumably a member of the Iraqi Security Forces."

The Badr Organization is an Iranian-sponsored militia operating in Iraq and Syria. According to Reuters, the Badr Organization acts as "Iran's oldest proxy in Iraq." The group operating in Iraq has been compared to Hezbollah in Lebanon and has been formerly accused of gross human rights violations. According to former National Security Advisor Lieutenant General (USA-Ret.) Michael Flynn, "Members of the Badr Corps are responsible for killing many American soldiers and they will likely do it again if given the chance...[G]roups like the Badr Corps represent enemies of a stable, secure and inclusive Iraq."

In response to the summaries, Slatten's attorneys have filed a motion requesting the government either provide the underlying intelligence or dismiss the indictment against Slatten. The motion details the integral involvement of Colonel Karim in the case against Blackwater, including identifying alleged victims to American authorities, removal of evidence, and clear allegations of witness tampering, which include one incidence of being admonished by the FBI for "speaking to the Iraqis about the substance of the case when he calls to schedule interviews."

This is the second Brady violation committed by these AUSAs. The first was the revelation of two photos, which were hidden for seven years, depicting spent AK-47 shells located near a concrete bus stop, taken by the U.S. Army in the hour following the incident. The bus stop was a location identified by convoy members as a location from where incoming fire was coming. Those spent casings were part of the hundreds of pieces of evidence picked up by the men under Colonel Karim's leadership and destroyed. Remarkably, those pieces of evidence never made it into the hands of any American investigators.

Was this the "massacre of unarmed, innocent civilians" like the world has been led to believe? Or was it the two-way firefight the men of the Blackwater’s Raven 23 said it was? With this second Brady violation, it seems the government would prefer the world never know. The judge has yet to rule on the Motion to Dismiss.

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