Former Navy SEAL and former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince talked about the United States v. Slatten case currently being argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit. Also known as the “Nisour Square case,” it involves the conviction of former Blackwater contractors who were convicted of criminal offenses related to the shooting of Iraqi civilians in 2007. The contractors are seeking to have their convictions overturned on the grounds that they believed themselves to be under attack.
“I was there in person,” Prince told SiriusXM host Alex Marlow. “I feel terrible for the guys. I feel terrible for their families.”
“They’re appealing based on the fact that the government really shopped the venue, to force the case into a D.C. jury versus Utah, where the men surrendered,” he said. “You can imagine a Utah jury seeing things differently than a D.C. jury would.”
He added contentions that “the government suppressed evidence and didn’t really deliver defense evidence to the defense until more than halfway through the trial – again, illegal – and even that the government didn’t have jurisdiction.”
“It’s interesting that the government tries to make the case that the men – though the contract was funded by the Congress to the State Department, to defend the State Department’s diplomats – are trying to call it under control of the U.S. military,” Prince observed. “What was particularly offensive was that they said, well, because the Blackwater guys sometimes trained the military guys they came in contact with, and sometimes came to the aid of the military guys if they were under attack or wounded in Baghdad, that they became part of the military mission.”
“Certainly, that training support they gave to the military, or certainly the rescue support they gave at great personal risk to the men, was in no way part of the contract, but really part of the ‘Great Samaritan’ rule we had as a company – that if there was Americans that were in trouble, you went to help them regardless,” he explained.
He said it was “in keeping with this Obama government” and its “Bizarro World” rules that “the Good Samaritan rule is now used against you.”
Marlow noted that the Justice Department’s lawyers conceded during hearings that enemy fire occurred in the area before the Blackwater team fired, leading him to wonder why there was still any serious contention over appealing their convictions.
“That was very new news,” Prince said. “The government finally admits that, sure enough, the enemy first. And she said it not once, but twice. You can read it in the transcripts of the hearings. So hopefully, the three-judge panel will take that into consideration.”
“The bizarre thing – and it speaks to why this case never should have made it to a U.S. court – is that these three judges, however well-meaning, were asking about whether the gun made a big ‘pop’ sound or a little ‘pop’ sound, in trying to determine what kind of gun it was. For anyone that has any experience with any kind of firearms case, it was ludicrous,” he said.
“If you really have to try this case, it should be under some kind of a military-run court, not back in a civilian court 7,000 miles away, where no one – fortunately! – has been experiencing car bombs on a regular basis,” he asserted.
Prince predicted “the appeal process will drag on,” but he thought the judges have already made their decision and will issue them in a few weeks.
“I really hope for the best for the guys,” he said.
He found irony in the announcement of President Obama’s early release of Chelsea Manning on the same day the government was making landmark concessions in the U.S. v. Slatten courtroom.
“This perfectly exemplifies the Obama administration,” he said. “To basically pardon a self-hating and America-hating traitor, who betrayed hundreds of thousands of documents, releasing them to the aid of our enemies, to include tactics, techniques, procedures on counter-insurgency, exposing hundreds of Afghan interpreters and other people that were cooperating with the U.S., people that the Taliban now has a target list to kill, the damage is long and extensive, and yet this is what the Obama administration rewards and supports.”
“What a fitting end to the disaster that is the Barack Obama administration,” Prince declared.
Marlow lamented the politicization of the Justice Department under Barack Obama, which Prince supported by noting several political aspects of the Nisour Square case.
“First of all, the first federal judge that was handed this case, after months and months of review and discovery and investigation, threw the whole thing out for prosecutorial conduct,” he pointed out. “And then DOJ found another way to bring charges again, and they upped the charges this time because the statute of limitations had run out. So they create out of whole cloth other reasons for charges.”
“The summer that they try the case, it’s the summer of 2014, when Baghdad is under assault from tens of thousands of ISIS fighters, and they fly sixty Iraqis over to sit in an air-conditioned hotel in Washington,” he continued. “And the jury deliberates here for six weeks. I can only imagine that the jurors didn’t have a lot better to do than to sit and deliberate, for them to take six weeks to come to a decision like that.”
“It’s one thing after another after another. When the whole case is thrown out for misconduct by the prosecution, and then DOJ brings it back again, it is a litany of wrong. There was never even forensic investigation done at the site, of course, because the FBI didn’t get to the site until three weeks later. Many former FBI and DOJ investigators have even come forward to the prosecution to say this is a disaster,” he said.
“But unfortunately, the conviction went through, and now the appeals court has the chance to set these guys right. These were four American veterans that had all served honorably and admirably in the U.S. forces. Some of them were back just weeks or months after getting out of active duty service,” Prince noted.
He said there was no doubt in his mind that “were they wearing uniforms that day, this never would have happened.”
“This case came to be because the Left, the anti-war Left – which went after troops during the Vietnam War – decided to go after contractors this time. Armed contractors were the perfect target for them,” he said.
“Yes, sometimes civilians die in a combat zone. That is a terrible, terrible tragedy. There have been hundreds of thousands of civilians [who have] died since then, from enemy contact and from accidental bomb, accidental rounds. There’s a difference between intentional murder, which is what the DOJ alleges, versus the friction and danger that comes when you have enemies attacking armed people trying to do a security job, that they’re put there to do by the U.S. government,” Prince stated.
He repeated that he feels “terrible” for the accused men, but described their spirits as “high” during the appeal process, and said they “still have confidence in the United States of America to do the right thing on this.”
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