Justice Department officials have told Congress that they face serious legal difficulties in pursuing criminal prosecutions of Blackwater security guards involved in a September shooting that left at least 17 Iraqis dead.
In a private briefing in mid-December, officials from the Justice and State Departments met with aides to the House Judiciary Committee and other Congressional staff members and warned them that there were major legal obstacles that might prevent any prosecution. Justice officials were careful not to say whether any decision had been made in the matter, according to two of the Congressional staff members who received the briefing.
The staff members, who asked not to be identified, disclosed details of the meeting in interviews this week.
The December briefing took place after a federal grand jury had been convened in the case, suggesting that prosecutors had decided to begin hearing testimony with potential prosecution problems still unresolved.
Justice Department officials said Tuesday that the briefing had principally been held to answer questions concerning those problems, one of which arose when State Department investigators granted Blackwater employees a limited form of immunity for what they disclosed. There are also questions about whether federal law applies to the Blackwater contractors.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
New York Times: