WASHINGTON -Blackwater Worldwide guards involved in the deadly 2007 Baghdad shooting of Iraqi civilians could face mandatory 30-year prison sentences under an aggressive anti-drug law being considered as the Justice Department readies indictments, people close to the case said.
Charges could be announced as early as Monday for the shooting, which left 17 civilians dead and strained U.S. relations with the fledgling Iraqi government. Prosecutors have been reviewing a draft indictment and considering manslaughter and assault charges for weeks. A team of prosecutors returned to the grand jury room Thursday and called no witnesses.
Though drugs were not involved in the Blackwater shooting, the Justice Department is pondering the use of a law, passed at the height of the nation's crack epidemic, to prosecute the guards. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 law calls for 30-year prison terms for using machine guns to commit violent crimes of any kind, whether drug-related or not.
The people who discussed the case did so on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose matters that are not yet public.
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd declined to comment on the report.
Blackwater, the largest security contractor in Iraq, was thrust into the national spotlight after the Sept. 16, 2007, shooting. Its guards, all decorated military veterans hired to protect U.S. diplomats overseas, were responding to a car bombing when a shooting erupted in a crowded intersection.
The guards carried government-issued machine guns and drove heavily armored trucks equipped with turret guns.
So, let's see: the government can issue machine-guns to a private military company and then prosecute them with a law designed to place minimum penalties on people using illegal automatic weapons.
Yep. Makes sense. To somebody, I'm sure.