Blackwater 'in 195 shootings'

State Department contractor Blackwater, under investigation for the shooting deaths of 11 Iraqis on September 16, will answer questions about that incident and others at what is expected to be a testy congressional hearing tomorrow.


Senior State Department officials will also be grilled by the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform examining whether the growing use of military contractors undermines US efforts in Iraq.

FBI investigates

In another development, the FBI says it has been asked by the State Department to send a team of investigators to Iraq to look into the September 16 shootings.

No criminal charges have been filed yet against Blackwater over that incident.

A report prepared by the staff of committee chair Representative Henry Waxman, released details from Blackwater's own reports of multiple incidents involving Iraqi casualties and said in most instances Blackwater fired first.

Paying off victims

The memorandum also slammed the State Department's oversight of Blackwater and says it is often more interested in getting the company to pay off victims' families and "put the matter behind us" than in investigating what happened.

It listed 195 shooting incidents from the start of 2005 until September 12 of this year, an average of 1.4 per week.

Of those, there were 16 Iraqi casualties and 162 cases with property damage, the California Democrat says.

He did not specify if there were fatalities.

‘First to fire’

"In 32 of those incidents, Blackwater were returning fire after an attack while on 163 occasions (84 per cent of the shooting incidents), Blackwater personnel were the first to fire," Mr Waxman, a vocal critic of the Iraq war, says.

State Department rules say Blackwater's actions should be defensive rather than offensive.

Blackwater, which has been paid a little over $US1 billion ($A1.13 billion) by the US government since 2001, declined comment.

"We look forward to setting the record straight on this and other issues" when Erik Prince, Blackwater's chief, testifies before the committee, spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell says.

Staff lose jobs

The report said Blackwater had fired 122 of its staff in Iraq over the past three years for a number of infractions, including 28 weapons-related incidents and 25 cases involving drugs and alcohol violations.

MR Waxman criticised the State Department's handling of several incidents involving Blackwater.

"It appears that the State Department's primary response was to ask Blackwater to make monetary payments to put the 'matter behind us' rather than to insist upon accountability or to investigate Blackwater personnel for potential criminal liability," says the memorandum.

Drunken incident

In a shooting incident on December 24, 2006, a security guard for Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi was killed by an allegedly drunken Blackwater contractor, who was then flown out of the country and faced no charges, the memorandum says.

The State Department's charge d'affaires recommended Blackwater pay $US250,000 ($A282,085) and give an "apology."

Mr Waxman noted the State Department's diplomatic security says that was too much and would cause Iraqis to "try to get killed."

Eventually Blackwater agreed on a $US15,000 ($A16,925) payment.

In another incident where Blackwater shooters killed an "innocent Iraqi," Mr Waxman said the State Department requested only a $US5,000 ($A5,640) payment to "put this unfortunate matter behind us quickly."