Thursday, October 04, 2007

NYT 'covers' Blackwater; Watada's court-martial set for Tuesday

The former Blackwater USA employee who is the sole suspect in the killing last Christmas Eve of a bodyguard for an Iraqi vice president is a 27-year-old former Army paratrooper from Montana who now lives in Seattle, where he spends much of his time renovating his small home.
The former employee, Andrew J. Moonen, is identified in numerous government and company documents and is known to scores of Blackwater and government officials, but Congress, the State Department and the company have been keeping his identity confidential.
In an interview on Tuesday evening, Mr. Moonen declined to discuss the episode, in which, American and Iraqi officials say, a Blackwater worker who had been drinking heavily got into a confrontation with a bodyguard to Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi and shot him three times. The guard, Raheem Khalif, died early the next day at an American military hospital.

The above is the latest scribbles from John M. Broder entitled "Ex-Paratrooper Is Suspect in a Blackwater Killing" and in this morning's New York Times. Moonen allegedly committed a crime and he's the focus of Broder's attention. Not Blackwater who whisked him out of the country and allowed a lie to stand that the US military was responsible for the shooting to buy time. The State Department also assisted. This would be appalling if the employer was McDonalds and not Blackwater but it's more so when it comes to a company that sucks up tax payer dollars and whose CEO, Erik Prince, wants to insist that his mercernaries are the equivalent of the US military. As the recieptiant of government contracts, Blackwater is likely in violation for their part in whisking the man out of the country but Broder can't be bothered with that. He can't be bothered with asking those questions or with looking at the fine print of those contracts. He can't be bothered with calling a few legal experts.

He can't be bothered with investigating the State Department cover up either. Prince testified and that's all he needs. The State Department created an international incident when they took part in assisting the man's departure from Iraq.

Robin Wright and Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post via San Jose Mercury News) report:

Iraq has ordered $100 million worth of light military equipment from China for its police force, contending that the United States is unable to provide the materiel and is generally too slow in delivering arms, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Wednesday.
The China deal, not previously made public, has alarmed military analysts who state that Iraq's security forces already are unable to account for more than 190,000 weapons supplied by the United States. Many are believed to be in the hands of Shiite and Sunni militias, insurgents and other forces seeking to destabilize Iraq and target U.S. soldiers.
"The problem is that the Iraqi government doesn't have as yet a clear plan for making sure that weapons are distributed, that they are properly monitored and repeatedly checked," said Rachel Stohl of the Center for Defense Information, an independent think tank. "The end-use monitoring will be left in the hands of a government and military in Iraq that is not yet ready for it. And there's not a way for the U.S. to mandate them to do it if they're not U.S. weapons."

Malnutrition rates soar in Iraq, cholera breaks out (and don't think it's not due to the lack of potable water) and yet when it's time to spend, $100 million can be spent on arms.

Turning to the topic of Ehren Watada who is set to be court-martialed again on Tuesday -- the Constitution be damned. Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) reports:

In an unusual appeal to civilian courts, attorneys for 1st Lt. Ehren Watada have asked a federal judge in Seattle to block a military court-martial scheduled to start Tuesday at Fort Lewis.
Watada faces up to six years in prison on charges of failure to deploy to Iraq and four counts of conduct unbecoming an officer.
He is the first Army officer to face charges for refusing to deploy to Iraq. An earlier trial in February ended in a mistrial.
The petition filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle seeks an emergency stay of the court-martial.
Defense counsels claim a second trial would violate Watada's constitutional rights against double jeopardy since he was previously tried on the charges, and the mistrial was declared over the objections of the defense.

Bernton notes that in August (one year after the Article 32 hearing) the Army Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the defense claims and that the matter now lies with the Court of Appeal for the Armed Forces. Watada's attorneys have maintained that the best chance is with that court due to its makeup.

Christian Hill (The Olympian) reports:

Their request is pending before the nation's top military court, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Worried a decision won't arrive before the court-martial begins, they filed a request Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle seeking a judge's order to stop the trial.
Lt. Col. John Head, the military judge who presided over Watada's first court-martial and dismissed his double-jeopardy argument, and Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr., who has authority to convene the court-martial as Fort Lewis' commanding general, are federal officers in Western Washington and therefore are under the court's jurisdiction, said Watada lawyer Kenneth Kagan.
"The judge does have the authority to direct what the Army does," he said.
Federal appellate courts have held that if a lower court hasn't halted a trial in which there is a legitimate double-jeopardy claim pending, they "will step in and stop it," Kagan said.

Mike Barber (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) reports:

Kagan and Jim Lobsenz, both of the Seattle law firm Carney Badley Spellman, Wednesday filed a writ of habeas corpus and a request for an emergency stay in Seattle federal court because the Appeals Court for the Armed Forces has not ruled and the trial date is quickly approaching.
Among other remedies, Watada's lawyers have asked the federal court in Seattle "to issue a writ of habeas corpus releasing (Watada) from all restraint imposed by the pending court-martial charges, and declaring any trial on such charges to be barred and prohibited by the double-jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment."
After learning of the new court challenge, Fort Lewis officials said in a statement that they had followed the law in scheduling a second court-martial.
"We've not seen the filing or heard a ruling on it from the court, so we will not speculate on what effect it may have on next week's scheduled trial. However, the government has followed the law and rules throughout the process of bringing this case to trial. The U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals in Balston, Va., determined that this case was not prohibited by double jeopardy and may properly proceed to trial. The court issued its ruling after considering comprehensive briefs and arguments from the parties."
Kagan said he thinks that there's a likelihood a federal judge will accept the case because military officers are federal officers who fall under the Seattle federal court's jurisdiction.
Kagan said he believes there is "a good chance" the court-martial will be delayed because local federal judges feel bound by precedents of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and other higher civilian courts. "Those circuits have looked at this issue and concluded when there is a decent double-jeopardy claim, you have to stop the trial, and you've got to review it," Kagan said.

Kagen is Ken Kagen. Barber also notes that Watada's contract expired in December but the military has extended it for the court-martial.

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