The State Department investigators from the agency's investigative arm, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, offered the immunity grants even though they did not have the authority to do so, the officials said. Prosecutors at the Justice Department, who do have such authority, had no advance knowledge of the arranement, they added.
Most of the guards who took part in the Sept. 16 shooting were offered what officials described as limited-use immunity, which means that they were promised they would not be prosecuted for anything they said in their interviews with the authorities as long as their statements were true. The immunity offers were first reported Monday by The Associated Press.
CBS and AP report:
The State Department promised Blackwater USA bodyguards immunity from prosecution in its investigation of last month's deadly shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians, CBS News has learned.
Law enforcement officials say the State Department granted them immunity from prosecution before taking their statements. They can still be prosecuted, but former prosecutor David Laufman said it will be harder to make a case, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported.
"It requires the FBI and the department of justice to ensure that any evidence the FBI develops is disconnected from any information that the State Department developed," Laufman said.
The FBI can still interview the guards, but Laufman doubts they will cooperate.
CNN Terry Frieden notes:
The Justice Department and FBI refused comment on the investigation, which the State Department announced in early October. Blackwater also declined to comment.
"They were told their statements can't be used against them," said one U.S. government official. "But this doesn't necessarily mean charges can never be brought against these guys."
A second official called the limited immunity "surprising and confusing" and questioned the authority of the State Department's diplomatic security investigators to unilaterally make immunity decisions.
Why Condi Rice failed to tell Congress or to have someone serving under her pass on to Congress that this immunity had taken place is not explored. For those who missed it, Rice has repeatedly appeared before Congress, including Waxman's committee last week where she spoke about Blackwater. Is Condi unaware what deals her own department is making? If that is the case, it goes to questions about leadership -- repeated questions about her leadership.
Giuliana Sgrena tells her story today on Democracy Now! -- responding to the uninformed Dumb Ass who thinks he can blame the press for his own actions. (See yesterday's snapshot for D.A.'s attack on the freedom of the press.)
the new york times