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« Let them eat paint | Main | "Thinking back on things, I think that I had definitely been overdoing it" »

Oct 30, 2007

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j. neas

I suppose I understand what happened here, though it's awfully frustrating. Does anyone with a law enforcement background know if a comparable situation would be a police officer offering immunity to a suspect for testimony without approval of the D.A. or whoever would have to approve that?

[tinfoil hat] What'cha wanna bet someone higher up somewhere arranged the offer knowing it would thwart the investigation? [/tinfoil hat]

jaycee

There was NO offer of immunity, none whatsoever.
This whole story is a fabrication built on a smidgen of information and misconstrued to fuel yet another attack on the Bush administration.
Sen. Leahy and others know full well what Garrity Rights are, if they don't then they should turn in their law degree and quit Congress. They're just hoping the public is too ignorant to realize they're being lied to by Leahy and other Dems.
Basically, in an internal gov't investigation the employee is COMPELLED to answer questions as a condition of his employment. Federal law and the US Constitution prevents compelled statements from being used in a criminal prosecution. Garrity Rights protect an employee who is forced to answer incriminating questions asked by his employers from having those forced answers used against him in a criminal proceeding in which the 5th Amendment protects him from making forced statements.
The FBI or whoever can still conduct a criminal investigation just as they would in any other matter. Blackwater (or other government employees) are free to exercise their 5th Amendment rights and not make statements as is any citizen. It's their RIGHT.
Garrity Rights are used hundreds of times all over the country every day in internal investigations.
Take a police shooting or officer involved wreck, for example. An officer is the focus of three separate and parallel investigations at once:
1) He's a victim in an assault or driver in a wreck. He must talk to investigators as any other witness or involved person.
2) He's involved in an internal investigation and is usually given Garrity Rights as his statements are for an internal investigation and can't be turned over to law enforcement for use against him since his answers are compelled.
3) He's the target of a criminal investigation to determine if he didn't anything illegal in the shooting/wreck.
This is all another political attack using Blackwater as the vehicle. Nothing more, nothing less.

Ed Cone

Jaycee, thnx for the detailed response. Does it matter in this case that the people in question are not government employees, but contractors employed by an independent company?

Certainly the White House, the State Dept., and Blackwater have not responded along the same lines that you have.

jaycee

Let me add this link, a good explanation of Garrity protection:
http://www.worklaws.com/legal_articles/pdf/garrity_rights.pdf

Ed, in this case (I believe) BW is a contractor for the US State Dept. and is thus treated as an employee for supervision purposes. Security contractors in Iraq are under the strict control of Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) agents. DSS does not have enough agents to do the job which BW and other contractors do, and it would take years for DSS to build up to that strength. Therefore, they hire contractors. This is not a new program, DSS has used contractors for years including prior to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Another analogy would be security guards hired by a retail store. The guard's actions become liabilities for the retail store as the guards are acting as agents of the store. Same here, I believe. (I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night!)
The story you quote begins with a misstatement of fact and proceeds to builds on it. The assumption is that State Dept. gave immunity but didn't have authority. The State Dept. says they are not authorized to give immunity; they don't and they haven't. The State Dept. apparently did an internal investigation and questioned contractors under the protection of Garrity, it did not give immunity. Everything is slanted in such a manner as to make the reader believe "immunity" was given when in fact it was not. But it does give the Dems another "scandal" to throw at the Bush administration in hopes that this one will, finally, stick.
Many people, including (apparently) the first poster on this thread, assume that what is written in a news story is the truth and that the government must defend itself and dissuade the reader from what he already "knows" is the truth. Legal issues are often complex and rarely reported accurately by some idiot reporter. And when you have politicos like Leahy and Waxman piling on and further distorting the truth...well, anything's likely.

jaycee

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071030/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/blackwater_prosecutions
This is another article that goes into a bit more detail on what "immunity" was given to BW contractors. It's just basic Garrity rights used in an internal investigation.
The Constitution prevents the police from using forced confessions in court. It doesn't matter whether the police or another gov't agency "forced" the confession, it's still inadmissible.
In other words, the FBI is in exactly the same position as it is in every investigation, government employee or not: It must gather it's evidence according to law and legal protections. Forced confessions/admissions can't be used in court.
That DSS gathered statements from BW employees under Garrity protection neither hinders nor helps any police investigation.

Ed Cone

See update to original post.

It occurs to me that any claims of immunity most likely did not originate with Congress, but with the suspects and their lawyers, no?

Interesting to see how this plays out.

jaycee

I believe those "claims" originated with news reporters who had no idea what the hell they were talking about.
A little bit of knowledge is often dangerous.

Ed Cone

From the Washington Post article: "Some of the Blackwater guards have subsequently refused to be interviewed by the FBI, citing promises of immunity from State, one law enforcement official said...Several of the Blackwater personnel, however, asserted that they had already told their stories, under immunity grants from the State Department, and declined FBI interviews that could be used against them, law enforcement officials said."

jaycee

I think many (BW guys, reporters, the public) are confusing Garrity protection with "immunity." Not synonymous.
"Refusing" to incriminate oneself in an interview with the FBI is an exercise of one's 5th Amendment right.
Hopefully they've retained lawyers. If I were a political pawn in a bullshit case like this I'd sure hire one.

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