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US Congress Hears Testimony on Private US Security Contractors

02 October 2007

The U.S. Congress is scheduled to conduct hearings Tuesday into the U.S. government's use of private security firms in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a statement prepared for the hearing, Blackwater USA chairman Erik Prince says his company's personnel acted appropriately during a controversial September 16 incident. Prince accused the media of rushing to judgment on baseless allegations regarding the incident in which 11 Iraqi citizens were killed. Blackwater says its employees were responding to an attack on a convoy they were protecting. Iraqi witnesses say the shooting was unprovoked.

A report prepared by the staff of a U.S. congressional committee says Blackwater has been involved in at least 195 shooting incidents in Iraq since 2005.

The report, released Monday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says that in more than 80 percent of the incidents, Blackwater fired first.

The committee is chaired by California Democrat Henry Waxman, a vocal critic of President Bush's conduct of the war in Iraq.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced Monday that its agents will travel to Iraq to investigate the incident involving Blackwater USA employees last month.

In today's statement, Prince also defends the company's record of service, claiming that no individual protected by Blackwater has ever been killed or seriously injured.

He says that his company's approximately one thousand personnel in Iraq are subject to numerous U.S. treaties and regulations and have taken an oath to protect the U.S. Constitution.

Blackwater USA has received more than $1 billion from federal contracts since 2001.

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