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Ok, folks, this is probably the single most outrageous thing I’ve come across in years. To put these families -- who’ve already given the lives of their loved ones in service to this immoral and illegal war -- through this legal purgatory is an egregious crime in and of itself.
The families need our help.

Seeking information into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of four American contractors working for Blackwater USA in Fallujah, Iraq on March 31, 2004, the families of said victims were told their only recourse was to sue Blackwater USA in a U.S. court of law. Blackwater refused to share information. Now, Blackwater is suing those families for $10-million to keep them quiet.

The four families are now reaching out to the American public to help protect themselves against the very company their loved ones served at the time of their deaths, Blackwater Security Consulting.

AlterNet has the outrageous story.

After Blackwater lost a series of appeals all the away to the U.S. Supreme Court, Blackwater has now changed its tactics and is suing the dead men's estates for $10 million to silence the families and keep them out of court.

Following these gruesome deaths, which were broadcast on worldwide television, the surviving family members looked to Blackwater for answers as to how and why their loved ones died. Blackwater not only refused to give the grieving families any information, but also callously stated that they would need to sue Blackwater to get it.

Left with no alternative, in January 2005, the families filed suit against Blackwater, which is owned by the wealthy and politically connected Erik Prince.

Instantly, the big wigs at Blackwater went to work, strategizing and adapting battlefield tactics for use in the courtroom. Their first step was to hire Fred F. Fielding, who is currently council to President Bush, and a well known D.C. litigator and fire extinguisher. Former inspector general of the Pentagon, Joseph E. Schmitz, was next hired as Blackwater’s in-house council. And, to complete the posse, Blackwater also brought aboard Kenneth Starr -- infamous independent council in the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinski scandal – to oppose the families.

But, Blackwater didn’t stop there. To add additional muscle, they hired Cofer Black, onetime director of the CIA Counter-Terrorism Center.

With their dark side dream-team in place, Blackwater quickly filed its suit against the families’ estates, and then demanded that its claim and the families’ existing lawsuit be handled in a private arbitration. By suing the families in arbitration, Blackwater tried to move examination of their wrongful conduct out of the public’s view and away from a jury.

Don’t forget, this end round maneuver comes at the same time Congress is also investigating Blackwater.

Back to the article:

Over 300 contractors have been killed in Iraq with very little inquiry into their deaths. The families claim that Blackwater is attempting to cover up its incompetence, its cutting of corners in favor of higher profits, and its over billing to the government. Due to lack of accountability and oversight, Blackwater's private army has been able to obtain huge profits from the government, utilizing contacts established through Erik Prince's relationships with high-ranking government officials such as Cofer Black and Joseph Schmitz.

In addition to assembling its litigation troops, Blackwater also stonewalled the families concerning any information about how the men were killed. Over the past two and a half years, Blackwater has not responded to a single question or produced a single document. When the families' attorneys, Callahan & Blaine, obtained a Court Order to take the deposition of a former Blackwater employee with critical information about the incident, Blackwater quickly re-hired him and sent him out of the country. When the witness returned to the United States more than a year later, the families obtained another Court Order for his deposition. Blackwater again prevented them from taking his deposition by seeking the assistance of the U.S. Attorney's Office to block the deposition under the guise that he possibly possessed national secrets. Following an investigation, the U.S. Army reported that the witness had no secret information and that it had no objection to the deposition.

Even though ostensibly, Blackwater should have taken on a bunker mentality, they did the exact opposite, going on the offensive by suing the families for $10-million. The families are now backed against the wall, facing the barrel of a gun as Blackwater -- armed with a bottomless war chest and politically connected lawyers – is aggressively litigating against them. The company has also threatened to hold the administrator of the families’ estates personally liable in order to scare him into backing off. Blackwater has also threatened the families’ personal attorneys.

More from the article:

The families are simply without the financial wherewithal to defend against Blackwater. By filing suit, Blackwater is trying to wipe out the families' ability to discover the truth about Blackwater's involvement in the deaths of these four Americans and to silence them from any public comment. In February, the families testified before Congress.

However, Blackwater's lawsuit now seeks to gag the family members from even speaking about the incident or about Blackwater's involvement in the deaths. This is a direct attack to their free speech rights under the First Amendment.

"I initially took this case because it was the right thing to do in helping the families find closure by discovering the events surrounding their loved ones deaths, " said Daniel J. Callahan, attorney for the families. "I have found the evidence concerning Blackwater's involvement in the deaths to be overwhelming and appalling. Even more disturbing though is the callous nature in which Blackwater has not only concealed the truth, but also outright sued to force the families to stop pursuing the case and to silence them."

I reiterate, folks... THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS!

Blackwater has spent millions on hiring at least five law firms to fight these everyday American families who are only seeking closure and justice against a company who, besides Halliburton and Exxon-Mobil, have benefited the most from this abominable war-for-profit. Rather than meeting and addressing what should be one of their most important priorities, i.e., the safety and well-being of the mothers, wives, and the children left behind, they’ve chosen to abdicate their responsibilities. They’ve already stated that they won’t pay out a single dime to assist or console the survivors.

Without help, Blackwater will succeed in avoiding scrutiny for its conduct, escaping accountability for its actions, and silencing the families of the four Americans killed in Fallujah.

A defense fund has been established by which the public is able to donate money to assist the families with litigation costs and expenses.

Donations can be sent to the estates' trust account, payable to "C&B ITF Blackwater Victims Defense Fund," c/o Callahan & Blaine, 3 Hutton Centre Drive, Ninth Floor, Santa Ana, California 92707. Donations may also be made securely online through PayPal by going to blackwatervictims.com. All donations will be kept confidential and anonymous.

Defense fund donations

Let’s shut down these bastards!

Please, folks, I’ve never asked for "recommends" before (I don’t think I have, anyway) but I’m asking now. It’s late, and it's important that everyone see this come morning. Help in any way you can.

Donate if you can. If you can’t, come Monday, call or email your Congress critters.

Update w/links: (Big H/T -- johnny rotten)

On Point News: Case 2:06-cv-00049-F Document 13 Filed 04/20/2007 (PDF)

Courthouse News: NORTH CAROLINA IN THE GENERAL COURT OF JUSTICE
SUPERIOR COURT DIVISION
WAKE COUNTY FILE NO. _________ (PDF)

The Nation: Bush's Shadow Army - Jeremy Scahill

Democracy Now!

Virginia Pilot Online

Star Bulletin.com

Thanks, everyone for putting this diary on the "rec" list. Hopefully, we can do some good.

Peace

Originally posted to markthshark on Fri Jun 08, 2007 at 08:47 PM PDT.

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