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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
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And I'm Melissa Block.
FBI agents investigating last month's Blackwater shooting incident that killed 17 Iraqis have just returned to the United States. They're starting to sift through the information and evidence they have collected, including some of the cars involved in the shootout.
NPR's FBI correspondent Dina Temple-Raston is here to talk about what they collected and what comes next. And Dina, the FBI got to Iraq about six weeks after the incident. And what could they find out at that point?
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, what they were trying to do is find witnesses on the ground who could give them more information. And they literally talk to hundreds of people there to find out one key thing, and that's whether or not the Blackwater team actually took fire before they started firing their guns, or whether they just started shooting indiscriminately.
So they've had these witnesses come in, and they're using these enlarge photographs and these computer models of the scene and peppering them with questions like, you know, when did you get there? Where were you standing?
How did the events unfold? What do these shooters looked like? And they actually purchased the burned-out cars that were on the side of the road that you've seen on television. And they've shipped them back to the U.S. And they're expected to be examined at this crime lab that the FBI has in Quantico, Virginia.
BLOCK: And when they do that examination, what can they hope to find?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, they're swabbing the cars for various things, for explosive residue. Here's an amazing thing about explosive residue. It stays put. Even a plane that goes down in the ocean, when they pull it up again, they can still find explosive residue. So they're going to be looking at that for the cars. They'll be looking at the angles and the entry from bullets, how they hit the cars. They'll be looking for DNA evidence. They can actually get a lot of information out of these cars. For example, based on the spidering and shattering of the glass, it actually tells them which bullets hits first.
And in their bullet trajectory class, when they're training as FBI agents, they actually are required to be able to number bullets in the order in which they actually entered the car. So there's a lot of information in those cars.
BLOCK: And we're talking about the cars owned by Iraqis. What about the Blackwater vehicles? Do they have access to those?
TEMPLE-RASTON: They do. And they have looked at those as well. I just find it very interesting that you would end up buying cars from Iraqis and actually shipping them back to the U.S. But of course, they've looked at the Blackwater cars as well.
BLOCK: Dina, what's next in the investigation?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, again, the key issue is whether Blackwater contractors started the shooting in this square in Western Baghdad or whether they were fired on. So they're going through all this ballistic evidence now, looking for casings of bullets that perhaps weren't Blackwater guns, weren't Blackwater bullets. And that would give some indication that maybe there was a shooting beforehand. It's really unclear how long it's going take to compile all this. They've come back literally with loads of information that allowed them to have a very good idea of what happened and reconstruct the events.
And when they finish doing all that, then the FBI is going submit their evidence to the Justice Department and then it's the Justice Department's decision whether or not they're going to prosecute.
BLOCK: Okay. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston, thanks very much.
TEMPLE-RASTON: My pleasure.
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