ALISON STEWART, host:
The head of Blackwater USA - a private security firm working in Iraq escorting U.S. diplomats among others - well, he will appear today before the House Oversight Committee on Government Reform Committee to answer questions about Blackwater guards allegedly instigating violence and killing civilian Iraqis.
LUKE BURBANK, host:
Now, Blackwater's been under increased scrutiny since its guards were involved in a Baghdad shooting on Sept. 16th that left at least eight Iraqis dead, other reports of maybe as few as 11 Iraqis. A new report released yesterday by the Democratic staff of that House Committee says that on average, Blackwater has engaged in 1.4 shooting incidence per week during its time in Iraq, and that in the vast majority of those incidents, Blackwater fired first.
STEWART: Now the report also charges that Blackwater contractors tried to cover up some of the shootings by paying the families of the victims, and that the U.S. State Department has actually approved such payments. One example stated in the report, the State Department allegedly helped a Blackwater guard leave Iraq after he killed a bodyguard for one of Iraq's two vice presidents when he was drunk.
BURBANK: Blackwater founder and chairman, a guy, 38-year-old Erik Prince. He's a former Navy SEAL. He founded the company back in 1997. He's planning what's being called a spirited defense. According to Time magazine, which got a leaked copy of Prince's statement, it says he's going to call the allegations negative and baseless and say that he's employees are victims of a, quote, "rush to judgment."
STEWART: Now in 2001, Blackwater had less than $1 million in government contract. Since then, they've been paid more than $1 billion for security work, mostly in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan and along the Gulf Coast of the United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Now, that's the BPP big story today. Stick around because we're going to drilled down a little deeper into the story with a journalist who got a hold of a videotape of the aftermath of the Baghdad incident that sparked this whole investigation. Newsweek Kevin Peraino is up next. But first, here's Rachel Martin with the news.
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