Top executives atBlackwater Worldwide
authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that
were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support after a
September 2007 episode in which Blackwater security guards fatally shot
17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, according to former company officials.
Blackwater approved the cash payments in December 2007, the officials
said, as protests over the deadly shootings in Nisour Square stoked
long-simmering anger inside Iraq about reckless practices by the
security company’s employees. American and Iraqi investigators had
already concluded that the shootings were unjustified, top Iraqi
officials were calling for Blackwater’s ouster from the country, and
company officials feared that Blackwater might be refused an operating
license it would need to retain its contracts with the State Department
and private clients, worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.