Cofer Black Disputes Blackwater Bribery Story


Cofer Black is disputing the New York Times‘ blockbuster Blackwater story. On Tuesday evening, the paper reported that in December 2007 the company (which now goes by Xe) schemed to bribe Iraqi officials “to silence their criticism and buy their support” in the wake of a shooting frenzy in Baghdad’s Nisour Square that left 17 Iraqis dead. According to the Times, Black, a veteran CIA counterterrorism official then serving as Blackwater’s vice chairman, learned of the payout plan “from another Blackwater manager while he was in Baghdad discussing compensation for families of the shooting victims with United States Embassy officials.”

Alarmed about the secret payments, Mr. Black cut short his talks and left Iraq. Soon after returning to the United States, he confronted Erik Prince, the company’s chairman and founder, who did not dispute that there was a bribery plan, according to a former Blackwater executive familiar with the meeting. Mr. Black resigned the following year.

Late Tuesday evening I received an email from Mark Corallo, one of Xe’s PR reps (who you may also recall as John Ashcroft’s Justice Department spokesman), dismissing the Times‘ allegations as “baseless” and providing the following statement from Black (who, it’s worth noting, did not respond to emails or phone calls from the Times):

I met with U.S. Embassy officials in Baghdad during the period described in the New York Times article in order  to discuss the best course of action in wake of the Nisour Square incident. Blackwater was directed to provide some financial compensation to relatives of those Iraqi victims which Embassy officials described as called for by Iraqi custom. During these meetings with Embassy officials, Blackwater sought  State Department leadership in dispensing any such good faith compensation from Blackwater to the victims’ relatives as Blackwater was subordinate to the State Department as its security contractor.  I never confronted Erik Prince or any other Blackwater official regarding any allegations of bribing Iraqi officials and was unaware of any plot or guidance for Blackwater to bribe Iraqi officials.

Follow Daniel Schulman on Twitter.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate