Blackwater's presence in Iraq scrutinized

WASHINGTON, Oct. 2 (UPI) -- The soundness of sending private security firms such as Blackwater was a key point for a U.S. congressional panel probing Blackwater's presence in Iraq.

The House Oversight & Government Reform Committee began its hearing Tuesday into claims against U.S. military contractor Blackwater over the shooting of Iraqi civilians Sept. 16. However, acting on a request by the Justice Department, the committee did not discuss the specific incident because of investigations being conducted by the FBI and others.


"Blackwater will be held accountable today," Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said as he opened the hearing.

In remarks distributed before the hearing and Justice Department request, Blackwater chairman Erik Prince said "there has been a rush to judgment" about the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 16 incident in which as many as 20 Iraqi civilians died in Baghdad.

In his opening remarks, Prince said, "I believe we acted appropriately" on Sept. 16, without discussing details.

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind, said while he believes "Congress needs to have hearings," he asked the panel not to "rush to judgment" before the FBI's investigation and other investigations are completed.

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