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U.S. Offers Immunity for Blackwater Guards

LUKE BURBANK, host:

Could Blackwater USA be off the hook?

ALISON STEWART, host:

A State Department error may have derailed any possible prosecution of the private security contractors who shot 17 Iraqi civilians to death in Baghdad last month.

BURBANK: State Department investigators reportedly promised security guards from Blackwater USA immunity as they investigated last month's incident - this according to the Associated Press and the New York Times. And that could delay or even prevent U.S. law enforcement officials from bringing criminal charges in the case.

STEWART: (unintelligible) department officials who allegedly made the promise didn't have the authority to do so. The legal definition of immunity is a promise not to prosecute for a crime in exchange for information or testimony in a criminal matter granted by the prosecutors, a judge, a grand jury or an investigating legislative committee.

BURBANK: Iraq's government is reportedly infuriated by the news. Iraq is demanding the right to launch its own prosecution of the guards.

STEWART: Now, an unnamed FBI source told the AP that several of the Blackwater guards have refused to answer questions about the case, citing this immunity deal.

BURBANK: The FBI, State Department and Blackwater aren't commenting so far. Blackwater has said its September 16th convoy was under attack before it opened fire in West Baghdad, killing 17 Iraqis. However, follow-up investigations by the Iraqi government and an initial report by U.S. Central Command concluded that Blackwater's men were unprovoked. No witnesses have been found to contradict that finding.

STEWART: We will continue to follow this story for you. That is today's BPP Big Story.

Now let's get the rest of the news from our own Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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