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Blackwater Guards Indicted for Manslaughter in Baghdad Shooting

A first step in holding the mercenary company accountable.

Blackwater became the first armed U.S. private contractor to face legal justice today.  The Justice Department has made public a manslaughter indictment for the guards accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's Nisoor Square in 2007.  Five of those six guards surrendered in Utah today, and the sixth struck a plea deal in Washington, DC.  The move to surrender in Utah was a sneaky legal strategy devised to try the case in a far more conservative venue than DC, where Blackwater, the Iraq war, and President Bush are none too popular right now.

Wherever this case is eventually tried, however, it reflects the first backbone we've seen from the Justice Department regarding mercenaries like Blackwater.  Scott Horton, a Hofstra law professor who just wrote a study on legal accountability for private security contractors, recently told The Nation's Jeremy Scahill:

"The Justice Department has had this matter for fourteen months and has done almost everything imaginable to walk away from it--including delivering a briefing to Congress in which they suggested that they lacked legal authority to press charges.  They did this notwithstanding evidence collected by the first teams on the scene that suggested an ample basis to prosecute."

ZP Heller is the editorial director of Brave New Films. He has written for The American Prospect, AlterNet, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Huffington Post, covering everything from politics to pop culture.