The New York Times has found that a federal judge's decision to dismiss a case against Blackwater on grounds of inadmissible evidence resulted from a problem that was apparent to government lawyers within days of the September 2007 Baghdad shootings.

As explained by the Times, the Blackwater guards were required by contract to submit immediate reports on the incident -- but any use of those reports in court proceedings would be considered self-incrimination and thus not admissible under the Constitution.

Justice Department prosecutors preparing the case could have guarded against this by preparing their indictments before reading the guards' statements, but according to the judge these "common sense precautions" were not taken. State Department lawyers were already expressing their concerns about this to prosecutors less than two weeks after the shootings.

The defendants' statements were not only used as part of the government's presentation to a grand jury in November 2007 but were quoted in news reports at the time. As a result, they were deemed by the judge to have contaminated the case even when the government lawyers tried to fix their mistake by starting over with a second grand jury a year later.