Blackwater founder threatened to 'come after' lawyer pursuing allegations: claim

Blackwater employees in Baghdad held wild parties featuring large amounts of cocaine and hash, where armed personnel would sometimes fire randomly at nearby buildings housing Iraqi civilians, says a former contractor for the security company.

Howard Lowry, a Texas businessman who worked in Iraq from 2003 to 2009, made the allegations in testimony he gave in a whistleblower trial aimed at Xe Services, the company formerly known as Blackwater.

"I feel that numerous families of individuals of Blackwater employees that have been killed on the job are not getting the true story," Lowry said in the deposition, which was obtained by The Nation's Jeremy Scahill.

Scahill reports that Lowry alleges he bought at least 100 AK47 machine guns for Blackwater guards on Baghdad's black market, as well as large quantities of steroids.

Lowry says some of the steroids he purchased went to guards protecting L. Paul Bremer, the man the Bush administration appointed to run Iraq's provisional government following the invasion in 2003.

"The use of steroids and human growth hormone, testosterone, were pretty endemic to them and almost company-wide," Lowry said.

"Not only did I purchase the pharmaceuticals, but I was also given money and asked to acquire syringes and other forms or modes of injection as well," Lowry stated in his deposition. He alleges the drugs were purchased with Blackwater money.

Lowry described Blackwater guards' parties at Baghdad's al-Hamra Hotel as a "frat party gone wild." He says he saw copious amounts of cocaine and hashish at the events.

"One of the suites would be absolutely packed with gentlemen running around with either no clothes on, no shirt on. It was like a frat party gone wild. Drug use was rampant. There was cocaine all on the tables. There were blocks of hash, and you could smell it in the air...walking up to the door," Lowry said in his deposition.

On occasion, Blackwater personnel at these parties would go out on the balcony with machine guns and "would just spray the building next door, which housed Iraqi civilians," Lowry alleges.

Lowry made his claims as part of a civil lawsuit against Blackwater alleging that company founder Erik Prince and companies he controlled defrauded the US government.

The suit, brought forward by former Blackwater employees Brad and Melan Davis, alleges that Prince and companies he controlled defrauded the US State Department and the US Department of Homeland Security via "false records, statements, claims, and omissions," according to court documents.

The plaintiffs "allege that Blackwater tried to bill the US government for a prostitute for its men in Afghanistan and for strippers in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina," according to Scahill.

Scahill reports that Prince threatened to "come after" the head lawyer for the plaintiffs, Susan Burke, after Burke questioned Prince for seven hours this summer at his new home in Abu Dhabi.

Prince is now reportedly trying to suppress the testimony he gave to Burke:

Soon thereafter, Prince's lawyers declared the entirety of the transcript of Prince's deposition to be confidential material and asserted that it should be sealed. Prince's attorneys filed papers in the case asking the judge to allow Prince and his lawyers to classify any information or documents Prince provides or any information or documents Burke obtains from Prince or Blackwater as "confidential" and therefore barred from public dissemination. Prince's lawyers have also asked that all documents they provide in the case be destroyed or returned within 120 days of the conclusion of the case.

On September 22, Burke filed a motion opposing the gag order and what she sees as Prince's attempt to "seal everything." In her motion, Burke reveals that she provided the US State Department with a transcript of the deposition for review of potentially classified material. A State Department contracting official wrote, “As contracting officer I do not require any redactions to the subject transcript of the Erk Prince deposition before it is made publicly available.”

This is not the first allegation of criminal wrongdoing by Blackwater guards in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year, in another lawsuit, it was alleged that Blackwater guards pimped out underage girls, and Prince himself “may have murdered or facilitated the murder” of people aiding in the investigation into the Nisour Square massacre, in which Blackwater guards are alleged to have killed 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007.

-- With reporting from AFP