BAGHDAD — A leaked US diplomatic cable says that "hundreds" of former employees of Blackwater, which was barred from Iraq over a deadly 2007 shooting, later worked with other firms guarding US diplomats here.
Iraq announced in January 2009 that it would not renew Blackwater's operating licence due to a September 16, 2007 incident in which guards protecting a US diplomatic convoy opened fire in Baghdad's busy Nisur Square, killing at least 14 civilians.
After that announcement, the US State Department did not renew its contract with Blackwater, which has renamed itself Xe, for security services in Iraq.
But US diplomatic cables released by whistleblower website WikiLeaks confirm that ex-Blackwater employees kept working in Iraq with other security firms.
"There are many former Blackwater employees at other private security companies in Iraq, most notably Triple Canopy and DynCorp, providing security services to us," said a January 4, 2010 cable from the US embassy in Baghdad, which was released on August 30.
Another cable from January 11, 2010 also expressed concern over Iraqi efforts to oust former Blackwater employees from the country, noting that it could reduce the capacity of Triple Canopy to provide embassy security.
"The embassy understands that Triple Canopy currently employs several hundred former Blackwater employees," said the cable, which was also released by WikiLeaks on August 30.
The cable said that Dyncorp, which provides aircraft support, also "employs dozens of ex-Blackwater employees."
"Given how many former Blackwater employees are currently in the services of Triple Canopy, there is a serious possibility that the (Iraqi government's) request that they leave Iraq will diminish the company's ability to fulfil the embassy's security requirements," it said.
Despite US misgivings, the Iraqi interior ministry announced in February 2010 that it had given 250 former Blackwater employees seven days to exit Iraq and confiscated their residence permits, "in connection with the crime that took place at Nisur Square."
The early 2010 move to oust ex-Blackwater employees came amid Iraqi outrage over a December 2009 ruling by a US federal judge that dismissed criminal charges against five Blackwater employees accused of fatally shooting 14 people in Nisur Square.
A US appeals court reopened the prosecution against four of them earlier this year.
It is not clear if the 250 who were ordered to leave were just some or all of the former Blackwater employees working for the US in Iraq.
The US embassy in Baghdad referred inquiries on whether former Blackwater employees were still employed by the US in Iraq to Washington.