A top Blackwater manager threatened to kill a State Department investigator in 2007, just weeks before one of the private contractor’s guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square, according to a New York Times report.

Jean C. Richter, a diplomatic security special agent, said Daniel Carroll, a Blackwater project manager, told him “that he could kill me at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq.”

“Mr. Carroll’s statement was made in a low, even tone of voice, his head was slightly lowered; his eyes were fixed on mine,” Richter said in his memo. “I took Mr. Carroll’s threat seriously. We were in a combat zone where things can happen quite unexpectedly, especially when issues involve potentially negative impacts on a lucrative security contract.”

Richter said he was especially alarmed because Carroll, who formerly served in the elite Navy SEAL Team 6, was the security contractor’s leader in Iraq, and “organizations take on the attitudes and mannerisms of their leader.”

But Richter said officials at the American Embassy in Baghdad sided with Blackwater, saying the investigation he was conducting with Donald Thomas Jr. was disrupting day-to-day operations and creating an unnecessarily hostile environment for the contractor.

The two State Department investigators were ordered to return to Washington, where Richter later wrote a scathing memo on the lack of oversight of the company paid $1 billion to protect American diplomats in Iraq.

"Blackwater contractors saw themselves as above the law," Richter said in the Aug. 31, 2007, memo.

This created a situation where the "the contractors, instead of Department officials, are in command and in control."

Documents obtained by the Times' James Risen showed Blackwater – which changed its name to Academi after it was sold by its founder, Erik Prince, in 2010 -- overbilled the State Department by manipulating personnel records.

But investigators said the contractor got away with inappropriate behavior because embassy personnel got “too close” to the security contractors.

Four Blackwater guards are currently on trial in Washington for the Sept. 16, 2007, shootings in Nisour Square.

A previous case against five other guards was dismissed in 2009.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]