Blackwater E-Mail Outlines Gear Shortage

The Associated Press
Wednesday, February 7, 2007; 6:00 PM

WASHINGTON -- A day before four of the company's security guards died in Iraq, a Blackwater USA employee wrote company officials that it was time to stop the "smoke and mirror show" and provide crucial equipment for the private army in the field.

"I need Comms (communications equipment). ... I need ammo. ... I need Glocks and M4s. ... Guys are in the field with borrowed stuff and in harm's way," said the e-mail, released at a House hearing Wednesday.

Blackwater's Iraq operations manager at the time, Tom Powell, wrote the memo to other company officials on March 30, 2004.

The next day, a mob in Fallujah ambushed a supply convoy guarded by Blackwater, killing the four employees who all were former members of the military.

The incident brought to U.S. television some of its most gruesome images of the Iraq war. The guards' bodies were dragged through the streets and mutilated and two of the corpses were strung from a bridge.

In a related development, an Army procurement official, Tina Ballard, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee the service has withheld $19.6 million from Halliburton subsidiary KBR.

The penalty resulted from the Army's discovery, after months of denials to committee members, that Blackwater was hired as a subcontractor under KBR's support operations for the U.S. military in Iraq.

The contract prohibited hiring private guards, leaving that job to the U.S. military.

The Powell memo was released after four family members of the men killed in Fallujah testified at the hearing that their loved ones were not given the armored vehicles, heavy weapons and other protections they were promised.

"I have requested Hard cars from the beginning and from my understanding an order is still pending. Why I ask," the Powell memo said.

Andrew Howell, general counsel of Blackwater, told the hearing the vehicles had some steel plates and were "believed appropriate by everyone involved."

"Did Blackwater meet its responsibilities?" asked committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

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