an excerpt from:
2005 Use of Gas by Blackwater Leaves Questions - New York Times
By JAMES RISEN
WASHINGTON — The helicopter was hovering over a Baghdad checkpoint into the Green Zone, one typically crowded with cars, Iraqi civilians and United States military personnel.
Suddenly, on that May day in 2005, the copter dropped CS gas, a riot-control substance the American military in Iraq can use only under the strictest conditions and with the approval of top military commanders. An armored vehicle on the ground also released the gas, temporarily blinding drivers, passers-by and at least 10 American soldiers operating the checkpoint.
"This was decidedly uncool and very, very dangerous," Capt. Kincy Clark of the Army, the senior officer at the scene, wrote later that day. "It's not a good thing to cause soldiers who are standing guard against car bombs, snipers and suicide bombers to cover their faces, choke, cough and otherwise degrade our awareness."
Both the helicopter and the vehicle involved in the incident at the Assassins' Gate checkpoint were not from the United States military, but were part of a convoy operated by Blackwater Worldwide, the private security contractor that is under scrutiny for its role in a series of violent episodes in Iraq, including a September shooting in downtown Baghdad that left 17 Iraqis dead.
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NEW BERN, N.C. (AP) — Two former employees of Blackwater Worldwide, the beleaguered contractor whose practices in Iraq are under federal scrutiny, were sentenced to probation Thursday on gunrunning charges.
Blackwater, the largest private security firm in Iraq, has been under scrutiny as a federal grand jury in Washington investigates the company's involvement in the shooting deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians. The firm is also under investigation for possible weapons smuggling allegations — violations the firm strongly denies.
The two men were granted leniency because they have been helping federal investigators for more than a year, and neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys would confirm the men are involved in the smuggling investigation.
Kenneth Wayne Cashwell, of Virginia Beach, Va., and William Ellsworth "Max" Grumiaux, of Clemmons, were sentenced to three years probation and a $1,000 fine on charges of possession of stolen firearms that had been shipped in interstate or foreign commerce, and aiding and abetting another in doing so.
The details of what information the two men are giving to prosecutors was kept secret by Chief U.S. District Judge Louise Wood Flanagan, who invited attorneys to the bench to quietly share details of what she called "extensive cooperation."
"I believe the matters in this case should be kept under seal," Flanagan said.
An Associated Press reporter in the courtroom unsuccessfully objected to the private discussion. U.S. Attorney George Holding did not immediately return a call seeking comment on why part of the sentencing hearing needed to be held in private.
Cartoonist Mark Fiore gives us his take on Blackwater
There's still time to sign the petition Asking Congress to Demand That the State Department Fire Blackwater