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State Department disputes reports of 'immunity' granted to Blackwater guards

[JURIST] The US Department of State [official website] does not have the authority to "immunize an individual from federal criminal prosecution," State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack said at a daily press briefing [transcript] Tuesday, correcting an AP report [text; JURIST report] Monday citing anonymous sources as saying the State Department had granted "immunity" from prosecution to bodyguards working for private security firm Blackwater USA [corporate website; JURIST news archive] related to a September shooting incident [JURIST report] in Baghdad that killed 17 and prompted the Iraqi government to withdraw Blackwater's operating license [JURIST report]. McCormack described the Garrity protections that the Department had reportedly offered guards as "limited protections that would not preclude a successful criminal prosecution.' USA Today has more.

The Blackwater allegations have caused domestic outrage in Iraq and have prompted legal controversy in the US. Earlier this month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) took over an investigation [JURIST report] of the incident from the Department of Justice [official websites]. Iraqi government investigators probing the killings have concluded that the Blackwater security detail's actions were unprovoked, and amounted to "deliberate murder" [JURIST report].

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