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Waxman: Contractor's re-hiring raises 'serious questions'

  • Story Highlights
  • Rep. Waxman wants documents about ex-Blackwater employee Andrew Moonen
  • Moonen accused of fatally shooting Iraqi vice presidential guard in 2006
  • Blackwater fired Moonen; he was re-hired by another contractor weeks later
  • State Department says it got request; will provide whatever information it can
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Democrats' top investigator in Congress reacted angrily Friday to a CNN report that the former Blackwater USA employee accused of killing an Iraqi vice presidential guard was hired by another U.S. contractor weeks later.

Rep. Waxman has demanded the State Department turn over documents related to an ex-Blackwater worker.

In a sharply worded letter, Rep. Henry Waxman demanded Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice turn over a long list of documents related to the contractor, Andrew Moonen.

"Serious questions now exist about whether the State Department may have withheld from the U.S. Defense Department facts about this Blackwater contractor's shooting of the Iraqi guard that should have prevented his hiring to work on another contract in support of the Iraq War," wrote Waxman, D-California, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Friday the department had received Waxman's letter.

"We will respond appropriately. Whatever information we can provide that they did not already receive, we will happily comply with, as we have complied before," he said.

Moonen's attorney, Stewart Riley, said he didn't think Moonen had committed any offenses.

"I am concerned about the tenor of Chairman Waxman's letter because it suggests that my client committed a criminal offense ...," Riley said. "... I believe it's part of what's going on in D.C. that there seems to be this groundswell to believe that anyone who does something newsworthy in Iraq is automatically guilty of something."

Moonen was working for Blackwater USA on Christmas Eve 2006 when he fatally shot a bodyguard for Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdel Mahdi during a confrontation in Baghdad's Green Zone, according to the House report presented to Waxman's committee this week.

Blackwater fired Moonen -- for "violating alcohol and firearm policy," Blackwater CEO Erik Prince told Waxman's committee Tuesday. Moonen left the country within 36 hours, with State Department approval, the report said.

Within weeks, however, he had been hired by a U.S. defense contractor, Combat Support Associates, and was working in Kuwait.

The company was unaware of the December incident when it hired Moonen because the State Department and Blackwater kept the incident quiet and out of Moonen's personnel records, a CSA spokesman said.

Waxman's concern over the incident was echoed by other key lawmakers who have been pressing for increased oversight of defense contractors. Federal officials, while not admitting errors by their respective agencies, acknowledged the Moonen incident highlights the accountability issue.

"This case is an embarrassment to the administration and its oversight of contractors," said Rep. David Price, D-North Carolina. Price sponsored a bill overwhelmingly approved by the House on Thursday that would bring private military contractors overseas like Moonen under U.S. jurisdiction.

"Our military would not hire someone involved in a homicide," he said. "Why should we allow a government contractor to do so?"

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, said the killing "underscores the danger of relying on private military contractors."

"Is it U.S. policy that contractors can get away with murder? In the short-term, we need to bring private military contractors under the rule of law. In the end, military functions belong to the military," said Schakowsky, who has also been in the forefront of congressional efforts to tighten accountability.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack wouldn't comment on Moonen because of an ongoing Justice Department investigation. But, he said, "of course you want to have accountability."

"If someone violates the rules, they should be held to account."

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, speaking on Moonen's hiring by CSA, said the Pentagon "does not hire individuals, it hires companies and we expect companies to apply standards that are appropriate."

The Pentagon wants "to hold contractors accountable not only for the performance of their goods and services under the contract, but also for their conduct as representatives working on behalf of the United States Defense Department," Whitman said.

According to Moonen's personnel record, the U.S. Army tried to call him back to service in April 2007, but canceled the request when they were notified he was overseas. Moonen had served in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division from April 2002 to April 2005 before joining the Blackwater firm. He served seven months in Iraq, from September 2003 until April 2004, with the rank of specialist. He received medals that are standard for such a deployment.

After being fired by Blackwater, he worked with CSA from February 2007 until August 2007.

Moonen's case was discussed at length at a hearing on Capitol Hill this week, during which State Department officials conceded that the Justice Department was still trying to determine whether they had jurisdiction to prosecute Moonen.

In his letter Friday to Rice, Waxman wrote it is "hard to reconcile this development" with previous assertions State Department officials have made in recent days.

He noted the statement made this week by State Department spokesman Casey that, "We are scrupulous in terms of oversight and scrutiny not only of Blackwater but all of our contractors."

Waxman also noted testimony from Assistant Secretary Richard Griffin that the department "maintains records of personnel terminated for cause from the WPPS [Worldwide Personal Protective Services] program in order to prevent them from re-entering the program with another contractor."

Finally, Waxman pointed out testimony by Blackwater Chairman Erik Prince to the committee this week that Blackwater "made sure" Moonen's clearance was canceled, and that people whose clearance is pulled will never work in a clearance capacity for the U.S. government again -- or it's very, very unlikely."

Peter Singer, a senior fellow and director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution, said the U.S. government knew about this incident, but noted that the man has yet to be indicted, prosecuted or punished.

Singer, an expert on private security, said Moonen could have been but wasn't prosecuted under the current law. So, the issue in dealing with the problem involves governmental resolve, Singer said, not just precise law. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Zain Verjee, Mike Mount, Elise Labott, Josh Levs and Justine Redman contributed to this report.

All About Condoleezza RiceHenry WaxmanBlackwater USA

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