|Gary Jackson could face weapons charges.|
Ex-leaders of security firm could be charged
In ’08, arms found at Blackwater site
WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors are considering weapons charges against former executives at Blackwater Worldwide over allegations the private security company illegally stockpiled automatic rifles at its North Carolina headquarters.
Senior Justice Department officials are reviewing a draft indictment against former president Gary Jackson, onetime Blackwater general counsel Andrew Howell, and a third man who used to work at the firm’s armory, people close to the case said. A decision is not expected until at least next month.
Blackwater has repeatedly been under federal scrutiny — from the FBI to Congress to agencies that have hired the firm. Some of the company’s guards have faced charges for their actions overseas, but Blackwater’s executives have weathered a range of investigations.
Any indictment would be unwelcome news at a business trying to rehabilitate its image since a 2007 shooting involving Blackwater guards in Baghdad left 17 people dead. Under a new name, Xe, the company is trying to win Defense Department approval to train police in Afghanistan. The contract could be worth up to $1 billion but has drawn the ire of some in Congress.
The potential charges stem from a raid federal agents conducted in 2008 that seized 22 weapons, among them 17 AK-47s.
Multiple law enforcement officials familiar with the case said investigators are trying to determine whether Blackwater obtained the official letterhead of a local sheriff to create false justification for buying the guns. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation.
Federal law prohibits private parties from buying fully automatic weapons registered after 1986, but does let law enforcement agencies have them. Mark Corallo, Xe spokesman, said the company has “fully cooperated with this investigation and we will have no further comment.’’
Jackson, who left Blackwater along with other executives during a management shake-up last year, said during a brief phone conversation Monday that he wouldn’t be able to talk about federal charges and didn’t know anything about any that might be looming.
“I haven’t heard a single, solitary word,’’ Jackson said before ending the phone call. Attempts to reach Howell for comment Monday were not successful.
In a 2008 interview with the AP, Jackson and other Blackwater executives said the company provided the local Camden County sheriff’s office a place to store weapons, calling the gesture a “professional courtesy.’’
“We gave them a big safe so that they can store their own guns,’’ Jackson said at the time.
Jackson said some of the 16 uniformed officers who came to serve the warrant were embarrassed by the event.