Just when you thought the news couldn't get any better for Blackwater (the company goes by the new name Xe but I refuse to call it that) it does. The Department of Justice unsealed a 13-count indictment today against two Blackwater contractors in connection with the shooting of three Afghan nationals in Kabul. Charges include: second degree murder, attempted murder, and firearms charges; and, the case is to be heard in the federal district court in the Eastern District of Virginia in Norfolk.
Jurisdiction for the case comes via the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA), which has been a little utilized statute that basically allows for crimes committed by contractors overseas to be heard in U.S. federal courts. Blackwater got some fairly good news a couple weeks ago when a D.C. District Court judge dismissed an indictment against former Blackwater contractors for an incident in Baghdad in 2007 that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead. That case was thrown out on grounds that statements were unconstitutionally obtained from the defendants immediately after the incident. That case also had another major hurdle to clear because the MEJA only allows for jurisdiction over those that "support" the mission of the Department of Defense and since the Blackwater contractors in that case were working for the Department of State it is unclear whether the MEJA would have conferred jurisdiction on a federal court. This new case, however, does not have that same problem because the contractors charged in this indictment were operating under a DoD contract.