The Center for Constitutional Rights is filing another lawsuit today against the private military firm Blackwater — this time for a shooting in Baghdad on September 9th that left five people dead and ten injured. The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of the family members of one those killed in the shooting. We speak with attorney Susan Burke. [includes rush transcript]
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AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s program with a Democracy Now! TV broadcast exclusive. Another lawsuit is being filed against the private military firm Blackwater, this time for a shooting in Baghdad on September 9 that left five people dead and ten injured. The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of the family members of one of those killed in the shooting.
Susan Burke is with us today. She’s an attorney who is working with the Center for Constitutional Rights on its suit against Blackwater. In October, she helped file a separate lawsuit brought by the families of three Iraqis killed in the infamous Nisoor Square shooting on September 16. Susan Burke joins us today in our firehouse studio. Welcome to Democracy Now!
SUSAN BURKE: Thank you for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain this latest suit.
SUSAN BURKE: This is a lawsuit on behalf of the family of Ali Albazzaz. This gentleman was a rug merchant, and he was gunned down for absolutely no reason, leaving behind a twenty-day-old baby daughter and family. It is again another instance in which Blackwater shooters, you know, shot first, asked questions later.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain exactly what you understand transpired on September 9.
SUSAN BURKE: What happened is that Blackwater was driving through an area and began to engage in fire. This particular gentleman was inside his rug store. He had just put his fifteen-year-old younger brother in the cab to go home. Hearing the shooting outside, he walked outside, concerned about his younger brother, because he heard the shots. So he walks out of the rug store and gets shot and killed.
AMY GOODMAN: And how did you learn about this?
SUSAN BURKE: We learned about this from the family members. What happened is, as you know, we have — we represent a fair number of Iraqis in a separate suit, so we do have offices over in Baghdad. We were approached by the family of this victim to try to bring some form of accountability to Blackwater.
AMY GOODMAN: What has Blackwater responded, or have they?
SUSAN BURKE: We are just filing this today, so this is the breaking news. They do not yet know it. They’ll receive the papers today.
AMY GOODMAN: And what is understood in the community there about what happened?
SUSAN BURKE: Well, sadly, the Iraqis, you know, they suffer from this a lot. Although the Nisoor Square shooting received a lot of press attention, the reality is that this has been an ongoing tragedy for the Iraqis. The Blackwater shooters have no regard for human life, and they use an excessive amount of force repeatedly. We have discovered information in our investigation that Blackwater has a substantial problem with uncontrolled drug use, steroid use. And that just adds to this terrible sense of, you know, slaughter.
AMY GOODMAN: What proof do you have of the drug use, of the steroid use?
SUSAN BURKE: We have interviewed people that have firsthand knowledge.
AMY GOODMAN: And how do you know, in the September 9 shooting, revealing today for the first time this lawsuit —- it’s being filed today, right?
SUSAN BURKE: It’s being filed today in federal court.
AMY GOODMAN: —- that it was Blackwater operatives who did it?
SUSAN BURKE: We were able to confirm that by the descriptions of the vehicles, as well as by some media reporting.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Susan Burke. She has filed a lawsuit today — is filing a lawsuit again against Blackwater for an attack that happened a week before the infamous Nisoor Square attack on September 16.