Assessing Some End-of-Administration Pardons


Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — who were all convicted of killing Iraqi civilians while working as contractors in 2007 — all have now received pardons. That fact is remarkable: they were not high on anyone’s list of likely beneficiaries.

Yesterday, this column discussed the anticipation of a wave of pardons from outgoing President Donald J. Trump. Only hours after yesterday’s column went live, that wave broke upon the shore of fact. Edward Snowden — whose possible pardon we discussed yesterday — still has not received one (of course he may yet, there are weeks more to run in this administration). But …


Slatten, Slough, Liberty, and Heard were all working for a military contractor named Blackwater Worldwide in 2007. They were employed as security guards, protecting diplomats in post-Saddam, US occupied Iraq. On September 16, 2007, the four of them, part of a US embassy convoy, fired at Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, killing 14. Although the four men later claimed they had been responded to hostile fire, an FBI investigation deemed the killings unprovoked, and seven years later all four men were brought to trial, convicted, and sentenced for manslaughter or murder.

The Thing to Know:  

In its statement explaining the pardons, the White House barely mentioned the people who died due to the unprovoked fire of the four Blackwater employees. It said only that there had been a “situation” that had become “violent, which resulted in the unfortunate deaths and injuries of Iraqi civilians.”

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