Blackwater exec says U.S. government approved weapons

RALEIGH — The U.S. government approved both the storage of automatic weapons at Blackwater's North Carolina compound and a gift of firearms to the king of Jordan, a lawyer for the former head of the security firm said in federal court Wednesday.

"All of this was with the knowledge of, the request of, for the convenience of, an agency of the U.S. government," said Ken Bell, a Charlotte attorney representing Gary Jackson, the former president of Blackwater, who faces charges of breaking firearms laws.

Bell's comments came during a bond hearing Wednesday; a Raleigh-based grand jury indicted Jackson and four other former Blackwater employees last week. Bell said the accusations amount to mishandled paperwork, at most.

"These are not serious offenses," he said. "I don't think they're offenses at all."

Bell did not say in court which agency approved the storage of automatic weapons, and he left the courthouse without taking questions.

Blackwater, a military security company based in Moyock, provided contractors for several agencies in U.S. war zones. The company has close ties to the Central Intelligence Agency. The company has provided security to CIA stations and officers in Afghanistan and other countries, and several Blackwater officials were once high ranking CIA officials.

The five people indicted last week are accused of breaking laws to give the company an advantage over rivals in the military contracting and training business. The 22-page indictment includes accusations of falsifying paperwork to give a firearms gift to the king of Jordan and using the Camden County Sheriff's Office, which had less than a dozen uniformed officers at the time, as a front to buy AK-47s for Blackwater's training facility in Moyock.

The company, founded by former Navy Seal Erik Prince, is also accused of illegally possessing short-barreled rifles, which are restricted for civilian use. Bell said in court that Blackwater would send the disassembled weapons overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan for use in urban war zones where Blackwater contractors were working with the blessing of U.S. officials.

Prince and the company are not facing criminal charges.

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