Blackwater: Protection At Any Cost

The burned cars and charred bodies in Nisour Square last month shook loose some painful memories for Adam Hobson.

In 2005, he was working as a political aide in Baghdad, when a Blackwater guard in his convoy killed a young Iraqi.

"It's by far the worst thing that's ever happened to me," he told CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer. "It wasn't until I got back to the embassy that I found out that car had been full of Iraqi civilians and that someone had died."

In Nisour Square a month ago, 17 more died in a hail of Blackwater bullets. Hassan Jabbar, a lawyer, was almost one of them, shot in the back as he tried to escape.

Now - a month later - his body is healing, but his faith in America is broken.

"They pretend it's democracy," he weeps. "But they're killing people."

Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater U.S.A., told CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan, in an interview to air on 60 Minutes, that he welcomes any additional oversight the U.S. government would impose on his armed guards, and that he supports the prosecution of his men should any of them be found to have acted badly when they opened fire on a Baghdad street, resulting in 17 Iraqi deaths, and at least 24 others wounded.

"We absolutely want more oversight. We welcome the accountability. We want a good name for this industry," Prince said, acknowledging that his and other private security companies operating in Iraq have acquired bad reputations. "I'm glad the FBI's investigating. I'm glad they can be a neutral party. And if there's further investigation or prosecution even needed, if someone really did wrong and meant badly, I'm all supportive," he told Logan in an interview conducted Friday at Blackwater's North Carolina headquarters.

"Sure, you know, mistakes can be made. I'm not saying anyone, our guys, no one's perfect," Prince tells Logan. "But bad things don't generally happen by themselves."

While a U.S. military report has concluded the Blackwater team was not fired upon in the incident at Nisour Square, Prince vigorously defended the training of his men and believes they acted according to the rules of engagement under which the U.S. military operates. He also says he has evidence they were fired upon: "The fact is three of our vehicles had pock marks in them from incident reports that I saw. So, clearly, our guys were not shooting at each other," said Prince.

"Sure, you know, mistakes can be made. I'm not saying anyone, our guys, no one's perfect," Prince tells Logan. "But bad things don't generally happen by themselves."

By now the worst Rambo-like excesses of Blackwater are staples on YouTube. By contrast, Adam Hobson says most of his guards were highly professional, but he says there should be some way of punishing those who commit crimes like murder.

"What incentive do they have to operate correctly when there is no oversight?" he asks. "I think that's what the real problem is."

Janessa Gans also spent time guarded by Blackwater as a diplomat in Iraq.

Now, back in the U.S. teaching at a college in Illinois, Gans tells her students that while she focused on building democracy, her Blackwater guards focused on protection - at any cost.

"It was a we're getting from point A to point B and nothing will stand in our way," Gans says. "And if anyone - if there's a hint of anyone approaching - we view that as a terrorist threat."


More of Adam Hobson's story | More of Janessa Gans' story
But when those terrorist threats turned out to be civilians - scared, hurt or even killed by Blackwater - she says it defeated the purpose of her mission.

"I think the overall purpose of my job in building bridges with the Iraqis and positively affecting their lives was hindered by some of the aggressive tactics and the stance that private security contractors such as Blackwater displayed," Gans says.

Adam Hobson agrees: "I went to a meeting and somebody died because of it, and it made the meetings in the future seem a lot less important."

Iraqis are hoping the victims of Nisour Square were the very last to die for the sake of American meetings.