by Jeremy Scahill
September 23, 2010
from TheNation Website
US Businessman: Blackwater Paid Me to
Buy Steroids and Weapons on Black Market for its Shooters
A Texas businessman who has worked extensively in Iraq claims that
Blackwater paid him to purchase steroids and other drugs for its
operatives in Baghdad, as well as more than 100 AK47s and massive amounts of
ammunition on Baghdad's black market.
Howard Lowry, who worked in Iraq from
2003-2009, also claims that he personally attended Blackwater parties where
company personnel had large amounts of cocaine and blocks of hashish and
would run around naked. At some of these parties, Lowry alleges, Blackwater
operatives would randomly fire automatic weapons from their balconies into
buildings full of Iraqi civilians.
Lowry described the events as a "frat party gone
wild" where "drug use was rampant."
Lowry says he was told by Blackwater personnel
that some of the men using the steroids he purchased were on the security
detail of L. Paul Bremer, the original head of the Coalition
Provisional Authority (CPA). Lowry also claims that Blackwater's owner,
Erik Prince, tried to enlist his help to win contracts for Blackwater
with the Iraqi government using an off-shore security company,
Greystone, which Prince owns.
The purpose, Lowry says, was to conceal
Greystone's relationship to Blackwater.
Lowry made his statements in a deposition on September 10 as part of a
whistleblower lawsuit brought by two former Blackwater employees. The suit
was filed in 2008 by former employees Brad and Melan Davis.
They allege that Blackwater tried to bill the US government for a prostitute
for its men in Afghanistan and for strippers in New Orleans in the aftermath
of Hurricane Katrina.
The lawsuit claims that Prince personally
benefited from alleged fraud. The Nation obtained Lowry's deposition from
publicly available court filings.
Blackwater, Lowry alleges, paid for the steroids using company funds and the
purchases were coordinated by Blackwater's Iraq country manager.
"Not only did I purchase the
pharmaceuticals," Lowry said in his deposition, "but I was also given
money and asked to acquire syringes and other forms or modes of
injection as well."
Lowry said that Blackwater used him to purchase
the drugs and other devices because, unlike Blackwater personnel, he could
move freely and discreetly around Baghdad.
Lowry says he personally witnessed several
Blackwater operatives injecting themselves with steroids.
"One of the suites would be absolutely
packed with gentlemen running around with either no clothes on, no shirt
on. It was like a frat party gone wild. Drug use was rampant. There was
cocaine all on the tables. There were blocks of hash, and you could
smell it in the air... walking up to the door."
Howard Lowry, a businessman who
claims he bought steroids and weapons for Blackwater.
Lowry says in the deposition that he was a close
friend of Jerry Zovko, one of the four Blackwater men killed in the
ambush in Fallujah, Iraq in March 2004.
Zovko, Lowry says,
"provided me tremendous insight into the
company and confirmed that the use of steroids and human growth hormone,
testosterone, were pretty endemic to them and almost companywide."
Lowry said that it was a,
"wide-ranging problem, and this included
individuals that were on [L. Paul] Bremer's personal detail."
Bremer was guarded by Blackwater when he ran the
CPA from 2003-2004.
Lowry says he would purchase the drugs for
Blackwater "by the case," adding,
"It was as large a quantity as I could get,
which was usually a case."
He said that the,
"volume I was being asked to purchase on a
daily basis was going up substantially as time went on."
Lowry also claims that he purchased a wide
variety of weapons, ammunition and armor for Blackwater on the black market
"I purchased no less than a hundred AK47s
for Blackwater personnel to keep them safe," Lowry says.
Such purchases, he says he believed, were
necessary because Blackwater was not adequately arming its personnel.
Lowry also describes instances of Blackwater personnel firing randomly at
Iraqi pedestrians and into buildings for no apparent reason. He details one
night where several Blackwater operatives were at his hotel drinking until 5
am. When they left, Lowry says, they fired their weapons at random as they
Lowry describes parties that he says some
Blackwater personnel would throw at the al Hamra hotel in Baghdad that he
says were like "a frat party" with rampant drug use:
One of the suites would be absolutely packed
with gentlemen running around with either no clothes on, no shirt on. It
was like a frat party gone wild. Drug use was rampant. There was cocaine
all on the tables. There were blocks of hash, and you could smell it in
the air… walking up to the door.
Lowry described one party where,
"there was a pile of cocaine that one
Blackwater person had estimated to be over an ounce of coke."
"to me, considering the job that these
gentlemen are doing… at that time [they] were protecting the US
ambassador, Ambassador Bremer, seemed a little bit out - well, beyond
out of control. And these parties were a weekly ritual."
Lowry alleges that at these parties on several
occasions Blackwater personnel would pull out AK47s and go out onto the
"would just spray the building next door,
which housed Iraqi civilians."
Lowry also says that he had several meetings
with Erik Prince where Prince asked him for assistance in winning
contracts with the Iraqi government for an off-shore company Prince owns
called Greystone. It is registered in Barbados.
Lowry, who says he knew the Iraqi Interior and
Defense Ministers "very well," claims Prince wanted to offer the Iraqi
government Greystone's training and security services.
Lowry says that Prince stated "very clearly" to
him that Greystone was,
"set up to deflect any liability, future
liability, that he may have with respect to any weapons sales or any
bodily harm or anything else, contract issues with both the US and the
Lowry claims the Iraqis were aware of
Greystone's connection to Blackwater and "detested" the companies.
Lawyers representing the self-exiled Blackwater owner have asked a federal
judge in Virginia for a protective order against the tenacious lawyer who
took Lowry's deposition.
For years, attorney Susan Burke has
pursued Prince and Blackwater with a string of civil lawsuits.
In August, Burke flew to Abu Dhabi in the United
Arab Emirates, where Prince and his family have relocated, to conduct a
seven-hour deposition of Prince in connection to the whistleblower claim she
filed on behalf of the former Blackwater employees.
After the deposition ended on August 23,
according to Burke, Prince threatened to "come after" her.
Soon thereafter, Prince's lawyers declared the entirety of the transcript of
Prince's deposition to be confidential material and asserted that it should
be sealed. Prince's attorneys filed papers in the case asking the judge to
allow Prince and his lawyers to classify any information or documents Prince
provides or any information or documents Burke obtains from Prince or
Blackwater as "confidential" and therefore barred from public dissemination.
Prince's lawyers have also asked that all
documents they provide in the case be destroyed or returned within 120 days
of the conclusion of the case.
Prince's lawyers have alleged that Burke intends to use the media to
embarrass Prince and to litigate her case outside of court and have asked
for a "gag order" against her and the other attorneys litigating the case.
Burke, in her court filing, points out that the actions of Prince and his
companies have generated tremendous publicity and attention.
Defendant Prince and his companies create
the media stir by their own actions. Indeed, their misconduct has led to
a series of indictments, charging letters from the State Department, and
Indeed, Defendant Prince seeks publicity
that serves his own ends. He voluntarily participated in a Vanity Fair
interview, pressing his view that anyone who criticizes his misconduct
must have a "political agenda."
Defendant Prince voluntarily cooperated with
a book about his life, called Master of War. In the book, he voluntarily
revealed, among other things, that he fathered a child out of wedlock
and cheated on his wife who was dying of cancer.
On September 22, Burke filed a motion opposing
the gag order and what she sees as Prince's attempt to "seal everything."
In her motion, Burke reveals that she provided
the US State Department with a transcript of the deposition for review of
potentially classified material. A State Department contracting official
"As contracting officer I do not require any
redactions to the subject transcript of the Erk Prince deposition before
it is made publicly available."
In arguing against a gag order, Burke writes
that media coverage results in witnesses coming forward who will,
"be helpful in showing the jury that [her
clients'] claims of widespread fraud and misconduct have merit."
To support her argument, Burke cited Howard
Lowry, whom she says contacted her after seeing media reports on Prince and
Lowry says he contacted Burke,
"because I believe there is a tremendous
lack of moral and business ethics on behalf of the owner of the company
and, I believe, companywide."
"Because of that, I feel that numerous
families of individuals of Blackwater employees that have been killed on
the job are not getting the true story."