Four decorated veterans were wrongly convicted by a civilian jury after defending themselves in war-torn Iraq. Their convictions were based on no physical evidence, next to no credible eyewitness testimony, and secured by rights violations of constitutional proportions. Yet, despite years of wrongful imprisonment and fighting their way through court, only one of the four has received any real relief, and even he must go through the agony of a retrial for something the government knows he did not do.

Read on to hear their story.

September 16, 2007

Paul Slough, Dustin Heard, Nick Slatten and Evan Liberty set out with 15 of their Blackwater teammates as part of Tactical Support Team Raven 23, to secure a busy square in Baghdad's Red Zone. Blackwater, under contract with the U.S. Department of State, was responsible (among other things) for diplomatic security in the country of Iraq.

Raven 23 was responding to a distress call from another team which had been attacked on venue. In the distance, they could see the large plume of black smoke where a VBIED (vehicle-born improvised explosive device) had been detonated. They were to secure a route of egress through Nisur Square, which was a task they had completed numerous times previously; a seemingly straightforward task. Unfortunately, things haven't been straightforward since.

After all four vehicles in the convoy had taken up their positions in the square, a white Kia lurched out of stopped traffic towards the convoy, and the security team used escalating force to stop the vehicle. They had to consider the risk of this vehicle also being a VBIED very seriously, as coordinated attacks were on the rise. There was a pattern developing where enemy forces would make an attack for the sole purpose of perpetrating a second, larger attack on responding forces. Eight team members, not including the four defendants, testified that they either perceived the white Kia to be a threat, or that they agreed that from other points of view in the convoy that it could be perceived a threat. No one should have been convicted of anything related to the white Kia based on this testimony alone, but that is only a fraction of the story.

The four vehicles were set up in a moon shape stretching along the southern side of the traffic circle. The third vehicle (the Command Vehicle), which contained three of the defendants (Liberty, Slatten & Slough) was facing directly into the south of the square, broadside to all oncoming traffic in that direction. 

Almost simultaneously to the white Kia threat, the convoy began receiving incoming small arms fire (AK-47), disabling the Command Vehicle which subsequently had to be towed. The side of the vehicle was pock marked by the incoming fire, and a teammate in the vehicle behind began yelling that they were taking contact (fire) from people dressed as Iraqi Police. Whether or not they were actually employed as Iraqi Police we will never know, as IP uniforms are as readily available in the street markets of Iraq as fake designer bags are on the side streets of Washington, D.C.


Photo taken by contractors in iraq

Photo taken by contractors in iraq

Iraqi Police Uniforms for Sale

All of the incoming fire, and the fact that it was coming from people dressed as Iraqi Police, was documented on the team's contact logs. To believe that the team was not under attack would be to believe that multiple individuals either scripted the entire thing in advance or that they ad-libbed an entire attack while simultaneously participating in a one-sided gunfight, both of which are entirely ludicrous, and contrary to eyewitness testimony and physical evidence.

A complicated firefight ensued as the team hooked up a tow rope from one vehicle to the other, and tried to exit the circle to the north. The exit was made even more complicated by the fact that part of the circle was closed to traffic due to repairs being made from a VBIED just a few months prior. Eventually, almost ten minutes later, the team was able to exit the circle and return to the Green Zone.

The events of September 16, 2007 as reported by the Raven Base Watch Log

11:59 Raven 4 calls in VBIED explosion 24 meters north of gate of venue
12:00 Raven 22 sent in response
12:07 Raven 4 and Raven 22 link up at venue
12:11 Raven 23 locks down sector Gray 87 (Nisour Square)
12:12 Raven 23 reports contact in Gray 87, multiple insurgents and small arms fire at convoy
12:13 Air support requested, Raven 23 reports incoming fire from Iraqi Police
12:14 Command center advises to break contact and head back to camp
12:15 Raven 23 logs Lead Vehicle down
12:16 Updates log to show Command Vehicle down, no injuries and will attempt tow out
12:18 Raven 23 attempting to two out, reports still under contact
12:19 Raven 22 reports in heavy traffic in Gray 88 just north
12:20 Raven 23 also reporting heavy traffic and still taking small arms fire as trying to exit the circle