WASHINGTON -- Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) has been one of the harshest critics of Blackwater USA, the military contractor tied to a 2007 shooting in Iraq that killed 17 civilians. The company's former CEO, Erik Prince, has evidently had enough, as he is threatening to sue the congresswoman if she doesn't stop commenting.
On Oct. 7, Prince's counsel Victoria Toensing sent a letter to Schakowsky accusing her of making "false and defamatory statements" about her client.
"Your malice cannot be questioned," wrote Toensing. "You have a multi-year history of making derogatory comments about Mr. Prince and his former company, Blackwater. You have abused your Congressional power to request that Mr. Prince be investigated."
Toensing referenced a Sept. 8 article in the UK Independent about a new Blackwater video game that paraphrased Schakowsky: "If Mr Prince had not emigrated to the United Arab Emirates, which does not have an extradition agreement with the US, he too would now be facing prosecution, the Congresswoman said."
Pointing out that Prince has "never committed nor ever been charged with any crime," Toensing brought up defamation laws, seeming to threaten the congresswoman with legal action if she does not comply.
"As you are surely aware, since articles quoting you are published in other countries, you are subject to defamation laws in those countries as well as in the United States," Toensing wrote. "If you do not like the 'Blackwater' video game, you are free to express your opinion. But you are not permitted under the laws of the United States and numerous countries where your statements are published to make false accusations about Mr. Prince's status under the criminal law."
Toensing also mentioned the past legal troubles of Schakowsky's husband, which had nothing to do with Blackwater.
"Your caprice in making a false and defamatory statement about criminal culpability is particularly galling in light of your husband's guilty plea to federal fraud and his time in prison," she added. "One would think you would be sensitive about falsely accusing others of criminality."
Schakowsky brought up the letter on the House floor on Wednesday, saying it was "yet another heavy-handed tactic" by Prince and "attempted intimidation of a members of Congress."
"I want to make it clear to Mr. Prince that I will not stop working to end our reliance on private security contractors and to investigate any and all allegations of misconduct," she said.
For years, Schakowsky has pushed legislation to end the U.S. relationship with Blackwater -- which rebranded itself and now goes by the name of "Xe Services" -- and other armed contracting companies. Prince resigned from the company he founded in 2009.
Blackwater became toxic after the 2007 shooting incident, with the Iraqi government refusing to renew the firm's operating license. The State Department also decided not to renew its contract with the company in 2009.
Schakowsky's Remarks and Letter:
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