Did Special Forces Snipers Operate In New Orleans After Katrina?

250px-KatrinaNewOrleansFlooded_edit2UPDATE: My good friend James Joyner gives me a hard time for believing this story – probably rightfully so.

Via Blogs of War’s Watchlist and Jeremy Scahill, here’s a post at the Sofrep blog, written and edited by ex-special forces folk, which says that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when Martial Law was declared, US military snipers operated in the area and were shooting US citizens. Former Navy SEAL sniper Head Instructor Brandon Webb writes:

In early 2012, I had an unexpected conversation with my friend Chris Kyle (author of American Sniper) about the Katrina debacle. I had heard rumblings about Special Operations snipers being deployed to New Orleans to support the effort to restore order. He confirmed the rumors and shared his own intimate knowledge that close contacts of his, many active duty Spec Ops snipers (some Navy SEALs), took leave to work for the controversial PMC (Private Military Company), Blackwater.

Chris went on to tell me that the bulk of the guys he knew directly had racked up over thirty kills between them. I asked him about Rules of Engagement, and asked, “Who were they shooting at,” and he just gave me a big Texas shrug and smile. I figured out really quick that it was 180 grains of due process (usually to the head at 200M).

We carried on with our own personal conversation on the morality of it all over many beers, and into the early San Diego morning. It clearly bothered him, and it still bothers me. It’s obviously a very uncomfortable topic. However, if we continue to ignore what really went down, history has taught us that it will come back and bite us in the ass. I personally don’t like repeating my mistakes: if I make a mistake, I learn from it, and move on.

Coming from such a source, these accusations have to be taken seriously – accusations that US military snipers killed US citizens inside the US with no due process of law whatsoever, acting as judge jury and executioner. The Bush administration would have to have signed off on the whole thing.

This is why the recent debate on Obama’s signature killing program has focused too much on the method of killing – drones – and too little on the lack of constitutional justification. You don’t need a drone to perform extrajudicial killings, not even of US citizens. If this story is true, then yet again Obama is only following Bush’s lead.

Webb writes that he is bothered by what Kyle told him. I’ll go further. I’m horrified and angered. Those who set up this program are criminals of the highest order – but so too are the supposed heroes of special forces who participated. Even if they were ordered to do this, they should have refused.

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