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Silencers make the news

Looks like Blackwater is now in trouble for exporting suppressors without dotting i’s and crossing t’s:

Federal agents are investigating allegations that the Blackwater USA security firm illegally exported dozens of firearms sound suppressors — commonly known as silencers — to Iraq and other countries for use by company operatives, sources close to the investigation tell NBC News.

Investigators from various federal agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the State Department and the Commerce Department, are digging into the allegations that the company exported the silencers without getting necessary export approval, according to law enforcement sources, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity. The sources said the investigation is part of a broader examination of potential firearms and export violations.

Translation: Blackwater lawfully buys suppressors and deploys their folks with them. I would think that the term export would indicate exporting for sale, which this is not the case.

Update: In comments, Paratrooperjj notes: Any time a NFA weapon leaves the country, export forms must be approved.

14 Responses to “Silencers make the news”

  1. sean Says:

    Wait, so the company bought the suppressors legally and supplied them to their employees (most of whom are ex-special forces operators) to be used during the protection (mostly) of U.S. State Department employees and other politards who are now investigating the “illegal exportation” of said suppressors? Suppressors that (like Unc said) were not exported for sale but for the use of highly trained (by the U.S. military) operators protecting Americans. Wow.
    Anyone remember that fable about the scorpion and the frog?

  2. Jim W Says:

    Crap I can’t find the cite, but there was a case where a Florida guy took an NFA item out on his boat (40mm or an MG I think) and was shooting stuff out on the water. He later came back into the US territorial waters and was arrested for exportation and importation without the proper paperwork. The court said something to the effect that the item wasn’t exported in the first place because exportation has to be with the intent to sell it or transfer it to someone else outside the country.

    Merely carrying it back and forth to Iraq isn’t the sort of commercial activity implied by exportation. The Blackwater guys aren’t intending to sell the equipment, they are intending to use it and return with it.

  3. Jim W Says:

    Oops, I found it and it was just importation, not exportation. The court only said that since it had never actually been to any other countries, it could not have been imported from another country.

    The cite is 625 F. Supp. 1539 (S.D. Fla 1986) if anyone cares.

    I still think the ATF is full of crap, which is actually a pretty safe bet most of the time.

  4. Madrocketscientist Says:

    I wonder if this is being done because some operative was selling silencers on the local black market, or Blackwater has been losing silencers to theft (either from stocks of silencers or from fallen operatives).

    Oh, wait, this is the State Department, then it sounds like they got the heebie-jeebie’s ’cause someone is using a scary gun accessory over there.

  5. Rustmeister Says:

    They should claim the Webster’s defense:

    export – verb (used with object)

    1. to ship (commodities) to other countries or places for sale, exchange, etc.

  6. ParatrooperJJ Says:

    Any time a NFA weapon leaves the country, export forms must be approved. It does not matter if they are going to be sold, used to hunt with, or to kill terrorists.

  7. straightarrow Says:

    No goddamned wonder it takes so long to get boots on the ground. Just think how many NFA weapons the military has.

  8. Yu-Ain Gonnano Says:


    I was thinking the exact same thing. If they take that much trouble for a silencer, how much moreso for a howitzer or ,heaven-forbid, a bomber.

  9. Mike Says:

    The questions then seems to be, were the forms sent to ATF by Blackwater or its personnel in a timely fashion, were any forms sent to ATF reviewed in a timely fashion, were any certifications or denials of submitted forms performed improperly by ATF, and so on. This is the sort of “paperwork felony” which can give a prosecutor a slam dunk case for conviction, where there was never any intent to perform an illegal act on the part of the defendant. Similarly, “alteration of government documents” is in many cases treated as a crime, so correcting an error in a submission without using the proper form or format can also be illegal (such as backdating a pile of export license request forms).

  10. JKB Says:

    Any controlled item that leaves the US requires a license if it’s export is controlled for any country it enters, although there are certain exceptions that can be claimed for certain uses, such as aircraft on scheduled routes. You’d be surprised what is a controlled item although the most common items are only controlled for export to the terrorist countries. There are no exceptions/exemptions for firearms which are controlled by the State Departments Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and require a license for export to all countries. In general, military items are controlled by State and everything else falls under the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security although even “non-military” firearms are controlled by State. For extra fun there are also countries with embargoes which are administered by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Controls. Iraq was one of these countries but the restrictions were modified in 2003/4 to facilitate the reconstruction.

    Export licenses are not required for military equipment transported and used by the US military. That does not mean that an item can be exported by a private entity without a license even if the export is directed by a DoD or government contract in support of military operations.

    An item taken out of the territorial US waters and then returned isn’t strictly exported since it never entered another countries territory. However, meeting up with a foreign vessel could result in an export even if the item returns to the US, if the foreign nationals gain control over the item for a time. They occasionally fine or seize charter fishing boats that enter into Cuban territorial waters to fish without a license even thought the boats never land in Cuba.

    Obviously, these exports would probably have been licensed but the paperwork wasn’t done. Or the DDTC didn’t process the application in a timely fashion. Blackwater will pay a fine or fines. If they put Blackwater on the denied parties list, which rescinds export privileges, Blackwater won’t be able export in the future and wouldn’t be able to protect the State Department personnel, so that is unlikely to happen.

  11. _Jon Says:

    …wouldn’t be able to protect the State Department personnel, …

    meh wonders if that is a bad thing anymore….

  12. SayUncle » More on Blackwater and Suppressors Says:

    […] an update to this, that’s what they get for buying American. They could have just left the country and ordered […]

  13. straightarrow Says:

    JKB, DUH!. I was being sarcastic. But one does wonder if Blackwater is performing a security function for the State Department, why they would not be extended the same exemptions the military is.

    For that matter, could the export permit applications be in all those records the BATFU has lost and is now trying to recreate using dealer and manufacturer records? Somehow I doubt if that were the case they would be subject to the same privations of the dealers and manufacturers if they had also lost their records.

    Law should not be anathema to good sense, ever.

  14. straightarrow Says:

    In fact, law should never be anathema to justice, either.