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 benefitted 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.
Lowry says in the deposition that he was a close friend of Jerry Zovko, one of the four Blackwater men killed in the infamous 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 in Baghdad. "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 5am. When they left, Lowry says, they fired their weapons at random as they drove off. 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.