Did Special Forces Snipers Kill Americans After Katrina?

A former Navy SEAL charges that Blackwater snipers killed American citizens in New Orleans during Katrina's aftermath.


Former Navy SEAL sniper Brandon Webb charges that some of his colleagues killed American citizens in New Orleans during Katrina’s aftermath.

SOFREP (“The Long Shadow Of Katrina: Military Snipers Engaging U.S. Citizens?“):

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 (mainly SEALs) 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 who were apparently still serving on active duty, 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 near and around the Super Dome. 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).

Steve Hynd is understandably upset.

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.

Well, yes. It would have been a violation of their oath, which is to the Constitution.

But I find the notion that we sent SEALs and/or mercenaries into New Orleans to shoot looters from the rooftops ludicrous. What, exactly, would be the upside? Further, even if we were to believe that the Bush administration was capable of ordering such a thing and that they found willing participants at Blackwater to carry it out, we’d also have to believe that no one who knew about the order—and there would have had to have been dozens, just from a planning and logistical standpoint—objected strongly enough to speak out. In a town where leaks happen on a daily basis over far more trivial materials. And that every single one of the shooters kept their mouth shut for eight years. And, indeed, that Webb, who now makes a living writing about this sort of thing, decided to keep the story to himself for a year after first hearing of it. Two months after said source died, incidentally.

The alternative scenario—in which some former SEAL sniper was spouting off at a bar made the whole thing up—strikes me as infinitely more plausible.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, Natural Disasters, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. How about this for a conspiracy theory? Maybe it was someone pretending to be a SEAL spouting off at a bar. Eh?

  2. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    I got my doubts on this, based on one word:


    Either the sniper teams would have to then go pick up the bodies for covert disposal, or there would have been a significant number of remains found with suspiciously blown-apart heads.

  3. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Bush, Rove, Cheney and Rumsfeld met in their secret chamber and ordered the Carlyle Group and Halliburton to fund a special forces operation in NOLA, using Blackwater, to execute black people in cold blood. Because that’s what Republicans do. When they’re not lying to start wars of conquest for oil in Alaska and Norway they’re engaging in domestic terrorism against racial minorities. Kayne West nearly uncovered the plot, so he had to be eliminated. Dude who knocked up Kim Kardashian is a body double. It’s one of the Koch brothers, in disguise.

    In any event, what’s sort of scary is that people other than this Steve Hynd character (whomever that is) actually are dumb enough possibly to fall for this nonsense. College kids. OWS types. Spooky liberals in their McMansions, counting their trust fund monies. Some of those black helicopter wingnuts in their basement bunkers with their short wave radios. You can dupe material numbers of the U.S. public into believing anything, provided (gulp) Republicans in your story are the evil guys behind the curtains. Certainly there are enough space cadets out there for this sort of tripe to move the dial on the Internet. C’est la vie.

  4. Tony W says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    You can dupe material numbers of the U.S. public into believing anything, provided (gulp) Republicans in your story are the evil guys behind the curtains.

    Let’s just say they’ve earned the honor.

  5. JKB says:

    They took leave to go to work for Blackwater? That seems odd. Sure they were on leave but that just means they weren’t in duty status. Leave in the military isn’t like vacation from a civilian job.

    But there were rumors that SWAT teams send to NO had gone into areas and put down the criminal types after Katrina. Again, what happened to the bodies and why has no one spoken about the extra-judicial operations? No survivors made it to one of the many “journalists” looking to smear America over Katrina?

    The one SWAT team a friend of mine had intimate knowledge was had a more plausible experience. After “training”, etc., required by FEMA, they were given the run run around, never actually deployed to New Orleans. Then just said to hell with it and came home. Bureaucratic incompetence is believable.

  6. grumpy realist says:

    Methinks that this is the drunk-int-the-bar scenario. I mean, a sizeable percentage (27%) of the US is demonstratably nuts, so it’s not surprising that there’s a sufficiently large audience for stories like this.

    In other words, grifters gotta grift, and conspiracy grifters gotta keep coming up with new conspiracies. That Paypal button won’t push itself, y’know.

  7. grumpy realist says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: I think you can dupe a sufficient number of Americans into anything, provided you say “Teh Gummint” is behind it. When the Republicans are in power, it’s nasty stories about the Republicans. When the Democrats are in power, it’s nasty stories about the Democrats. Witness the number of panic-stricken Americans who screech “Obummer’s gonna take mah GUNS away!” and stock up on more ammunition.

  8. Scott says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    You can dupe material numbers of the U.S. public into believing anything, provided (gulp) Republicans in your story are the evil guys behind the curtains.

    So ACORN, New Black Panthers, death panels, are all backed by evil Republicans?

  9. Mikey says:

    Not to be too blunt, but this is some of the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard.

  10. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Either the sniper teams would have to then go pick up the bodies for covert disposal, or there would have been a significant number of remains found with suspiciously blown-apart heads.

    I must concur. The notion that 30 corpses with bullets to the head all in and around the Super Dome would not have been noticed, is ridiculous.

  11. matt bernius says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I got my doubts on this, based on one word:


    From my own first-hand experiences with events that generated a lot of “rumors” that never proved true, I agree with this point.

    However, the problem is always the fact that these rumors fit people’s pre-existing biases and therefore are very difficult to disprove regardess of the actual evidence (or lack thereof).

  12. matt bernius says:

    Ignore this… wrong thread.

  13. Crusty Dem says:

    I don’t believe it, largely because of the numbers suggested. But the idea that nothing being done was suspicious or extrajudicial would require me to forget history.


    And there are plenty of reports of bodies found with bullet holes:


    It’s not hard to get me to believe the worst about Bush and Blackwater, but I would need a lot more evidence (more than the nothing provided here) to believe this was true.

  14. 1. Send the SEALs to shoot random people in the head.
    2. ???
    3. Profit!

  15. Jay L. Gischer says:

    Well, I think the “drunk in a bar” thesis needs some refinement. The source for this is not anonymous. He’s a published author. He says he has multiple sources.

    I say he wasn’t drunk, he was trolling.

  16. gVOR08 says:

    @Crusty Dem: Thank you. The Seals sniping from rooftops around the Superdome thing lacks credibility.

    However, I suspect most people of my acquaintance believe people were killed by looters in NO. As far as I am aware, there is no credible example of this; while, as you point out, there are convictions for a police shooting of innocent minority individuals and credible stories of vigilante killings. Let us not forget that what really did happen was outrageous. Although one must note the general lack of outrage.

  17. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    College kids. OWS types. Spooky liberals in their McMansions, counting their trust fund monies.

    Oh for chrissake. I’m normally trying to hear all viewpoints but I’m sick to my stomach of having to read the same five copy & pastes in every damned post.

    Time to write a userblocking-script for OTB. There is no useful point of view to be gained in some cases…

  18. @Ebenezer_Arvigenius: I employ my own version of that script–I see the name of the author in question and I keep on scrolling.

    (In fact, I had skipped the comment quoted, but I knew exactly who it was upon reading your comment).

  19. Socraticsilence says:

    The SEAL thing is ludicrous on its face, but PMCs and not 30 dead but say 5 or 10, that I could buy given the bridge shootings.

  20. merl says:

    @Crusty Dem: I can believe that Dick Cheney would be more that willing to give orders to shoot Americans I just can’t believe that Seals would be involved.

  21. merl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The names at the top of the comment make that easy to do.

  22. Ben Wolf says:

    1) The linked post states one of his sources confirmed bodies, and the New Orleans PD chose not to investigate.

    2) Blackwater has a documented history of gunning down innocent civilians.

    3) So do U.S. special forces, the same lovely people who shot several pregnant women in Afghanistan and then dug bullets out of their bodies to blame the murders on the husbands.

  23. Brandon says:

    As for the comments about bodies, there were plenty of bodies found with bullet holes in them. A Google search will get you at least that much info.

    This is a great country we live in but we’ve given away way too many civil liberties since 9-11, the same ones I fought to defend in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

    I tell you this much, this is one thing I’ve written about where I hope I’m proved wrong. I’d welcome it and sleep better at night.

    Thanks for re-posting this James.

    Brandon Webb