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Most federal charges against former Blackwater employees dropped in firearms violations case

The federal prosecution of five former employees of the private security firm Blackwater has collapsed after the defendants said they were acting at the direction of the CIA by providing five automatic rifles as gifts to King Abdullah of Jordan.

Federal prosecutors had indicted former Blackwater president Gary Jackson and four others on a long list of felony firearms violations in 2010. But charges against three of them were dropped Thursday.

Jackson and former company vice president William Matthews pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges related to record keeping violations, resulting in $5,000 fines and no jail time.

The government's case crumbled after defense lawyers produced two retired CIA officials who said they knew about the weapons presented to Abdullah during a visit to Blackwater's compound in Moyok, N.C.

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