State Department monitors to go on Blackwater convoys

first_imgShe has introduced legislation to end the use of all security contractors in Iraq, replacing them with full-time government employees. Accounts of the Sept. 16 confrontation in Baghdad differ widely, with Blackwater executives asserting that its guards came under attack and Iraqi government officials and civilian witnesses saying that the Blackwater gunmen opened fire without provocation. There are several investigations of the Sept. 16 shootings, including one by the FBI that could result in criminal charges.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREChargers go winless in AFC West with season-ending loss in Kansas CityBlackwater is one of three private companies providing security services to the State Department in Iraq, running heavily armed escorts every time a senior American civilian leaves the protected Green Zone. The requirement for ride-along monitors does not apply to the other two security contractors, DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, the State Department said. Blackwater runs roughly 60 security convoys a week in central Iraq. The State Department measures announced on Friday are the first concrete response by the U.S. government to the violent episode on Sept. 16 in central Baghdad involving several Blackwater teams that left as many as 17 Iraqis dead. Officials said the State Department would send dozens of its diplomatic security service agents to Baghdad so that there would be enough people in place to accompany every Blackwater convoy. The State Department’s chief spokesman, Sean McCormack, said that the additional restrictions on Blackwater’s operations could come as Kennedy’s inquiry proceeds. But the department was not, for the moment, considering ending its contract with Blackwater, McCormack said, although he did not preclude it as the ultimate outcome of the investigation. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who has been critical of what she calls the administration’s inappropriate use of thousands of unaccountable private security contractors in Iraq, mocked the State Department’s decision to send monitors along with Blackwater teams. “This just shows how much they want to keep Blackwater on the payroll,” she said. “They’re going to have to send dozens and dozens of agents to baby-sit these Blackwater units.” WASHINGTON – The State Department, seeking to retain its relationship with Blackwater USA while trying to bring the company’s armed guards under tighter control, said on Friday that it would now send its own personnel as monitors on all Blackwater security convoys in and around Baghdad. The department will also install video cameras in Blackwater armored vehicles to produce a record of all operations that could be used in investigations of the use of force by private security contractors. The State Department will also save recordings of all radio transmissions between Blackwater convoys and military and civilian agencies supervising them in Iraq. In outlining the measures announced on Friday, a State Department spokesman said they had been approved by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice based on the initial recommendations of Patrick F. Kennedy, the department’s director of management policy. Kennedy is the leader of a team Rice appointed to look at the way Blackwater and other private security contractors operate in Iraq. Kennedy had originally selected Blackwater to provide security for top American civilian officials in Baghdad, when he served as chief of staff to L. Paul Bremer, the administrator of the U.S. occupation authority in 2003 and 2004, Bremer said in an interview on Friday. That mission grew into a $1.2 billion multiyear security contract with the State Department for the company. last_img

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