Skip to main content
  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print

Rice orders more oversight of contractors in Iraq

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Condoleezza Rice orders steps to bolster contractor accountability
  • NEW: State Department will record radio traffic; agents will ride on security detail
  • Measures follow last month's Baghdad shooting involving Blackwater contractors
  • House voted to bring private military contractors overseas under U.S. law
  • Next Article in Politics »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ordered the implementation of three steps to bolster the accountability of private security firms in Iraq, including the Blackwater USA.

art.copter.afp.gi.jpg

A helicopter with private security company Blackwater USA flies over Baghdad in 2005.

Special agents from the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security will begin accompanying Blackwater protective details, and the bureau will increase its "capability to review material after a reported incident," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

"We currently monitor radio transmissions; we will begin recording them. We will also mount video cameras in security vehicles and begin archiving electronic tracking of movement data," McCormack said Friday.

Rice also is directing "the expansion of existing communications links to U.S. military units operating in the same area," McCormack said.

Patrick Kennedy, assistant secretary of state for administration, proposed the measures to ensure that "robust" procedures are in place to improve contractor accountability.

The issue gained attention after as many as 17 Iraqis were killed and 24 were wounded in a September 16 incident in Baghdad involving Blackwater USA security contractors. Blackwater, one of a number of private security contractors in Iraq, guards State Department employees in the war-torn country.

Iraqi authorities have said Blackwater guards fired indiscriminately at civilians at Nusoor Square. Blackwater said its guards were taking appropriate action to defend a U.S. Embassy convoy from an insurgent attack.

Rice named Kennedy to head up a State Department investigation into the overall role of security contractors in Iraq, and others in the team will arrive in Baghdad next week to complete the report.

The deadly Baghdad shooting brought the long-simmering issue of the accountability of security contractors to a head in Congress. The contractors are immune from prosecution by the Iraqi government.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, headed by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, has held contentious hearings on the issue.

Despite Bush administration opposition, the House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to bring private military contractors overseas firmly under U.S. law, allowing American courts to prosecute crimes committed in war zones.

advertisement

The 389-30 vote followed a warning from the White House that the measure would have "unintended and intolerable consequences" for national security.

But the bill's sponsor, Rep. David Price, D-North Carolina, said the legislation would hold contractors "working in our name and on our dime" accountable for misconduct. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report.

All About Condoleezza RiceBlackwater USAIraq

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print