State Department re-shuffle may be a good sign for the future

I was reading through the Washington Post (Thursday, October 25, 2007) after a DS agent notified me about the firing/resignation of the State Department’s security chief, Richard J. Griffin.

It would appear that the Secretary of State, Condoleza Rice, is finally getting a handle on all of the controversy surrounding Blackwater and security contractors who seem to have set their own “Rules of Engagement”. The article goes on to speak about senior agents within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security having “growing concerns” about the lack of supervision of private contractors.

Prior to Secretary Rice doubling the number of special agents supervising the security contractors in Iraq, only 36 agents were assigned to oversee the thousand(s) contractors. Estimated reports mention 1000 contractors as being employed by the three main companies, however, it is widely accpeted that there are 20,000 or more security personnel operating in Iraq, so the exact numbers seem to be somewhat hazy.

This appears to be a step in the right direction but it is not likely to satisfy the Iraqi Government or citizenry who have been calling out for the prosecution of those responsible for the killing of innocent passers-by.

There is no doubt that the contracted security personnel operating in Iraq have a tough job. I do not agree with those who take shots at them because they are so highly paid. They are highly paid because of the high risk involved. Many of them have already given their lives in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. They are not all “out of control”. If they were, we would have reports of innocent citizens being shot on a daily basis. However, this is not to say that they are following proper procedures and best practices all the time either.

I fully agree with more strict supervision. Companies like Blackwater have to realize that they are not a law unto themselves, even if they have been allowed to take the law into their own hands. They should be subject to investigation and disciplinary action just as the military are. Whenever you give anyone a free reign in a situation like this, you are opening the door to possible abuse. As a former Special Investigator for the United Nations, I saw much abuse and improprieties carried out by personnel in hostile areas.

They may not be perfect, but the U.N. at least made sure to have a team of international investigators in the area of operations to investigate allegations and suspected crimes. Eventhough there was rarely any kind of criminal prosecution, indepth investigions were conducted and once the reports were received and reviewed back in New York, those found to be engaged in prohibited/illegal activities were immediately repatriated back to their home country.

When individuals feel like they can do whatever they want and not have to answer for their actions, of course there will be those who will overstep the line and their authority. When you have thousands in that category, eventually you run the risk of that behavior becoming epidemic.

Let us hope that they can address this situation at this time and not merely try to appease the locals. It may be too late for us to “win their hearts and minds” but at least let us be seen as a caring society who believes in doing the right thing and not one who allows their might to trample those who get in their way.

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