The State Department’s security chief was forced to resign yesterday after a critical review found that his office had failed to adequately supervise private contractors protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq.
Richard J. Griffin, a former Secret Service agent who was once in charge of presidential protection, was told by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s deputy, John D. Negroponte, to leave office by Nov. 1. Griffin’s chief deputy, Gregory B. Starr, will become acting assistant secretary for diplomatic security.
Griffin is the first senior official to lose his job over the widening private-contractor scandal. Under fire from Congress, the U.S. military and the Iraqi government after the Sept. 16 contractor killing of 17 Iraqi civilians, Rice on Tuesday ordered extensive changes in diplomatic security arrangements in Iraq and pledged stronger oversight. A high-level panel she appointed to review the Iraq operation recommended Griffin’s departure along with the other changes, according to State Department sources. [complete article]
The Blackwater USA compound here is a fortress within a fortress. Surrounded by a 25-foot-high wall of concrete topped by a chain-link fence and razor wire, the compound sits deep inside the heavily defended Green Zone, its two points of entry guarded by Colombian Army veterans carrying shotguns and automatic rifles.
In the mazelike interior, Blackwater employees live in trailers stacked one on top of the other in surroundings that one employee likens to a “minimum-security prison.”
Since Sept. 16, when Blackwater guards opened fire in a crowded Baghdad square, the compound has begun to feel more like a prison, too. On that day, employees of Blackwater, a private security firm hired to protect American diplomats, responded to what they called a threat and killed as many as 17 people and wounded 24. [complete article]