Thursday, January 31, 2008

Blackwater Gets New Rules - Sort Of

A few hours ago the Associated Press fired off a story with the headline, "Iraq Security Guards Getting New Rules." Though lacking the vitriol of some others, the AP story is typical of ambiguous and misleading media reporting on Blackwater and other private security contractors.

The opening sentence of the story says that "Bush administration officials outlined stricter rules for these armed guards during a three-hour meeting Wednesday at the Pentagon." But read a little further: "Chris Isleib, a Pentagon spokesman, said the closed-door meeting was an opportunity for both sides to exchange opinions and ideas." That hardly sounds the government crackdown on out of control contractors, as some would construe it to be.

Read a little further and you find this gem: "Security contractors are covered by the same code of justice that applies to American military personnel." You'd never have guessed, given the way the media loves to talk about Blackwater 'lacking accountability.'

Finally, the AP points out that "the military does not want to assume responsibility for guarding large numbers of US officials, and the State Department's own security force is too small and already stretched too thin."

So let's review: a story that initially looks like Blackwater getting reprimanded by the government ends up telling us that the private security contractor is filling a gap no one else is willing or able to fill, that they're doing so within the framework of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and in open and ongoing dialog with government officials. Why couldn't they have said that from the start?

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