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Security Contractors Questioned After Blackwater Shooting

The Iraqi Cabinet said Tuesday it would review the status of all foreign security companies following the alleged killing of eight civilians by security firm Blackwater USA. Two experts consider the ramifications.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For the past two days, public anger has been mounting in Iraq over the deaths on Sunday of at least nine Iraqis, allegedly killed by private security guards accompanying a State Department convoy in Baghdad. The guards were working for the American firm Blackwater USA.

  • IRAQI CIVILIAN (through translator):

    We see the security firms or the so-called American security firms doing whatever they want in the streets. They beat citizens and scorn them.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    A dozen other Iraqis were wounded in the firefight in western Baghdad. Accounts differ on who fired first. This injured man said…

  • IRAQI CIVILIAN (through translator):

    They shot randomly.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Iraqi government blamed the Blackwater personnel and ordered all the firm's contractors to leave the country. It also ordered an investigation of all private contractors whom the government licenses.

    The North Carolina-based Blackwater USA provides most of the security for the U.S. embassy personnel in Iraq, with nearly 1,000 contracted employees. It is one of the largest private security firms in Iraq.

    Company officials insisted their employees acted lawfully and appropriately in response to a hostile attack: "These civilians reportedly fired upon by Blackwater professionals were, in fact, armed enemies and Blackwater personnel returned defensive fire."

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki late yesterday to express regret, and State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said today an investigation is underway.

    But at the same time, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and other State Department officials have insisted the Blackwater guards were essential to their security in Baghdad.

    RYAN CROCKER, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq: There is no alternative except through contracts. And I would have to say that the capability and courage of the individuals who provide security under contract is worthy of respect of all Americans.