UN: ‘issues’ in US use of security contractors

UN seeks to investigate involvement if US contractors in ‘renditions’, interrogations of suspects.

WASHINGTON – A United Nations working group said Monday that the US government’s use of private security contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq continues to raise “issues.”

“We found that regulation is now being put in place. What was happening in Iraq would probably not happen in Afghanistan,” said Shaista Shameen, chair of the group of five experts, who studied the US use of private security contractors for two weeks.

Shameem said the new measures would help prevent situations like a 2007 incident in which security contractors working for Blackwater, since renamed Xe, were accused of shooting to death 17 civilians in Baghdad.

But she warned that “despite the regulation that has been put in place, we still have issues that we think need further investigation.”

She said the group wanted to examine information that contractors were involved in “renditions” — the secret transport of terror suspects to various overseas locations.

Shameem said the group was also concerned by reports that contractors were involved in the interrogations of terror suspects.

The working group issued a dozen recommendations for the US administration, including suggestions that it publish figures on how many security firms it employs, and how many security contractors have been injured or killed.

It also recommended the establishment of a licensing system for private security contractors.

An Iraqi investigation found that 17 civilians were killed and 20 injured in the incident, in which Blackwater guards opened fire with automatic weapons while escorting an American diplomatic convoy through Baghdad.

The US State Department was faulted for poorly managing Blackwater Worldwide and other private security firms operating in Iraq under a contract worth nearly two billion dollars.

Critics have repeatedly accused Blackwater of having a cowboy mentality and a shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach when carrying out security duties in Iraq