WASHINGTON – Top officials in the State Department and the Pentagon have agreed to new rules governing security contractors in Iraq, following a number of incidents that have come to light about alleged rogue activity by private armed guards on the U.S. payroll.
FOX News confirms that a meeting is scheduled for today to finalize the agreement that will set out broad regulations on when guards can use deadly force, incident reporting, investigations, accountability and force coordination.
Public scrutiny on private contractors heightened after a deadly Sept. 16 shooting in Baghdad involving guards from the Blackwater firm that ended in the deaths of at least 17 Iraqi civilians. Blackwater is a State Department contractor, and has been under separate rules from Defense Department contractors.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte are the officials in Washington that are expected to finalize the agreement, but sources the agreement has the approval also of the most influential U.S. officials in Iraq, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus, commander of Multinational Forces in Iraq.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that the agreement flows from an October agreement between Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Under the agreement, State Department security contractors like Blackwater would have to coordinate with Defense Department operations, and they would have to meet minimum training standards, the Times said.
"It is a vast improvement on the oversight we had over private security contractors in Iraq," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said, according to the Times.
The Times reported that the agreement, however, does not address the legal framework to prosecute any State Department contractors accused of wrongdoing in such shootings. It is not clear if current federal law covers these incidents.