[JURIST] US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [official profile] Friday responded to growing concerns over the conduct of Blackwater security escorts working for the State Department in Iraq by directing [press release] that all Blackwater USA [corporate website; JURIST news archive] vehicles be fitted with security cameras and that all convoys have at least one federal agent present while escorting diplomats. The State Department also pledged to place additional in-house security agents within convoys and record radio transmissions between the vehicles and the US embassy in Baghdad. Rice's orders were based on recommendations from an internal review board [press release] created to investigate Blackwater's security activities in Iraq after company guards were alleged to have killed up to 13 civilians in Baghdad's Nisoor Square on September 16.
The State Department action came on the heels of an official Iraqi investigation [JURIST report] into the incident which called for the Blackwater guards to be tried in Iraqi courts and for victims to be compensated. On Thursday the US House of Representatives passed a bill [JURIST report] that would end the de facto immunity [JURIST report] enjoyed by many private contractors working for the US in Iraq by effectively placing them under US criminal statutes. AP has more.