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Turf War

The Washington Post has more on the growing spat between the Pentagon and the State Department over military contractors in Iraq:

There have been private discussions in the past over whether the Defense Department should oversee the State Department's security contracts, according to the Pentagon source. Defense rules for licensing, oversight and incident reports when weapons are discharged are more stringent, the source said. The military is known to quickly and routinely investigate incidents involving its contractors.

But "it would be a turf battle," the source said. State would oppose it because "you are taking away a primary mission their regional security officer has -- you'd be breaking new ground." At the same time, "DOD is not volunteering to take them over."

According to the Post, most military officials are extremely angry over the recent Blackwater shooting incident in which eleven Iraqi civilians died. "It may be worse than Abu Ghraib," says one. (Another lieutenant colonel tells the paper that no one believes Blackwater's account: "They are immature shooters and have very quick trigger fingers... None of us believe they were engaged, but we are all carrying their black eyes.") Still, the Pentagon is wary of stepping in.

Meanwhile, as Michelle mentioned, the State Department has already warned Blackwater not to say anything to Henry Waxman's committee without its permission; Condoleezza Rice has signaled that she won't testify (is that even legal?); and State Department officials have said that they won't meet with Congress unless it's in an off-the-record session behind closed doors. Instead, according to the Post, the State Department will run an "internal investigation here to ensure we can address some of the underlying issues." Given that, as one expert told Spencer Ackerman, it was the State Department that encouraged Blackwater's trigger-happy rules of engagement in the first place, it's hard to imagine the "internal investigation" will be a particularly thorough affair.

--Bradford Plumer