They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

Will Hillary Follow Through On Campaign Pledge To Ban 'Private Mercenaries'?

"For five years their behavior and lack of supervision and accountability have often eroded our credibility, endangered U.S. and Iraqi lives and undermined our mission," she noted.

But given Hillary's current position as Secretary of State designate, the most significant part of her stance can be found in Section 4 of the Stop Outsourcing Security Act, which explicitly directs the Secretary of State to take action:

Not later than 6 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall ensure that all personnel at any United States diplomatic or consular mission in Iraq are provided security services only by Federal Government personnel.

Senator Clinton's office has not responded to TPMmuckraker's inquires about whether she still supports S.2398 and about her plans for the State Department's use of private forces in Iraq.

So what exactly is at stake here? Between 2003 and 2007, the State Department awarded contracts for security and non-security work in Iraq totaling a massive $4 billion, according to an August report (pdf) by the Congressional Budget Office. Six thousand seven hundred contractors are working in Iraq for the State Department - about 40 percent of whom work on security, and another 25 percent of whom are classified as "police and correction advisers," the report found. Of the total 6,700 contractors, only a third are U.S. citizens, and nearly half are citizens of neither U.S. citizens nor "local nationals."

A congressional investigation found that private State Department security contractors from Blackwater alone were involved in nearly 200 "escalation of force" incidents between 2005 and 2007, including multiple killings of Iraqi civilians.

As for Barack Obama's stance on the issue, he never went as far as Hillary during the primary, and The Nation quoted a senior adviser saying Obama did not support the Stop Outsourcing Security Act. The transition's official Web site only says that Obama will "establish the legal status of contractor personnel, making possible prosecution of any abuses committed by private military contract."

We've put in an inquiry with the transition office for more detailed information on the President-Elect's plans. But if Obama does support the continuing use of firms like Blackwater in Iraq -- and requires Hillary to follow the same policy -- she may soon find herself running a department that employs forces she once described as endangering both US lives and the mission In Iraq.

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