The Washington Times reported today that when Blackwater asked the State Department for on-board cameras for its vehicles in Iraq, State Department lawyers refused.
Blackwater says it asked for the cameras on 17 May, 2005, "in response to a false accusation against one of our teams in Baghdad." A State Department Diplomatic Security agent in Baghdad, David Brackins, agreed to the request, but the next day, State Department official Paul Nassen called Blackwater and told the company to "stand down" because lawyers had "legal issues" and would not allow the company to incorporate the cameras.
Had it been me I might have told the lawyers where to put their "legal issues," but Blackwater, bound by its 1,000-page contract to comply with all State Department specifications, did as it was told. The lessons to be drawn from this debacle are many:
(1) Congress has no will or ability to consider facts more than a month or two old. Especially those that are uncomfortable for certain crusading congressmen.
(2) The State Department does not want to give its own contractors the benefit of a video record for their own defense and failed to anticipate the (fairly obvious) desire of the Congress and the media to have better documentation of what goes on in Iraq.
(3) Following State Department directives, per your contract, is perhaps more dangerous than following the contract. Only a man as honorable as Erik Prince would stick by his word in a situation like that. Somehow, I doubt Congressman Henry Waxman would...