The New York Times says U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is pressing for private security firms working for the U.S. government in Iraq to fall under a single authority, most likely that of the U.S. military.
A story published in Wednesday's edition of the newspaper says the idea is facing resistance from the State Department, which uses about 2,500 private security guards to protect American diplomats in Baghdad. About 800 of them are employed by Blackwater USA, which was involved in a deadly shooting in the Iraqi capital last month.
The State Department has already ordered tighter oversight of private security forces in Iraq. But the Times says senior U.S. military commanders in Iraq have told Gates that the military is best suited to be the single authority over the contractors.
An Iraqi government report has accused guards working for Blackwater of deliberately killing 17 people in Baghdad on September 16. Blackwater says its guards responded lawfully to an attack on a U.S. diplomatic convoy.