US Bars Audit of Vast Mercenary Army in Iraq State Department will have 5,000 private contractors By Matt Cantor, Newser User Posted Jul 22, 2011 6:21 PM CDT 20 comments Comments Security contractors are seen in a helicopter in Baghdad, Iraq, last month. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) (Newser) – The US is laying the groundwork for what amounts to a mercenary army in Iraq of unprecedented size—but the State Department is withholding information about it from a top watchdog, Wired reports. “Our audit of the program is making no progress,” says Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. The State Department holds that the 5,500-strong army of contractors, set to take over and provide security after the US military leaves, doesn’t fall within Bowen’s jurisdiction. Bowen disagrees, and Wired notes that lax control over private contractors led to the 2007 Nisour Square killings of Iraqi civilians by Blackwater employees. Congress has drafted a bill pushing the department to allow Bowen’s team to “audit military, security, and economic assistance”—but it won’t pass for months, writes Spencer Ackerman. Head to Wired for more on the Iraq contractor controversy.