The White House ignored signals about Blackwater and other private mercs for years, rejecting the idea that they were "a bomb that could go off at any time," the Los Angeles Times reports. One official says that contract guards blatantly smashed property and scared Iraqis, then argued that they should all be treated like terrorists. "If they weren't terrorists before, they certainly are now," the official says.
US lawmakers yanked contractors' legal immunity last week, and Condoleezza Rice has upped oversight, but an ex-staffer claims that mercs have already undermined US efforts in Iraq. Diplomats admit they're partly to blame, wanting top security when they leave the US-controlled Green Zone: “You want the biggest, meanest guys in the world protecting you,” one says.