Reuters : State Department security head quits after report

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

State Department security head quits after report

October 24, 2007

WASHINGTON, Oct 24 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department's chief of diplomatic security quit on Wednesday after a critical report into oversight of security contractor Blackwater, which is under investigation for deadly shootings in Iraq.

Richard Griffin, who served as Assistant Secretary of State for diplomatic security, did not mention Blackwater in his resignation letter but his departure came a day after a State Department panel found there was poor oversight and coordination of private guards protecting diplomats in Iraq.

A State Department spokesman declined comment on the reason for Griffin's departure but said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was grateful for his 36 years of government work, which began with the Secret Service.

"He led the safe conduct of diplomacy around the world in exceptional circumstances," said the spokesman of Griffin.

Tuesday's report criticized State Department supervision of Blackwater, whose guards are accused of killing 17 Iraqis on Sept. 16 while protecting a diplomatic convoy in Baghdad. The incident enraged the Iraqi government.

"Improvements are necessary to address shortcomings in coordination and oversight that have undermined confidence in the operation of the security program," said the report.

Griffin will be replaced by his deputy, Gregory Starr, who will assume his duties from Nov. 1, the spokesman said.

© Reuters 2007 All rights reserved