Wednesday, October 24, 2007

State Dept. security chief resigns

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department's security chief resigned on Wednesday in the wake of last month's deadly Blackwater USA shooting incident in Baghdad and growing questions about the use of private contractors to protect diplomats in Iraq.

Richard Griffin, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, announced his decision to step down at a weekly staff meeting, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, adding that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accepted the resignation, which is effective Nov. 1.

"Secretary Rice is grateful to Ambassador Griffin for his record of long exemplary service to the nation," McCormack said. "He has distinguished himself during a 36-year career with the U.S. government, serving in some of the most sensitive and demanding posts."

Griffin, an ambassador-rank official who previously held senior posts with the Secret Service and Veteran's Affairs Administration, had been in his current position since June 2005.

His resignation letter to President Bush and copied to Rice made no mention of the Blackwater or other security matters involving Iraq, saying only that he was going to "move on to new challenges," according to a copy provided to The Associated Press.

He will be replaced on an acting basis by one of his deputies, Gregory Starr, McCormack said.

Neither Griffin nor spokesmen for the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security could be reached for comment.

His resignation comes amid rising criticism from Iraqis and the U.S. Congress of the State Department's reliance on private security guards and the rules they operate under..............

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