On Feb. 1, the Iraqi government formally required U.S. contractors to
relay the names and addresses of Iraqi staffers. Under the Status of Forces
Agreement, enacted on Jan. 1, information on the Iraqi staffers, including
translators, would be processed by the Iraqi Finance Ministry for tax
DynCorp has been a leading security contractor for the U.S. government
and military in Iraq. DynCorp subsidiary Global Linguist Solutions was said
to employ up to 7,000 Iraqi translators.
"We certainly understand the security issues at stake here," Ebner said.
The U.S. Fox News network said the Iraqi government has not guaranteed
that the identities of Iraqi staffers would be kept secret. Fox quoted a GLS
executive as saying he feared for the life of anybody who provided their
details to the Finance Ministry.
"Every translator knows of at least one other translator who has been
tortured and killed," an Iraqi translator, identified only as Jasim, said.
"I'm wanted by Al Qaida, Sunni and Shiite militias, and there's a price on
my head. And they want me to hand over my address?"
Industry sources said U.S. security contractors have appealed to the
Baghdad government to drop its demand for information on Iraqi staffers.
They said Iraqi translators — many of whom still hope for visas to enter
the United States — were preparing to quit if the government refused to
abandon its demand.
"Our translators risk their lives to help us," U.S. Army specialist
Elisabeth Keene said. "Handing over their information to a new government
would create a ready-made hit list if terrorists got a hold of it."
In January 2009, the U.S. military reversed a decision to require Iraqi
interpreters to remove their masks during counter-insurgency operations.
Officials acknowledged that the mask ban reflected an overly optimistic
assessment on the security situation in Iraq.
"It's clear that the situation in Iraq is so fluid that it would be
nearly impossible to make that kind of judgment with certainty," Sen. Ron
Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said. "That's a big chance to take with the lives
of people who are risking their lives to help our troops and our country."
The mask ban was instituted in September 2008 as part of a U.S. military
effort to engender trust with Iraqis. The decision to expose Iraqi
interpreters angered U.S. commanders, who said their Iraqi staffers were
refusing to leave their offices.
"Given the improved security environment, concealment of identities
engenders a perception of mistrust among some elements of the population,"
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.