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Reporters on the Job

Talk to Me: Finding people who would talk to her about Salvadoran contractors working in Iraq proved more difficult than staff writer Danna Harman anticipated (this page). "The businesses that recruit workers are very secretive," says Danna. "No one would call me back."

The firms are all legal; they're registered with the Pentagon. But the people who run them are the same ones, Danna notes, who worked in the industry when it was under the table.

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"I got the name of one guy who hangs out at this low-brow gym," Danna says. "I got there and found he was upstairs. But the woman at the desk wouldn't let me in. I sat there, figuring I'd be able to worm my way in somehow, but she never budged."

Fortunately, Danna met a policeman who took her to meet a friend who was going. "The friend then started working on my contact to consider it. That's the way it seems to work - word of mouth."

Defensive Back: The Monitor's Dan Murphy says the marines he's embedded with were primed for a different reception than the fairly quiet one they got in Anbar province (page 7). Evidence of that could be found in the marine they linked Dan up with for the trip to Hit. His name is Cpl. Travis Haecker, of New Braunfels, Texas, and he was a former defensive back in college.

"The sergeant told me, 'We don't know what's going to happen in there,' " Dan recounts, "so I figured I'd just assign you our biggest guy to get you in there safely."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor