Senator Boxer: Action Needed on Private Defense Contractors
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Most of us have come to understand the sometimes deadly consequences of the increasing reliance on private defense contractors in Iraq. More than at any time in our nation’s history, private contractors are doing jobs previously done by our military. These private contractors operate in a grey area of U.S., Iraqi, and international law, making it difficult to address any egregious action or unlawful use of force. In addition, the lack of accountability in the wartime contracting process has resulted in the waste, fraud, and abuse of billions of taxpayer dollars.
Following a shooting incident on September 16, 2007 in central Baghdad involving Blackwater guards that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently announced an agreement requiring that all State Department security convoys will now fall under military control.
Although I am pleased with this agreement, I believe that Congress must act to generate new, more stringent rules to ensure that any lawbreakers are held to account for their actions. That is why I am co-sponsoring S.2147, the Security Contractor Accountability Act. This legislation grants the U.S. government the legal authority to prosecute crimes committed by all U.S. contractors working in war zones by clarifying the language of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. It would also establish Theater Investigative Units of the FBI to investigate allegations of criminal misconduct by private defense contractor personnel and would require the Department of Justice to report on the number of complaints, investigations, and criminal cases involving contractors.
I believe that Congress has a responsibility to help repair the damage caused by the Bush Administration’s reliance on private contractors and no-bid contracts. Please be assured that I will work to see that the Security Contractor Accountability Act becomes law.
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer