Obama: Rice Must Provide Answers About New Guidelines For Contractor Accountability
U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today sent the following letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, asking her to further clarify the new guidelines she proposed for contractors operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama called on Rice to clarify the legal framework the State Department intends to use to hold contractors accountable for their actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to provide more information on the rules of engagement contractors will employ.
Yesterday, Obama introduced legislation (S.2147) to increase accountability of American security contractors operating in war zones by subjecting the contractors to U.S. criminal law. Companion legislation offered by Representative David Price (D-NC) passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming margin yesterday.
text of the letter is below:
Dear Secretary Rice:
I am writing to express my concern about the lack of accountability for contractors working with the Department of State, even under the new policies you are reportedly planning to implement to improve oversight of private security contractors working with diplomatic convoys.
Press reports indicate you have accepted recommendations from an internal commission that call for Diplomatic Security agents to accompany every convoy, the use of video cameras in security vehicles, audio recordings of communication between the U.S. Embassy and diplomatic convoys, and improved coordination between diplomatic convoys and the U.S. military. These new policies are positive developments that could indeed improve oversight of the activities of private security contractors working with the State Department.
Notwithstanding this important development, it appears the new guidelines you announced are deficient in at least two respects. I remain concerned that there will still be a dangerous lack of accountability for these contractors because it is not clear what, if any, legal framework you intend to employ to hold contractors responsible for their conduct. And it is also not readily apparent what rules of engagement you will require contractors to follow.
1. Will you clarify - either to me in writing or through your spokesperson to the public - the legal infrastructure the State Department will employ to hold contractors accountable under your new guidelines for such contracts?
2. And will you clarify - either to me in writing or through your spokesperson to the public - the rules of engagement that your new guidelines envision requiring State Department contractors to employ?
We need to ensure that the tens of thousands of security contractors in Iraq are subject to U.S. law to ensure that their activities are not jeopardizing our military's efforts to bring this war to a responsible end.
I look forward to your prompt responses to these questions. Thank you.
United States Senator