Obama: Contractors in Iraq Must Comply with U.S. Law
U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today introduced legislation to increase accountability of American security contractors operating in Iraq and Afghanistan by subjecting the contractors to U.S. criminal law. The bill would clarify the language of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) to ensure that it applies to all contractors working in war zones. It would also establish Theater Investigative Units of the FBI to investigate allegations of criminal misconduct by contract personnel. The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Durbin, Kerry, Byrd, and Whitehouse. Congressman David Price (D-NC) introduced companion legislation in the House (H.R. 2740), which passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 389-30.
Last week, the Senate passed Obama's amendment to the FY 2008 Defense Authorization bill to require federal departments to compile and report information to Congress on the role of private security contractors in Iraq. Obama originally introduced the Transparency and Accountability in Military and Security Contracting Act (S. 674) - comprehensive legislation to regulate contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan - in February.
"The tens of thousands of American contractors in Iraq must be held accountable to U.S. law," said Senator Obama. "Little is known about what functions these contractors are performing, how much their services are costing, and what rules of engagement they are following. It is our obligation to ensure the activities of these contractors are not jeopardizing our military's efforts to bring this war to a responsible end. This important bill would clarify the legal status of contractors and require investigation of criminal misconduct by the FBI."
The Obama Bill:
* Clarifies the language of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) to ensure that it applies to all contractors working in war zones;
* Establishes Theater Investigative Units of the FBI to investigate allegations of criminal misconduct by contract personnel; and
* Requires the Department of Justice to report on the number of complaints, investigations, and criminal cases involving contractors.
In light of the Blackwater incident, Obama has written to Secretary Gates, Secretary Rice, and President Bush requesting answers as to the role of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Senator Obama is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.