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Letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

Location: Unknown

April 8, 2004

The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301

Dear Secretary Rumsfeld:

The shocking deaths of four American security contractors in Fallujah have revealed the growing role that private security contractors are playing in Iraq.

These security contractors are armed and operate in a fashion that is hard to distinguish from military forces, especially special operations forces. However, these private security companies are not under military control and are not subject to the rules that guide the conduct of American military personnel. In addition, it is unclear what status these private security companies would enjoy after June 30, 2004 when sovereignty is transferred to the people of Iraq.

It would be a dangerous precedent if the United States allowed the presence of private armies operating outside the control of governmental authority and beholden only to those who pay them. In the context of Iraq, unless these forces are properly screened by United States authorities and are required to operate under clear guidelines and appropriate supervision, their presence will contribute to Iraqi resentment.

The presence and number of these private security personnel again raise the question of the adequacy of United States troop levels in Iraq. Security in a hostile fire area is a classic military mission. Delegating this mission to private contractors raises serious questions.

We request that you provide, at the earliest possible moment, an accurate tally of the number of privately armed non-Iraqi security personnel in Iraq. We also request that you adopt written guidelines, including the legal justifications for their use both now and after June 30, 2004, the rules of engagement for these contractors and the lines of coordination among U.S. military forces, the Coalition Provisional Authority (and after June 30th, the sovereign Iraqi entity) and the contractor community.

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)

Senator Carl Levin (D-IL)

Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD)

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT)

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY)

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)

Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA)

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)

Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR)

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)

Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI)

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