06.16.08

Leahy Provisions Holding Private Security Contractors And War Profiteers Accountable Under U.S. Law Added To Iraq Supplemental Appropriations Bill

Three measures sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to hold private security contractors and war profiteers accountable under U.S. law for the first time were approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday afternoon and included in the Senate version of the emergency supplemental spending bill for Iraq, Afghanistan, and key domestic programs.

In response to the killings of 17 innocent civilians by Blackwater security guards in Iraq last September, a provision to close a jurisdictional gap in the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) was adopted by the Appropriations Committee.  Leahy’s MEJA measure would make all U.S. security contractors worldwide accountable under U.S. law for the first time, and it would apply the same laws to all contractors working in foreign countries where the United States is engaged in military operations.  Previously, only contractors working for the Department of Defense or in support of their missions were covered under U.S. law.  This measure would also create investigative units to enforce MEJA worldwide and require reporting to Congress on prosecutions under this law.  To date, the Justice Department has only filed one prosecution under MEJA, despite hundreds of shootings and other possibly criminal incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Two additional bills authored by Leahy – the War Profiteering Prevention Act and the Wartime Enforcement of Fraud Act – were also approved in the supplemental spending bill.  These provisions would make intentional over-billing under war contracts, such as the abuse of "cost plus" contracts, a federal crime and would update current law to extend the statute of limitations for contracting offenses while the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are ongoing.  The Leahy provisions would bring greater accountability to contractors working overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan and would give the government new, more potent tools to prosecute fraud and abuse by private companies filling government contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The war on terrorism should not be used to waive accountability for crimes – whether fraud or murder or rape – occurring during these wars,” said Leahy.  “The United States is a beacon or justice and human rights around the world.  We cannot excuse the criminal behavior of a few in the name of combating terrorism.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been waged for six years and counting, yet earlier Congresses have been slack in their oversight.  Now we finally are on the verge of giving law enforcement authorities the necessary tools to hold private security contractors accountable under U.S. law, which will help combat waste, fraud and abuse by war profiteers." 

The House of Representatives this week also passed the same three measures in that body’s version of the Supplemental Appropriations Bill. 

Leahy is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and chairs the panel’s subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations.  He is also the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

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David Carle: 202-224-3693

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