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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The troubled Blackwater era ends in Iraq on Thursday as another firm takes over the once-dominant company's security services contract in Baghdad.
Triple Canopy, a Herndon, Virginia-based company, picks up the expiring contract of the security firm formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, which changed its name to XE a few months ago. The U.S. State Department decided not to renew XE's contract in January.
"When the U.S. government initially asked for our help to assist with an immediate need to protect Americans in Iraq, we answered that call and performed well," XE spokeswoman Anne Tyrell said in a statement Wednesday. "But we always knew that, at some point, that work would come to a close."
The end of the contract followed the Iraqi government's refusal to renew the firm's operating license because of a September 2007 shooting in which Baghdad says security guards -- then employed by Blackwater -- killed 17 Iraqi civilians.
As part of a contract to protect American diplomats and other employees around the world, the State Department hired Blackwater for a multiyear assignment in Iraq, renewable annually.
XE, one of three security firms working for the United States in Iraq, had one of the biggest contracts there, providing security for the sprawling U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
"We are honored to have provided this service for five years and are proud of our success. No one under our protection has been killed or even seriously injured," Tyrell said.
Many XE employees are expected to go to work for Triple Canopy, which already had a State Department contract in Iraq. Its new contract increases its share of the security work. DynCorp International also has a State Department contract for work in Iraq.
Losing the contract is considered a huge blow to XE. While the company is privately held, the Iraq contract has been estimated to make up a third to a half of its business. XE has about two dozen aircraft in Iraq as well as 1,000 personnel.
XE's statement acknowledged that the company's Baghdad "task order" ends Thursday but was mum on any other roles it still might have in Iraq.
"Any specific questions on the contract and how it will now be fulfilled should be directed to the State Department," Tyrell said.
Despite the loss of the embassy security detail, XE continues to hold other contracts with the State Department to protect American diplomats elsewhere in the world. The company's founder, Erik Prince, resigned as head of the business in March.
In January, five former Blackwater security guards pleaded not guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter and other serious crimes stemming from their involvement in the September 16, 2007, incident in a Baghdad square. A sixth former security guard has pleaded guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter and attempted manslaughter.
Blackwater said its employees were returning fire after armed insurgents attacked them, but an Iraqi investigation concluded that the guards randomly fired at civilians without provocation. The Iraqi government said 17 civilians were killed, although the indictment alleges 14 died.
The company does not face any charges. But the Baghdad incident exacerbated the feelings of many Iraqis that private American security contractors have operated since 2003 with little regard for Iraqi law or life.
The indictment of the five men represents the first prosecution of non-Defense Department contractors under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act.
The act was amended in 2004 to allow the Justice Department to prosecute such personnel providing services "in support of the mission of the Department of Defense overseas."
Last year, the State Department renewed Blackwater's contract over strong objections from the Iraqi government. Starting January 1, the Iraqi government has mandated that all contractors obtain Iraqi licenses to operate.
This article, by Mike Baker, was published by the Associated Press, January 29, 2009
MOYOCK, N.C. – Blackwater Worldwide, which guards American diplomats in Iraq, said Thursday it would be prepared to leave that country within 72 hours after Iraqi officials denied the North Carolina-based company an operating license because of a deadly shooting spree in Baghdad.
But Blackwater founder Erik Prince told The Associated Press that while losing the State Department contract would hurt the company, the move would cause more harm to the diplomats it has protected since soon after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
"Our abrupt departure would far more hurt the reconstruction team and the diplomats trying to rebuild the country than it would hurt us as a business," Prince said Thursday in an exclusive interview with the AP.
Iraqi officials said the lingering outrage over a September 2007 shooting in Baghdad's Nisoor Square that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead led to its decision.
The shooting strained relations between Washington and Baghdad and fueled the anti-American insurgency in Iraq, where many Iraqis saw the bloodshed as a demonstration of American brutality and arrogance. Five former Blackwater guards have pleaded not guilty to federal charges in the United States that include 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter.
Blackwater maintains the guards opened fire after coming under attack, an argument supported by transcripts of Blackwater radio logs obtained by the AP. They describe a hectic eight minutes in which the guards repeatedly reported incoming gunfire from insurgents and Iraqi police.
The Iraqi decision to deny Blackwater an operating license was made public Thursday. A U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, which took effect Jan. 1, gives the Iraqis the authority to determine which Western contractors operate in their country.
"We sent our decision to the U.S. Embassy last Friday," Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf told the AP. "They have to find a new security company."
State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood said the department has yet to determine its next step.
"We have to study and see what we're going to do next," said Wood. "We haven't made a decision on how we're going to move forward yet."
Prince said his company had yet to receive orders from the State Department to evacuate.
Neither Khalaf nor a U.S. Embassy official speaking on condition of anonymity gave a date for Blackwater personnel to leave Iraq, and neither said whether they would be allowed to continue guarding U.S. diplomats in the meantime.
Blackwater president Gary Jackson told the AP the company has plans to remove its nearly two dozen aircraft and 1,000 security contractors from Iraq within 72 hours of receiving such an order. "If they tell us to leave, we'll pack it up and go," Jackson said.
Two other U.S.-based security contractors working for the State Department — DynCorp and Triple Canopy — have licenses to operate in Iraq. But Prince played down the possibility that Blackwater contractors would simply move to another employer.
"It is a big assumption for someone to say, 'Fire Blackwater (and) all those guys will migrate over to one of the other competitors.'" Prince said. "It's not that easy."
Blackwater has been operating in Iraq without a formal license since it arrived in the country. The State Department extended Blackwater's contract for a year last spring, despite widespread calls for it to be expelled because of the shootings.
Blackwater's work in Iraq, which includes a reputation for aggressive operations and excessive force it disputes as unfair and inaccurate, turned the company into a catchall brand name for private security contractors. Executives said last year that the unwanted attention had them shifting their focus away from private security.
If banned from protecting diplomats in Iraq, Blackwater executives said Thursday the company remains on track to reach a goal of $1 billion in annual revenues in the next year or two. The State Department contract comprises about one-third of the company's overall revenues, though the work of providing actual boots-on-ground security is only part of the deal.
The private security firm, which trained some 25,000 civilians, law enforcement and military personnel last year, continues to expand even as its future in Iraq becomes less promising. Blackwater has a fleet of 76 aircraft, and almost all of them are deployed in hot spots in places like Afghanistan and West Africa.
On Thursday, three international teams were at the company's compound in North Carolina going through classes: Authorities from Yemen flipped through four-inch binders as they learned how to identify the components of an explosive by looking at X-rays. A group from the country of Georgia was practicing SWAT techniques in a makeshift building, taking instructions through a translator from a Blackwater official.
A Canadian team was also on site, along with a number of other law enforcement, Coast Guard and civilians who kicked up burning rubber on a driving track and rattled off rounds on shooting ranges. Members of the Army and Navy were practicing their driving skills in Blackwater's mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles.
"When you first hear Blackwater, you automatically, instantly think about the overseas stuff," said Jim Sierawski, Blackwater's vice president for training. "That overshadows the training center. Here, we've been on a steady incline every year."
This article, by Ernesto Londoño and Qais Mizher, was published in the Washington Post, January 29, 2009
The Iraqi government has informed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that it will not issue a new operating license to Blackwater Worldwide, the embassy's primary security company, which has come under scrutiny for allegedly using excessive force while protecting American diplomats, Iraqi and U.S. officials said Wednesday.
Iraq's Interior Ministry conveyed its decision to U.S. officials in Baghdad on Friday, in one of the boldest moves the government has made since the Jan. 1 implementation of a security agreement with the United States that sharply curbed American power in Iraq.
Blackwater employees who have not been accused of improper conduct will be allowed to continue working as private security contractors in Iraq if they switch employers, Iraqi officials said Wednesday.
The officials said Blackwater must leave the country as soon as a joint Iraqi-U.S. committee finishes drawing up guidelines for private contractors under the security agreement. It is unclear how long that will take. Blackwater employees and other U.S. contractors had been immune from prosecution under Iraqi law.
"When the work of this committee ends," Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said, private security companies "will be under the authority of the Iraqi government, and those companies that don't have licenses, such as Blackwater, should leave Iraq immediately."
The State Department said Wednesday that its contractors will obey Iraqi law.
"We will work with the government of Iraq and our contractors to address the implications of this decision in a way that minimizes any impact on safety and security of embassy Baghdad personnel," spokesman Noel Clay said.
Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said she was not aware of the Iraqi government's decision.
"It would be irresponsible for me to comment on a decision that may or may not have been reached," she said in an e-mail Wednesday.
The United States was unable to persuade the Iraqi government to extend the immunity of its contractors past the expiration of the U.N. Security Council resolution on Dec. 31. No American diplomat has been killed during missions secured by Blackwater.
The North Carolina company became widely despised by Iraqis after a string of incidents during which its heavily armed guards were accused of using excessive force. The deadliest was the Sept. 16, 2007, shooting in Nisoor Square, in central Baghdad, when Blackwater guards opened fire on Iraqis in a crowded street, killing 17 civilians, after the guards' convoy reportedly came under fire.
The U.S. attorney's office in Washington last month charged five of the men with voluntary manslaughter and using a machine gun to commit a violent act. The men entered not guilty pleas and are awaiting trial. A sixth guard reached a plea deal with prosecutors.
Private security companies working for the U.S. government in Iraq have been required to obtain licenses from the Iraqi Interior Ministry since 2004, but some have operated without licenses, and until this year, there was little the Iraqi government could do to enforce the rule.
The ministry revoked Blackwater's license in September 2007 and threatened to expel the company's employees, but U.S. officials ignored the order and renewed the company's contract the following April.
Iraqi officials said Wednesday they decided not to issue the company a new license largely because of the Nisoor Square shooting.
"We informed the U.S. Embassy in Iraq about this decision, and they will have to find another company to replace them," said Gen. Hussain Kamal, a senior Interior Ministry official.
Blackwater employees were also accused of shooting Iraqi guards working for a television station in the spring of 2007. And on Dec. 24, 2006, a drunk Blackwater guard fatally shot a guard employed by Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi.
According to a congressional report issued in October 2007, Blackwater guards have been involved in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005.
The company has received more than $1 billion from the federal government since 2000. In recent months, however, Blackwater has expanded its business model to rely less heavily on private security work overseas. Though tremendously profitable, the field has generated an avalanche of bad publicity for the company and exposed it to numerous lawsuits.
The two other large security companies that protect American diplomats in Iraq are DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, both based in Northern Virginia.
Blackwater employees work under the supervision of the embassy's regional security officer. The company's drivers and bodyguards take U.S. diplomats to meetings outside the Green Zone, and its pilots often fly in small helicopters over convoys as an added security measure. The Blackwater employees live in a compound in the Green Zone that is informally referred to as "man camp." According to the October 2007 congressional report, Blackwater guards made more than $1,200 per day.
Private security contractors in Iraq last year became deeply concerned about losing their immunity with the implementation of the security agreement, which U.S. officials feared would trigger a mass exodus. But few have left. Instead, in recent months, Western private security companies have sought to build strong relationships with the Iraqi government and have hired more Iraqi guards.
Sami Hawa Hamud al-Sabahin, who was among those wounded in the Nisoor Square shooting, said he was overjoyed to hear the news about Blackwater.
"It makes me happy and lets me feel that the government didn't forget us," he said.
Umm Tahsin , the widow of Ali Khalil Abdul Hussein, one of the men killed in the shooting, also applauded the government's decision. But she lamented that neither the Iraqi nor the U.S. government has compensated her family for their loss.
"Those people are a group of criminals," she said of Blackwater. "What they did was a massacre. Pushing them out is the best solution. They destroyed our family."
On September 28, 2002, President Bush proclaimed: “The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons . . . The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist groups, and there are Al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq.” Just over a year after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the president and his administration used these two fears — unconventional weapons and terrorism — to win public approval for going to war in Iraq. But the premises proved to be false. The chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq concluded that President Saddam Hussein had no such weapons or the means to produce them, and the U.S. intelligence community determined that there was no meaningful connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq. These conclusions came too late, however. On March 20, 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom began in an attempt to kill the Iraqi president and overthrow his regime. The Center for Public Integrity found that Bush and seven members of his administration made 935 demonstrably false statements in the lead-up to the war, from September 2001 to September 2003, as reported in Iraq: The War Card. The failure of the commander in chief and his administration to gather solid intelligence before sending U.S. troops to war has cost thousands of American and Iraqi lives, billions of tax dollars, and the trust of not only of U.S. allies abroad, but also of a majority of the American people. When asked about the War Card study, a White House spokesman responded: “The actions taken in 2003 were based on the collective judgment of intelligence agencies around the world.”
ABU GHRAIB PRISON SCANDAL
Few incidents have done more damage to America’s image in the world than the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. In late April 2004, Americans got their first glimpse of the haunting photographs of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad: scenes of naked, humiliated prisoners piled on top of one another, some forced to assume sexual positions, all while American soldiers posed nearby, smiling at the camera. The photos provoked an instant outcry around the world. In addressing the scandal, President Bush insisted that it was the fault of a few dishonorable soldiers, not a systematic problem with how the U.S. was managing the war in Iraq — but investigations suggest that the blame likely rises higher up the military’s chain of command. Some senior officials, such as General Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of military prisons in Iraq, were reprimanded and suspended. But the blame mainly fell on low-level soldiers, who were convicted and sent to prison for participating in sexual abuse, beatings, and other brutal acts. Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said news of the abuse “stunned him.” But a military report by Major General Antonio Taguba found that the prison was overcrowded, undermanned, and short of resources, making accountability for prisoner treatment rare. Taguba also noted in 2004 that the Central Intelligence Agency had serious concerns about the kinds of interrogation techniques military forces used on detainees. But Taguba wasn’t permitted to delve much deeper; an article in The New Yorker in 2007 reported that military investigators were not allowed to look into the role of Rumsfeld and other Department of Defense officials. What is known is that the Pentagon found out about the existence of the photos in January 2004 and Taguba filed his report in March. President Bush knew about the abuses at Abu Ghraib at least by March, but he did not address the issue until the media publicized it in late April. Congress found out about the abuse the same day the American public did. “This is entirely unacceptable,” said Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican of Indiana and then chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. The scandal, Lugar added, “pushed international resentment and distrust of the United States to levels unprecedented in recent times.” The biggest failure, according to watchdogs: the lack of accountability for military officials who failed to stop or prevent the abuses. The White House press office did not respond to a request for comment, but has previously stated that the administration and the military acted quickly “to hold people to account and bring them to justice, and to also take steps to prevent something like that from happening again.”
ARBITRARY DETENTION AT GUANTANAMO
The U.S. military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has held hundreds of detainees without charging them with a crime. The White House conceived of Guantanamo as an extralegal zone for hardened terrorists whom it unilaterally declared were exempt from the Geneva Conventions. There, terrorists would have no recourse to the American legal system, lawyers at the Department of Justice argued; instead, they could be imprisoned for as long as the government saw fit. In June 2004, the Supreme Court struck down the administration’s plan and declared that the foreign nationals held at Guantanamo had the right to petition for their release in U.S. courts. Once forced to confront the legal status of its prisoners, the Department of Defense (DOD) began releasing or transferring many of the inmates. By October 2004, the United States had released 202 detainees from the prison camp and between late 2004 and March 2005 the remaining 558 detainees passed through “Combatant Status Review Tribunals,” which determined that 520 of these prisoners were “
By 2008, however, after further review of cases and intervention by U.S. courts, the number of prisoners held at Guantanamo dropped to approximately 255, according to the Pentagon. Another 60 or so have been cleared for release but can not be repatriated because their home country refused to accept them or due to other diplomatic complications. Lawyers for Guantanamo detainees have struggled to obtain documents from the U.S. military believed to contain evidence against their clients, and in some cases, the United States has had to drop prosecutions of Guantanamo inmates because much of their case was built on evidence obtained through interrogation methods widely considered to be torture. Asked to comment, a DOD spokesman directed the Center to a factsheet on Guantanamo: “Detainees held at Guantanamo Bay are not only afforded the majority of the protections granted to prisoners of war,” it states, “but many additional privileges that exceed the requirements established by the Geneva Conventions.
PENTAGON OFFICE’S MISLEADING INTELLIGENCE
An under-the-radar Department of Defense (DOD) office produced highly politicized intelligence assessments and promulgated one of the most inaccurate justifications for U.S. invasion of Iraq: that the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein had a working relationship with Al Qaeda. The Office of Special Plans, part of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy led by Douglas Feith, created and provided these assessments to senior U.S. officials. Though neither illegal nor unauthorized, these assessments were, in the view of the DOD inspector general, “inappropriate” and “did not clearly show the variance with the consensus of the Intelligence Community.” A Senate Intelligence Committee report found not only that the work of other intelligence agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency, was ignored, but also suggested that the Office of Special Plans shaped intelligence to fit the desires of policymakers — a cardinal sin in the intelligence world. According to several Democratic senators on the intelligence committee, “[C]riticism of the CIA’s analysis was sent by Under Secretary for Policy Feith to Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld.” W. Patrick Lang, the former chief of Middle East intelligence at the Defense Intelligence Agency, told investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh, “The Pentagon has banded together to dominate the government’s foreign policy, and they’ve pulled it off.” The 9-11 Commission would later conclude that it found “
no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.”
A study conducted by a DOD-funded think tank, after a review of captured Iraqi government documents, also found no “
between Al Qaeda and Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Trumpeted by the White House as a key reason to invade Iraq, the much touted close “relationship” between Al Qaeda and Iraq simply did not exist.
MILITARY FAILURE TO SECURE IRAQ AFTER INVASION
Calling them “wildly off mark,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz dismissed the assessments of his own Army chief of staff, General Eric Shinseki, and a 1999 Department of Defense (DOD) war game scenario, both of which predicted the need for hundreds of thousands of troops to secure post-invasion Iraq — far more than the 148,000 who were eventually assigned the job. According to an official U.S. Army history of the conflict in Iraq, “The military means employed were sufficient to destroy the Saddam regime; they were not sufficient to replace it with the type of nation-state the United States wished to see in its place.” A 2005 unclassified study for the Army by the RAND Corporation, which was suppressed until media reports and congressional pressure brought it to light, said that the chaotic security situation after Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled were “conditions [that] enabled the insurgency to take root, and the Army and Marine Corps have been battling the insurgents ever since.” Though there were some strategies for securing post-invasion Iraq, “few if any made it into the serious planning process,” according to the RAND report. These ideas were “held at bay, in the most general sense, by two mutually reinforcing sets of assumptions that dominated planning . . . at the highest levels” — that few armed forces would be necessary after the invasion and that the military would not be an occupying force. Just days before the war began, Vice President Cheney said, “My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”
LACK OF ARMORED PROTECTION FOR TROOPS
The U.S. military failed to provide adequate body armor and armored vehicles to soldiers and Marines fighting the Iraq war. Key assumptions made before the invasion and early in the occupation of Iraq proved faulty: namely, that the Iraqi people would welcome the United States’ presence and that the American military would not face an insurgency. In April 2003 military supply chiefs told the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Army Strategic Planning Board, led by General Richard Cody, that there was enough body armor and that the 50,000 troops behind the front lines did not need armor, according to a 2005 piece in The New York Times. By mid-May, as troops behind front lines faced attacks, Cody reversed that decision and ordered body armor for all, “regardless of duty position.” The case was similar for military vehicles. According to an Army history: “When OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom] began, as in every previous war the U.S. Army has fought, logistical vehicles were largely unarmored or lightly armed. . . . The ‘360-degree’ Iraqi insurgency once again exposed the danger of this approach.” The early missteps were soon compounded by other problems. It took time for the bureaucracy at the Pentagon to move; for example, at one point, the Army's equipment manager reportedly reduced the priority level of armor to the same status of socks. Also, DOD relied on several unproven contractors, which led to delays. The result was that for too long too few troops had adequate armor in a conflict that turned out to have no front lines. Soldiers almost anywhere in Iraq could be targeted, especially by the insurgents’ weapon of choice, improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Between the beginning of the conflict in March 2003 through November 1, 2008, 2,145 troops were killed and nearly 21,000 troops were wounded by IEDs and other types of explosive devices in Iraq.
PENTAGON’S SLOW ADAPTATION TO A WAR-FOOTING
The Department of Defense (DOD) has often been unresponsive or slow to react to the needs of soldiers and Marines on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in the United States when they return. “A lesson I learned fairly early on was that important elements of the Department of Defense weren’t at war,” and thus failed to support those who were in a wartime posture, said Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates. Instead, he explained, they were “preoccupied with future capabilities and procurement programs, wedded to lumbering peacetime process and procedures, stuck in bureaucratic low-gear. The needs of those in combat too often were not addressed urgently or creatively.” According to The New York Times, “In Iraq, Army officers say the Air Force has often been out of touch, fulfilling only half of their requests for the sophisticated surveillance aircraft that ground commanders say are needed to find roadside bombs and track down insurgents.” The DOD press office did not respond to a request for comment, but Gates has criticized the Pentagon’s slow initial procurement of MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles), saying, “I believe that one factor that delayed the fielding was the pervasive assumption . . . that regimes could be toppled, major combat completed, the insurgency crushed, and most U.S. troops withdrawn fairly soon.” Gates sees a lack of accountability at the root of the problems, citing as an example Walter Reed Army Medical Center: “Over a year ago, The Washington Post broke the story about inadequate out-patient care at Walter Reed. I was disappointed by the initially-dismissive response of some in the Army’s leadership, who went into damage-control mode against the press and, in one case, blamed a couple of sergeants. Wrong move. I concluded responsibility lay much higher and acted accordingly.”
INADEQUATE PLANNING FOR POST-INVASION IRAQ
The United States planned poorly for the post-invasion administration of Iraq, contributing to the rise of a broad insurgency and the loss of thousands of lives and billions of dollars. The blame can be cast widely. An official Army history of the Iraq conflict found that “
the Army, as the service primarily responsible for ground operations, should have insisted on better . . . planning and preparations. . . .” A RAND Corporation study concluded that the State Department’s “main postwar planning effort . . . raised many of the right questions. . . . Yet the Department of Defense largely ignored this project.”
Rand also found that much of the confusion between the State and Defense departments stemmed from poor direction from the National Security Council, which failed to mediate disputes between the departments. Others blame the Coalition Provisional Authority, led by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, which issued two orders that disbanded the Iraqi military and gutted the Iraqi government by banning members of the Ba'ath Party. Critics say those decisions, which took many U.S. civilian and military leaders by surprise, contributed to the rise in violence. Before Bremer replaced him as director of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq, Lieutenant General Jay Garner drafted a postwar plan for Iraq, which he introduced with, “History will judge the war against Iraq not by the brilliance of its military execution, but by the effectiveness of the post-hostilities activities.”
POOR HEALTH CARE FOR VETERANS
Veterans enrolled in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care programs have long complained of receiving inadequate treatment at poorly funded facilities. According to a 2003 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, veterans were forced to travel long distances to receive care — about 25 percent of the vets lived more than a 60-minute drive from a VA hospital. They also had to endure long waits for appointments, especially in regions like Florida, home to a large number of aging veterans. Nursing homes for veterans were notoriously understaffed, making it difficult to keep up with the increasing population of older vets who need care. But the strains imposed by new veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan exposed a whole new litany of problems for the VA and the military. Citizens and lawmakers were outraged after The Washington Post exposed dismal conditions for veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2007. Several high-ranking Defense Department officials were fired or stepped down under pressure, and stories soon emerged about other medical facilities where veterans were placed in rooms teeming with fruit flies, slept on broken hospital beds or faced unprofessional staff. A subsequent investigation of 1,400 hospitals and other facilities for vets found more than 1,000 incidents of substandard conditions. The VA has also struggled to deal with the many young veterans complaining of mental health problems, especially post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Treatment for PTSD was found to be inadequate in 2005, when only half of VA medical centers had a PTSD clinical team. Congressional testimony indicated that VA examiners felt pressure to conduct exams of veterans in as little as 20 minutes. The larger problem is that the VA’s patient workload has nearly doubled in the past 10 years; there are now 7.8 million enrollees in the VA health system. The VA “has faced difficulties in managing its resources” in the face of this rising workload, concluded the GAO. While the agency has dealt with challenges in recruiting and retaining health care professionals, it has also encountered problems in its internal budget process, the GAO found. Those issues have been exacerbated by an often-unpredictable Congressional appropriations process, which has frequently been late in delivering a finalized VA budget. The result is considerable confusion and inconsistency in the timely delivery and quality of care. A VA spokesman did not respond to a request for comment, but Gerald M. Cross, acting principal deputy under the secretary of health, told Congress in 2007 that the department is committed to “providing timely, high-quality health care to those who have helped defend and preserve freedom around the world.”
VETERAN DISABILITY CLAIMS LANGUISH
For many injured veterans — aging former soldiers as well as younger ones recently back from Iraq and Afghanistan — disability claims are a vital and necessary source of income. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), however, has long failed to process claims in a timely manner, forcing many vets to wait an average of six months for their claim to be processed, and as long as two years to wait for an appeal. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported a growing backlog of claims and lengthy processing times in 2001, and the problem has persisted. By February 2007, the backlog had grown to almost 400,000 — more than 130,000 of which had exceeded the VA’s 160-day goal to process a claim. This is due in part to the growing number of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan filing disability claims — total claims have jumped from about 579,000 in 2000 to some 806,000 in 2006, a 39 percent increase. The Senate unanimously passed a measure in 2007 to provide the VA with $70.3 million to eliminate the backlog of disability claims by hiring new processors and implementing better staff training. But increasing the number of processors on staff did not immediately solve the crisis. The GAO says that increased numbers must be paired with “adequate training and performance management” in order to issue timely and accurate decisions. Daniel Akaka, Democrat of Hawaii and chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, has called for better technology, improved employee training, and an enhanced claims process to end the long delays. Until the problems are fixed, the persistent delays mean that tens of thousands of veterans and their families will continue to struggle financially. The VA press office did not respond to a request for comment, but Patrick Dunne, the department's acting under secretary for benefits, told Congress in July 2008 that the department is “
continually seeking new ways to increase production and shorten the time veterans are waiting for decisions on their claims,”
which include “
longer-term efforts to enhance and upgrade our claims processing systems through integration of today's technology.”
FAILURE TO SECURE WEAPONS IN IRAQ
In the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, U.S. troops failed to secure weapons depots across the country, allowing Iraqis to loot vast amounts of explosives, ammunition, and weapons that were then used to fuel and supply the insurgency. Many sites around Iraq remained unsecured even three and a half years after the invasion, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). “According to lessons-learned reports and senior-level DOD [Department of Defense] officials,” the GAO reported, “the widespread looting occurred because DOD had insufficient troop levels to secure conventional munitions storage sites due to several . . . planning priorities and assumptions.” Among those assumptions — which turned out to be wrong — was a belief that the Iraqi military would assist in securing these installations. The GAO also found that the Pentagon “did not have a centrally managed program for the disposition of enemy munitions until August 2003, after widespread looting had already occurred.” The sites included many well known to intelligence experts, such as the sprawling Al Qaqaa military facility south of Baghdad. The Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation each stressed to Pentagon officials the need to secure these sites, but the military largely failed to address the issue. Stolen explosives traced to the looting have been used to make improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, the number-one killer of U.S. troops in Iraq. Since the beginning of the war in Iraq, at least 2,145 troops have been killed by IEDs and other types of explosive devices. The DOD press office did not respond to a request for comment, but at a 2007 briefing, Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged the scope of the problem. “We have destroyed several hundred thousand tons of Iraqi munitions,” he told reporters. “I mean, fundamentally, the entire country was one big ammo dump. And there were thousands of these sites... we're doing our best to try and find them, but given the expanse of the country and all the other tasks which the military is trying to carry out there, it's a huge task.
CONTRACTORS FAILING TROOPS IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
Since the invasion of Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s escalating use of outside contractors has coincided with a decrease in oversight, endangering the well-being of American troops serving there and in Iraq. The Department of Defense (DOD) has suffered a “complete breakdown in the procurement process” during the past seven years, according to Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, echoing the findings of the Center for Public Integrity’s Windfalls of War and Windfalls of War II projects. Examples abound of companies providing substandard supplies to American forces, such as when Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), the largest contractor in Iraq, provided contaminated water to 5,000 U.S. troops in 2005 and when Halliburton, then KBR’s parent company, engaged in overcharges and questionable costs of $212.3 million for oil reconstruction work, as reported by DOD auditors. In July 2008, the Pentagon revealed that 16 Americans had died of accidental electrocution in Iraq, some tied to faulty wiring at facilities run by U.S. contractors. Among the problems cited by former electricians: inexperienced employees, including foreign electricians who did not speak English. Another problem plaguing U.S. contractors have been fires — 283 of them over just five months at facilities maintained by KBR, according to a 2007 report by the Defense Contract Management Agency. The most glaring case of poor oversight may be AEY Inc., which was awarded a nearly $300 million contract to supply ammunition for Afghanistan’s army and police. In a case that Representative Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican, said speaks “volumes about what's wrong with the military contracting process today,” AEY was allegedly run out of an unmarked office in Miami Beach by a 22-year-old; much of the ammunition he sold were reportedly old rounds shipped from Albania that were considered so unstable that NATO and the United States spent millions of dollars to destroy the stockpiles. These, prosecutors charge, included $10 million worth of rounds manufactured in China in the 1960s; the selling of Chinese ammunition is a breach of U.S. law. All this allegedly happened despite AEY being on a State Department watch list since 2005.
SURGE IN OUTSOURCING CREATES PROBLEMS IN PERFORMANCE, OVERSIGHT
A dramatic increase in the contracting of government services has resulted in a litany of problems, ranging from cost overruns and missed deadlines to a lack of oversight, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). From 2001 to 2005, the number of federal contractor jobs surged by 72 percent, increasing from 4.4 million to 7.6 million. Spending on contractors nearly doubled from FY 2001 to FY 2006, jumping from $234.8 billion to $415 billion The GAO has issued a series of reports identifying problems associated with the rise in outsourcing. Among the issues: “separating wants from needs; executing acquisition programs within available funding and established timeframes; using sound contracting arrangements with appropriate incentives and effective oversight; assuring that contractors are used only in appropriate circumstances and play proper roles; and sustaining a capable and accountable acquisition workforce ” GAO auditors found that interagency contracting was a “high-risk area” for outsourcing, as were the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The agency also cited concerns about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which now contracts out one-third of its workforce. Lack of competition is another problem. The Department of the Interior’s inspector general found that more than a quarter of the agency’s $380 billion in contracts were awarded without competition.
FAILURE TO REGULATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS
In a busy Baghdad square, a disturbance between a group of Americans and Iraqis on September 16, 2007 resulted in the shooting death of 17 Iraqi civilians. The Americans involved were not military; they were private security contractors from a company called Blackwater. To date security contractors in Iraq number around 48,000 from various companies. Similarly, jobs such as cooking and cleaning on military bases — positions that in past wars were largely filled by military or government personnel — are increasingly outsourced to private companies. The number of private contractors, as well as the amount of money the government pays them, has risen considerably as the Iraq war has gone on, according to the Center for Public Integrity’s 2007 report, Windfalls of War II. The result has been less coordination in missions involving both military and private groups, such as U.K.-based Erinys, and U.S.-based Blackwater and KBR. The problem was highlighted in 2004, when insurgents ambushed a KBR truck convoy and drivers refused to work until security was improved. Without the deliveries, the military was left without adequate fuel, water, and ammunition. A complicating factor has been the ambiguous legal status of private contractors. In the 2007 Blackwater shooting, the security firm initially maintained that the guards fired in self-defense, but investigations by the Iraqi government and the Federal Bureau of Investigation both conclude that the only shots fired came from Blackwater employees. The Department of Defense holds its contractors liable under laws covering the military, but Blackwater works for the State Department, which does not. Critics say that such large-scale security contracting results in a lack of coordination and accountability which poses a risk to American troops as well as to Iraqis, and that mistakes made by U.S. contractors will ultimately be seen by Iraqis as mistakes by the U.S. military. In a 2008 hearing, a senior official argued that contractors have long been an essential and cost-effective tool for ensuring safety in war regions. In Senate testimony, Patrick F. Kennedy, a State Department under secretary, said “The use of security contractors in these dangerous places has allowed the Department the flexibility to rapidly expand its capability… and to support national-security initiatives without the delays inherent in recruiting, hiring and training full-time personnel.
190,000 MISSING WEAPONS IN IRAQ
American weaponry intended for Iraqi security forces may have ended up in the hands of insurgents attacking U.S. troops in Iraq, due largely to oversights at the Department of Defense (DOD), according to government auditors. At least 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols disappeared between 2004 and 2005, some 30 percent of all weapons the United States distributed to Iraqi forces during that time, reported the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in an August 2007 study. While security assistance programs are traditionally operated by the State Department, the Pentagon — as it has in operations throughout the Iraq war— asserted control of the program early on, saying that it could provide greater flexibility. Until December 2005, neither the Pentagon nor Multinational Force-Iraq maintained any central record of equipment distributed during Iraqi security force training (then led by General David Petraeus). The GAO also found that 135,000 pieces of body armor and 115,000 helmets went missing during that time. A subsequent New York Times investigation found that Kassim al-Saffar, an Iraqi businessman Americans entrusted to supply Iraqi police cadets, turned the U.S. armory into a “private arms bazaar” selling weapons to anyone with cash in hand — meaning more U.S. resources wasted in Iraq and greater danger for American troops serving there.
This is taken from the introduction to the Human Rights First report on the lack of oversight of, and accountability for, private security firms in Iraq, whose personnel outnumber that of United States armed forces in Iraq.
Private Security Contractors At War: Introduction
“These guys run loose in this country and do stupid stuff. There's no authority over them, so you can't come down on them hard when they escalate force…. They shoot people, and someone else has to deal with the aftermath.”
Brig. Gen. Karl R. Horst, deputy commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, July 2005.
On September 16, 2007, private security contractors (PSCs) working for Blackwater Worldwide were running an armed convoy through Baghdad. Iraqi government officials charge that these Blackwater contractors, with no justification, killed 17 civilians and wounded 24 more in the Nisoor Square neighborhood of Baghdad. The incident created a political firestorm in Iraq, the United States and around the world. Although the facts are still under investigation, the incident brought intensive focus to the role of PSCs operating in Iraq.
The U.S. government’s reaction to the shootings at Nisoor Square has been characterized by confusion, defensiveness, a multiplicity of uncoordinated ad hoc investigations, and inter-agency finger pointing. These failures underscored the Justice Department’s (DoJ’s) unwillingness or inability to systematically investigate and prosecute allegations of serious violent crimes.
And these failures even extend to cases where U.S. citizens have been victims, such as the alleged 2005 gang rape of Jamie Leigh Jones by co-workers at a forward operating base in Iraq. Jones at the time worked for Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), Inc. (then a Halliburton subsidiary). She has now filed a civil law suit against KBR, the U.S. government and others. Justice Department officials in Iraq were briefed on the incident at the time, but DoJ declined even to open an investigation for more than two years, and they did so only when facing the prospect of embarrassing publicity relating to the case. There still has been no prosecution of her assailants. There has been a similar failure to investigate and prosecute private contractors involved in the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison during 2003. The images of Army Specialists Lynndie England and Charles Graner are imprinted in the public memory of that scandal–in large part because of their military court-martial prosecutions. By contrast, the roles of private contractors played at Abu Ghraib have received little public attention. Several contractors were there and participated in the interrogations at Abu Ghraib, including - Big Steve--Steven Stefanowicz, a private contractor interrogator employed by CACI International, Inc., on a Department of the Interior contract and several other CACI and L3 Communications Titan Group (then its own entity, Titan) contractors. But the role of these contractors has never been fully investigated by the Justice Department. While 11 soldiers from Abu Ghraib were convicted on charges related to detainee abuse there, not one CACI or Titan civilian contractor has ever even been charged with a crime. Formal Army investigative reports identified at least five private contractors as implicated in serious crimes at Abu Ghraib. These Army investigators found evidence that some private contractors even gave direction and orders to soldiers who were prosecuted. Cases examined by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) were referred to DoJ within months after these revelations.6 Yet in the more than three years since then, the Justice Department specifically, the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia has failed to prosecute any of these private contractors.
These incidents are the tip of the iceberg. Over the last several years there have been scores of reports of serious abuse by private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan both in the context of interrogations and in the use of excessive and often lethal force in various security operations. Many of these incidents have been well documented. Through February 2006 only 20 cases of alleged detainee abuse involving contractors are known to have been referred to DoJ. Nisoor Square and the Christmas Eve Baghdad shooting are the only known cases of security contractor abuse against local nationals that have been referred to DoJ. And only one civilian contractor, David Passaro, has ever been prosecuted by the U.S. government for violence towards local nationals. Passaro was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contractor at a U.S. Army base in Afghanistan. In June 2003 Passaro beat a local Afghani named Abdul Wali in the course of a two-day “interrogation” Wali died in custody the next day. Passaro was tried in August 2006, convicted of multiple assault charges and sentenced to more than eight years in prison.
Based on data reported by the Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of State (DoS), estimates show that there are now approximately 180,000 private contractors operating in Iraq today-more than the number of U.S. military forces there. The U.S. government has neither asserted sufficient control over the situation nor even provided comprehensive information on how many private security contractors work there. Officials at both DoD and DoS have stated they cannot provide the number private security and other contractors funded by the U.S. government are in Iraq today.
But we do know that significant numbers of these contractors--tens of thousands of them--are armed and carrying out military-style security functions, working for several U.S. government agencies. Human Rights First estimates there are at least 35,000 PSCs in Iraq today. Collectively, PSCs comprise the second largest armed security force in the ‘coalition of the willing’ in Iraq, second only to the U.S. military. They represent a larger force even than the combined forces of all of the Coalition nations in Iraq other than the United States.
Most private security contractors in Iraq are Iraqi nationals, but thousands--perhaps tens of thousands -- are U.S. and -- third country -- nationals. These contractors work for as many as 180 companies, including Aegis Defense Services, DynCorp International, the Centurion Group, Control Risks Group, Erinys, MPRI, Triple Canopy and Blackwater Worldwide, to cite a few of the major players. While most individual contractors providing security services undoubtedly abide by the law and carry out their functions in a professional manner, there is a widespread and disturbing pattern of illegality and misconduct by private security contractors in these operations.
Consider these cases:
Zapata: On May 28, 2005, U.S. Marines detained contractors from the American company Zapata Engineering, accusing the contractors of “repeatedly firing weapons at civilians and Marines, erratic driving, and possession of illegal weapons,” and posing a “direct threat to Marine personnel.” Although 16 American contractors lost their jobs with Zapata and were banned from working in the Marine sector of Iraq, none of them were ever prosecuted.
Triple Canopy: On July 8, 2006, Triple Canopy security contractors reportedly fired upon Iraqi civilian vehicles, damaging two vehicles and possibly causing casualties. Three members of the team described at least one of the incidents as unwarranted and admitted there was no threat, and the fourth team member -- the alleged shooter -- was accused by his teammates of saying he wanted “to kill somebody today” before starting the mission. But these shootings came to public attention only through a wrongful termination suit later filed by two of the fired Triple Canopy guards; the U.S. government seems never to have conducted a criminal investigation into the incidents. Triple Canopy fired the three American members of the team, two of which claim they were fired in retaliation for their reporting of the incident.
Blackwater 2006: On Christmas Eve 2006 Andrew Moonen, a Blackwater contractor, allegedly shot and killed Raheem Khalif Hulaichi in Baghdad’s International Zone. Hulaichi was a member of Iraqi Vice-President Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s security detail. According to a CID report, after drinking heavily at a Christmas party, Moonen passed through a gate near the Iraqi Prime Minister’s compound and, when confronted by Hulaichi, fired repeatedly with his Glock 9mm pistol, hitting the guard three times, then fled the scene. Hulaichi died soon after. With State Department facilitation, Blackwater hurried Moonen out of Iraq. Now more than a year later, the FBI and the Justice Department’s U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington reportedly are still investigating the case, although the office declined to confirm this to Human Rights First. Shortly after the incident, Mr. Moonen found work with another contractor, Combat Support Associates (CSA), which provides logistics support to U.S. troops in Kuwait under a DoD contract. A CSA spokesman stated that nothing “untoward” was found in Moonen’s record during the standard background review conducted of all prospective employees. To date no one has been charged or prosecuted in Hulaichi’s killing.
Human Rights First estimates that there are thousands of occasions in Iraq in which PSCs have discharged their weapons, hundreds of times toward civilians. But because of lax reporting requirements, inadequate supervision and the near-complete failure -- primarily of DoJ -- to investigate incidents, it is impossible to determine how many civilians were killed or wounded in these incidents. Clearly much more must be done to ensure this unacceptable situation does not continue.
The existing legal framework for holding private security contractors criminally accountable is based on a patchwork of federal statutes that provide a piecemeal approach to criminal jurisdiction. But together these laws do provide extensive -- although imperfect -- coverage. If used these laws would cover most of the serious violent crimes committed by contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. By law, authority to prosecute these cases is shared by the Justice and Defense departments. In practice, however, neither of these federal agencies is aggressively investigating nor prosecuting contractors. The U.S. government has not devoted adequate effort or resources to carry out the necessary criminal investigations or prosecutions.
The Justice Department bears primary responsibility for this inaction. Today most private security contractors operate in an environment where systems of criminal accountability are rarely used. This has created a culture of impunity.
Operating in an atmosphere of constant tension and threat and without clear standards, oversight, or discipline, and without the ultimate sanction of criminal liability, abuses by private security contractors are inevitable.
The handling of allegations of excessive violence by these contractors stands in sharp contrast to the handling of similar cases involving the U.S. military. The military has clear authority to prosecute cases involving abuse by military personnel and in fact exercises this authority routinely. Though far from perfect, the military has established and devoted resources to build a comprehensive system of discipline and military justice by which soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are subject to discipline or punished for their illegal actions. And while Human Rights First has been critical of DoD failures to hold senior officers accountable in cases involving abusive interrogation practices in Iraq and Afghanistan, we recognize that in general a regular and credible military criminal justice system in fact exists and is applied with some regularity to military personnel.
To date more than 60 U.S. military personnel have been court-martialed in the deaths of Iraqi citizens, and more are under investigation. In contrast not one private contractor implicated in similar crimes in Iraq has been prosecuted. Human Rights First believes that the Justice Department’s neglect has created a “shoot first, ask questions later -- or never” attitude among some contractors. This endangers the local population amongst whom they operate. It also makes the job of the U.S. military harder by stoking animosities among the communities where they operate. This pattern of official disregard of contractor violence and abuse thus seriously undermines U.S. efforts to promote the rule of law in Iraq and Afghanistan and is in turn further endangering U.S. military personnel.
The U.S. government has engaged the services of these private contractors and has made itself increasingly dependent on them. As a result, private contractors today perform many functions that even a decade ago would have been undertaken by the uniformed military. But when the United States or any nation deploys armed forces in conflicts abroad -- even private armed forces -- it has the responsibility to ensure that those forces comply with the law. Specifically, governments using private security forces in armed conflicts have the obligation to ensure that these forces are adequately vetted, trained, supervised and held accountable. Individuals with histories of abusive or serious criminal conduct should not be put in a position to victimize others. They must be trained in the law of war and human rights, including how those laws are enforced through applicable domestic law. Private contractors also must be subject to effective oversight and supervision to ensure that such laws are observed. And finally when abuses do occur contractors must be investigated and held accountable under the law.
Human Rights First finds that:
PSCs and other private contractors working for U.S. government agencies have committed and are committing serious crimes, with virtually no criminal accountability;
Existing U.S. federal criminal law could be used in most cases to prosecute private contractors who use excessive violence, including contractors involved in abusive interrogations;
The U.S. government has made no serious, systematic effort to investigate contractor abuse at Abu Ghraib; and
Although some U.S. government officials assert there are major “holes” in the statutory framework, these assertions merely rationalize Justice Department inaction and Executive Branch indifference. Current federal law provides a substantial basis to try most private contractors involved in cases of abuse. Proposed legislation pending in Congress would clarify some ambiguities and enhance this authority.
In this report Human Rights First makes a number of practical recommendations for addressing and correcting this problem, which fall into three broad areas:
Action by Congress to strengthen federal criminal accountability mechanisms, and require more vigorous Justice Department investigation and prosecution of these cases;
Implementation by the Defense Department of its Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) jurisdiction as a limited and secondary mechanism for holding contractors criminally accountable in special circumstances; and
Development by the Executive Branch of uniform contract practices and procedures and effective mechanisms for enhanced operational coordination and control of contractors.
Congress also should:
Expand the list of serious felonies for which private contractors may be prosecuted under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA);
Mandate comprehensive public Executive Branch reports to Congress on the employment and activities of PSCs, and on Justice and Defense Department efforts to hold PSCs accountable for crimes committed abroad, in order to enable Congress to perform effective oversight in this sphere; and
Direct a thorough, comprehensive study of the roles of private contractors employed by the U.S. government in conflict settings, with a view specifically to identifying whether there are areas of “core government” functions that should not be performed by private contractors. Based on our preliminary review, Human Rights First urges a presumption against private contractors being directly involved in conducting interrogations.
In June 2004, just weeks after revelations from Abu Ghraib had so embarrassed the Bush administration, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the Passaro indictment concerning a killing that occurred a full year earlier - in terms that suggested that thenceforth no private contractor implicated in serious law of war or human rights violations would ever again escape the long arm of the Justice Department:
In the reports of abuse of detainees by United States personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two months, the world has witnessed a betrayal of America’s most basic values by a small group of individuals. Their actions call us to the defense of our values, -- our belief in decency and respect for human life -- through the enforcement of the law.
President Bush has made clear that the United States will not tolerate criminal acts of brutality such as those alleged in this indictment. The types of illegal abuse detailed run counter to our values and our policies and are not representative of our men and women in the military and associated personnel serving honorably and admirably for the cause of freedom.
Those who are responsible for such criminal acts will be investigated, prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished.
But in the three-and-a-half years since Passaro’s indictment, no other private contractors working in Iraq or Afghanistan have been indicted or prosecuted by the Justice Department for criminal violence or abuse toward local nationals.
The consequences of continued delay in closing this accountability gap are immense: given the population of security and other contractors in Iraq, a simmering problem may boil into a crisis that could shape the eventual outcome of America’s efforts in Iraq and reputation throughout the world. Perhaps it already has.