September 23, 2010
House Testimony Echoes Concerns about Contractor Escalation without Oversight, Accountability Fixes
Washington, DC – Today, the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan testified before the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform and raised serious concerns regarding State Department's need to more than double its private security contractors from 2,700 to 7,000 in Iraq by the time the U.S. military withdraws. The testimony echoed concerns raised by Human Rights First in its report "State of Affairs: Three Years After Nisoor Square – Accountability and Oversight of U.S. Private Security and Other Contractors." Commission Co-Chairman Michael Thibault testified that "[e]ven if State could obtain the funds for more than doubling its private-security force, it is not clear that it has the trained personnel to manage and oversee contract performance of a kind that has already shown the potential for creating tragic incidents and frayed relations with host countries." Additionally, Human Rights First's newly released report found, in part, that legal clarification of criminal jurisdiction over State contractors in Iraq is urgently needed. To date, there remains a serious gap in the law that does not give U.S. courts criminal jurisdiction over all private security contractors employed by the State Department. The group notes that it is imperative that the Obama administration and Congress work together to pass the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, legislation designed to bridge that gap. The United States has a responsibility and a national security interest to ensure that when it fields contractors abroad it provides effective oversight to protect civilians from harm and hold contractors accountable for serious crimes committed. To read Human Rights First's report, please visit /wp-content/uploads/pdf/State_Of_Affairs.pdf.