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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Mercenary murder in Iraq?

Iraq killing tracked to contractor could test laws

By BILL SIZEMORE, The Virginian-Pilot
© January 11, 2007

As pressure grows in Congress to hold private military companies such as Blackwater USA more accountable for their conduct, reports have surfaced of a Dec. 24 shooting in Baghdad that could serve as a textbook case.

According to the State Department, a civilian U.S. contractor shot and killed an Iraqi security officer. Lou Fintor, a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, would not say which company the shooter worked for. Two independent sources have told The Virginian-Pilot that he worked for Blackwater, based in Moyock, N.C.

When asked about the reports, Anne Tyrrell, a Blackwater spokeswoman, said Wednesday: "No comment."

Blackwater provides security for U.S. diplomatic staff in Iraq under a multimillion-dollar State Department contract.

Details of the shooting are sketchy. Fintor said there are conflicting reports. "We continue looking into the incident in an effort to try to determine the facts," he said.

He declined to provide any further details about the American contractor, citing the U.S. Privacy Act. However, a former Blackwater contractor and an executive of another private military company, citing sources inside Iraq, independently said that the shooter was a Blackwater contractor.

So far, there is no word of any criminal charges being brought in the case.

Nearly four years after the U.S. invasion, tens of thousands of civilian contractors are working in Iraq. So far, none has been charged with any criminal wrongdoing. One reason: Contractors operate in a legal gray area, in which it's uncertain whether they're subject to civilian law, military law or neither.

The latest effort to clear that up came Wednesday when U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., introduced legislation he says will bring about transparency, accountability and coordination for private contractors operating in a war zone.

"The lack of a legal framework for battlefield contracting has allowed certain rogue contractor employees to perpetrate heinous criminal acts without the threat of prosecution," Price said.

posted by Steve @ 2:19:00 AM

2:19:00 AM

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