Tuesday, August 21, 2007
The United States is relying heavily on private firms to supply a wide variety of services in Iraq, including security. From the information available in published sources, this apparently is the first time that the United States has depended on contractors to provide such extensive security in a hostile environment. In Iraq, private firms known as Private Security Companies (PSC) are currently providing security services such as the protection of individuals, nonmilitary transport convoys, buildings and other economic infrastructure, as well as the training of Iraqi police and military personnel.
The use of armed contractors raises several concerns for many Members, including transparency and accountability. Transparency issues include the lack of public information on the terms of their contracts, including their costs and the standards governing their hiring and performance, as well as the background and training of those hired under contract. The apparent lack of a practical means to hold contractors accountable under U.S. law for abuses and other transgressions, and the possibility that they could be prosecuted by foreign courts, is also a source of concern.
This report summarizes what is currently known about companies that provide personnel for security missions in Iraq and some sources of controversy surrounding them. A treatment of legal status and authorities follows, including an overview of relevant international law as well as Iraqi law, which currently consists primarily of Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) orders that remain in effect until superceded. The various possible means for prosecuting contractors under U.S. law in civilian or military courts are detailed, followed by a discussion of possible issues for Congress. This report will be updated as events warrant.
FULL REPORT: Congressional Research Service - "Private Security Contractors in Iraq: Background, Legal Status, and Other Issues,"