New Light on Private Security Contractors in Iraq

By September 24, 2008

The use of thousands of private security contractors in Iraq represents a quantitatively new feature of U.S. military operations, but relatively little has been publicly disclosed about the contractual arrangements involved.

The war in Iraq “is apparently the first time that the United States has depended so extensively on contractors to provide security in a hostile environment,” according to a recently updated Congressional Research Service report (pdf).

But “the use of armed contractors raises several concerns, including transparency and accountability,” the CRS report said.

“The lack of public information on the terms of the contracts, including their costs and the standards governing hiring and performance, make evaluating their efficiency difficult. 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,” the CRS report said.

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by David Isenberg of United Press International, new information is now available on the U.S. State Department’s Worldwide Personal Protective Services (WPPS) contract, which provides security services throughout Iraq (as well as Afghanistan, Bosnia and Israel).

UPI obtained the WPPS contract specifications from the State Department and reported on the material in “Dogs of War: WPPS World” by David Isenberg, September 19. The newly disclosed contract material itself was posted by UPI here (pdf).

Extensive background information on the issue is available from the Congressional Research Service in “Private Security Contractors in Iraq: Background, Legal Status, and Other Issues,” updated August 25, 2008.

Categories: Secrecy