CRS Views Private Security Contractors in Iraq

07.05.07 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The extensive reliance by the U.S. government on private security contractors to support military forces in Iraq poses numerous policy and legal questions that are explored in a new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service.

“The use of armed contractors raises several concerns for many Members, including transparency and accountability,” the report begins. “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.”

“Contractors working with the U.S. military (or with any of the coalition forces) in Iraq are non-combatants who have no combat immunity under international law if they engage in hostilities, and whose conduct may be attributable to the United States.”

“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 copy of the report was obtained by Secrecy News.

See “Private Security Contractors in Iraq: Background, Legal Status, and Other Issues,” updated June 21, 2007.

The Los Angeles Times reported on July 4 that “The number of U.S.-paid private contractors in Iraq now exceeds that of American combat troops… More than 180,000 civilians — including Americans, foreigners and Iraqis — are working in Iraq under U.S. contracts, according to State and Defense department figures obtained by the Los Angeles Times.”