House Bids to Put Contractors Under US Law

Landslide passage for bill to bring private firms into civilian courts
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 4, 2007 5:01 PM CDT
Plainclothes contractors working for Blackwater USA take part in a firefight as Iraqi demonstrators loyal to Muqtada Al Sadr attempt to advance on a facility being defended by U.S. and Spanish soldiers,...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – The House of Representatives passed a bill today that would make private security firms accountable to US civilian courts; the vote was 389 to 30, with opposition coming only from Republicans. The White House and Pentagon want contractors kept under military jurisdiction, but if the Senate passes similar legislation by a similar margin, the president will be unable to veto it successfully.

Last month’s episode in which Blackwater contractors killed 17 Iraqi civilians—and comparable shootings brought to light in its wake—suggests the firm may not be “bound by any law at all,” the New York Times reports. Only Defense Department contractors are currently covered by civilian law; Blackwater’s missions involve providing security for State Department clients.