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In Wake Of Blackwater Convictions, A New Push To Regulate Contractors

Blackwater helicopters in Iraq
Heath Powell
Flickr Creative Commons

A U.S. congressman from North Carolina has reintroduced a bill to clarify how American laws apply to overseas contractors. Democratic Congressman David Price of Chapel Hill originally submitted the legislation in 2007 after contractors with the company Blackwater were accused of shooting up a public square in Baghdad. The law met resistance from the White House at the time and was never passed.

As it stands, Price argues, the legal structure governing how contractors behave and who is responsible for them is complex.

"This creates a kind of radical uncertainty for contractors, and a lack of certainty on the part of the American people that our laws will be honored and observed by people acting in our name," said Price.

A companion bill in the U.S. Senate has been introduced by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

The Blackwater case has taken years and much legal wrangling to get to this point, where last week four individuals were convicted of charges ranging from manslaughter to murder. Price argues there still a need to clarify where these cases fall in terms of legal oversight, in order to avoid a lack of justice based on technicalities.

"It still could be successfully appealed," said Price. "We don't know. The case was thrown out once. This actually is the exception that proves the rule, I think. That this jurisdiction, this responsibility for such cases needs to be clarified".

Eric Mennel prepares the afternoon/evening "drive time" newscast on WUNC. Previously, he was a producer for The Story with Dick Gordon. Eric has reported for All Things Considered, This American Life, 99% Invisible and other radio programs. He covered protests and security measures at the 2012 Republican National Convention for WUSF Tampa and NPR News. One day, he hopes to own a home with a wrap-around porch.
Phoebe Judge is an award-winning journalist whose work has been featured on a numerous national radio programs. She regularly conducts interviews and anchors WUNC's broadcast of Here & Now. Previously, Phoebe served as producer, reporter and guest host for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. Earlier in her career, Phoebe reported from the gulf coast of Mississippi. She covered the BP oil spill and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for Mississippi Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio. Phoebe's work has won multiple Edward R. Murrow and Associated Press awards. Phoebe was born and raised in Chicago and is graduate of Bennington College and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
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