Congress to consider anti-security contractor bill

Spencer Ackerman at the Colorado Independent’s sister site in Washington notes that Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., wrote a diary at Firedoglake on a bill that would restrict private security companies like Blackwater from performing governmental security functions. The diary comes in advance of Wednesday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on alleged abuses perpetrated by Blackwater in Afghanistan.

Our increasing reliance on mercenaries is a problem: they’re expensive and they represent the U.S. in war zones even though they are not compelled to follow our nation’s military codes. They also allow administrations to carry on military actions including wars without asking the American people to kill and die for the cause, a crucial part of the calculus in a democracy.

Here’s Rep. Schakowsky:

Erik Prince, Blackwater CEO
Erik Prince, Blackwater CEO

As of mid-2009, the United States employed over 22,000 hired guns in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that number keeps going up. Our reliance on private, for-profit companies for the business of waging war is extremely dangerous. It’s time we move to eliminate the use of these unaccountable and controversial mercenaries, and I ask you to join me as a citizen co-sponsor of legislation that I have just re-introduced, the Stop Outsourcing Our Security Act.

The Stop Outsourcing Security Act, which will be introduced in the Senate by Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, recognizes that the U.S. needs to end its reliance on private security contractors, and it would prohibit the use of private contractors for military, security, law enforcement, intelligence, and armed rescue functions. It would also increase transparency over any remaining contracts by increasing reporting requirements and Congressional oversight.

As Ackerman notes, John Nagl and Richard Fontaine of the Center for a New American Security recently wrote that the first order of business in assessing the country’s ongoing reliance on security contractors is to determine which security, intelligence and law-enforcement functions are inherently government functions. Planting bugs in the Saudi embassy, maybe. Shooting, capturing and interrogating people and bombing villages, probably not.

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