Guards Held to Military Rules; Asked to Sign Documents

Article excerpt

Byline: Sharon Behn, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Even before the State Department's announcement that rules for contractors would be tightened, private security guards hired by the Pentagon for Iraq were being asked to sign documents subjecting them to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and other rules.

"Everyone is jumping through their [expletive] since the Blackwater stuff came out," said one private contractor working for the Pentagon in Iraq's Anbar province.

"The [contracting officers] turned a blind eye on a lot of this required government paperwork for armed contractors. Now everyone is scrambling to get things at least looking correct," he said, on the condition that his name not be used.

One document employees of at least one company working for the Pentagon had to sign stipulated that contractors and their employees must abide by U.S. laws and host nation laws.

"The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is one such body of U.S. law applicable to contractors accompanying the force during contingency operations," says the document drafted by Maj. Gen. Darryl A. Scott, commanding general and head of contracting activity.

"Under the UCMJ, U.S. commanders may discipline contractor employees for offenses ranging from fraud and theft to assault and other crimes against persons," it says.

Finally, the document dictates that contractors must not allow an employee "suspected of a serious offense or of violating the Rules for the Use of Force" to depart Iraq or Afghanistan without approval from the senior commander in the country.

In one widely reported incident, Blackwater, the State Department's main security company, whisked a Blackwater contractor out of the country after he got drunk and fatally shot a guard to Iraq's prime minister. That contractor is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is expected to meet with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on his return from Europe, is likely to resist attempts to bring State Department contractors under Pentagon oversight.

Miss Rice's independent review panel - created after the Blackwater Sept. 16 incident in which as many as 17 Iraqi civilians were killed - has recommended that contractors be held accountable under U.S. law.

State Department officials have indicated their reluctance for the department's civilian contractors to be subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. …