An Illinois House Democrat is planning to introduce a bill that would ban private security contractors, including Blackwater, from US military and intelligence operations.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) has circulated a letter among her colleagues asking them to co-sponsor the Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act, which would “responsibly phase out the use of private security contractors for functions that should be reserved for US military forces and government personnel,” the letter states.
In the letter, obtained by investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, Schakowsky suggests that the recent controversies surrounding security contractor Blackwater were among her motivations for proposing the legislation.
“As illustrated by the recent dismissal of the case against the Blackwater guards accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, prosecution of private security contractors who commit severe abuses remains exceedingly difficult,” Schakowsky wrote.
When a federal judge dismissed the charges against five Blackwater guards late last year, on the argument that the State Department had promised them immunity for the testimony that was the backbone of the prosecution’s case, Schakowsky told the LA Times, “A question I’ve been asking for a long time is, ‘Can these private military contractors actually get away with murder?’ This indicates that the answer is yes.”
Following news reports last November that the US military is using Blackwater in targeted killings inside Pakistan, Schakowsky wrote on her congressional Web site that “what appears to be a deep relationship between Blackwater and the CIA should cause all Americans to take pause. It is extremely dangerous for the US to become dependent on private contractors for military or intelligence operations.”
As Scahill noted in his report, Schakowsky has tried this before. In 2007, she introduced a bill to ban security contractors from the military, garnering the support of only two senators: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton. “Ironically, Clinton — now Secretary of State — is currently the US official responsible for most of Blackwater’s contracts,” Scahill wrote.
Read Jeremy Scahill’s complete report, as well as Schakowsky’s letter, here.