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Congress considers putting armed contractors under military jurisdiction

[JURIST] The US Congress is taking steps to put all armed US contractors working in combat zones under the jurisdiction of the US military, according to Thursday reports. Earlier this month, the Senate included such a provision in its 2008 defense authorization bill [HR 1585 materials], and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Carl Levin said Wednesday that he expects the House to include it in the final version of the bill to be sent to President Bush. The move comes at the recommendation of Pentagon officials; contractors working for the US Department of Defense are already being asked to sign contracts making them subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to a report [text] in the Washington Post. AP has more.

The idea of making all US contractors subject to military jurisdiction and military law may be opposed by US Department of State, which has laid down [press release] its own new rules and procedures governing the operation of US private security contractors working with its own personnel in Iraq. The new rules were laid down after Blackwater [corporate website; JURIST news archive] company guards working for the State Department killed 17 civilians in Baghdad's Nisoor Square on September 16.

8:45 PM ET - Answering questions relating to the status of US contractors in Iraq during a hearing Thursday on Iraqi corruption before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform [official website] Secretary of State Rice said she was not opposed to new laws to fill what she called a "hole" in US law governing the potential criminal liability of US contractors for actions in Iraq, but had concerns about whether contractors should be subject to military law. The New York Times has more.

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