If 'highly illegal
activities' are being
corporations in the
name of 'national
security', then it is
time for every person
The American Spark
Contractor Liability Bill Raises Intelligence Issues
By Cliff Montgomery - Oct. 22nd, 2007
The House of Representatives recently passed legislation extending the jurisdiction of federal law to crimes
committed in overseas war zones by American private contractors.
If the politically popular "Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act Expansion and Enforcement Act of 2007"
becomes law, contractors similar to Blackwater USA--whose employees are accused of firing on innocent
civilians in Iraq--may finally undergo criminal prosecution in U.S. courts.
But before the House voted for the legislation, the usual suspects declared their rather bizarre--and, one
suspects, rather telling--fear that the bill's provisions may somehow undermine U.S. intelligence actions.
"The bill would have unintended and intolerable consequences for crucial and necessary national security
activities and operations," claimed the Bush Administration in an October 3rd White House statement on the
bill. As usual however, the claims were issued without a shred of evidence or a single explanation to back up
this bald appeal to fear.
Dubya may believe that a blank check for corporate anarchy is the only thing keeping us from praying to Mecca
five times a day; but people with brains know that for a democracy to work, it's just as important for the wealthy
to follow the law as it is for everyone else.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) tried his best to flesh out the administration's false arguments during a House floor
debate on the bill.
"If a clandestine asset was implicated in a crime, investigating and arresting that asset under traditional
criminal procedures could expose other assets and compromise critical intelligence activities," he crowed.
This is a lie, pure and simple. Nothing in this legislation would change current laws protecting serious
intelligence concerns. It simply expands the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) to include all private
Defense contractors already are under the MEJA law. So is most of America's intelligence
community--including agents working for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Security Agency,
and a host of other intelligence agencies. This coverage has never threatened U.S. national security; in fact,
MEJA has only strengthened it.
Whatever the case, Rep. Forbes introduced a motion declaring that "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to
affect intelligence activities that are otherwise permissible prior to the enactment of this Act."
This redundant addition was actually approved by the House of Representatives. But at least one lawmaker
pointed out the major flaw in the "logic" displayed by Bush and Rep. Forbes on this matter.
"The [Forbes] amendment raises serious questions about the activities its proponents may be seeking to
protect," correctly retorted Rep. David Price (D-NC), who wrote the new legislation.
"Given that my bill only targets activities that are unlawful, why do my colleagues feel the need to clarify that it
does not affect activities that are permissible?"
"What activities are contractors carrying out that are permissible but not lawful?" Rep. Price rather humorously
"If there are private, for-profit contractors tasked with duties that require them to commit felony offenses,
Congress needs to know about it. Such a revelation would point to a need for a serious debate about whether
we are using contractors appropriately," he added.
Whatever the truth on this matter, U.S. spy operations have long included clear violations of established
laws--including a slew of international laws which the U.S. Government has made a formal promise to uphold.
"The CS [clandestine service] is the only part of the IC [intelligence community]--indeed of the
government--where hundreds of employees on a daily basis are directed to break extremely serious laws in
countries around the world in the face of frequently sophisticated efforts by foreign governments to catch
them," stated a 1996 House Intelligence Committee staff report entitled, "The Intelligence Community in the
"A safe estimate is that several hundred times every day (easily 100,000 times a year) DO [Directorate of
Operations] officers engage in highly illegal activities...that not only risk political embarrassment to the US, but
also endanger the freedom--if not [the] lives--of the participating foreign nationals and, more than occasionally,
of the clandestine officer himself."
It seems little was written about the effect these unchecked activities have on everyone else's freedom, or how
such actions may imperil everyone else's life, here and abroad.
Whether any government may claim a right to engage in "highly illegal activities" is outside the subject of this
article. But if private corporations are claiming the right to break "extremely serious laws in countries around the
world" in the name of 'national security', then it is time for every person to stir.
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