Interesting news on the legal front. The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act has been brought up before in the past to give DoJ the jurisdiction necessary to prosecute non-military related contractors. Which is a significant portion of US government contractors. This group would include DoS or ‘other government agency’ type contractors, and this legislation would close that gap. Currently the MEJA covers military related contractors.

Why this is important, and especially now, is that contractors currently work in countries where they are not covered by a SOFA or have immunity. They are basically at the mercy of the local judicial process.  CEJA, like MEJA, would give the US government jurisdiction over contractors that it hires for work in these countries that have no SOFA in place to cover them. Iraq is an example of such arrangement and WPS guys and embassy protection forces are there, currently working for DoS.  CEJA would give jurisdiction for prosecution to the US government.

In other words, if you ran into trouble, would you rather be tried in a US legal system or some overseas third world court run by corrupt officials?

Another point with the CEJA is that it further legitimizes the PMSC industry. It helps to take away that argument that we are somehow ‘above the law’ or untouchable. Clients of our services will benefit from having a protective force that can be held accountable.

It will also contribute to a speedier trial. Just ask the contractors involved with the Nisour Square incident, that have been in a legal mess for years. The legal jurisdiction has been a factor.

So we will see where this goes. One critique I do have in regards to this press release is the mention of Jamie Leigh Jones and her case. Whereas the jurisdictional questions about her case are valid to bring up, I find it disingenuous to not mention the fact that she lied about the whole thing.

To read up on the past issues with the CEJA, check out David Isenberg’s commentary on it over the years. Here is a copy of the latest bill and the Congressional Research Service wrote a report on the particulars of why a CEJA is the right thing to do. We will see how the committee treats this one. –Matt

 

Senator Patrick Leahy in a committee.

 

Leahy, Price introduce legislation to hold American contractors overseas accountable
News Release — Sen. Patrick Leahy

July 14, 2014
Contact:?Jessica Brady (w/Leahy) – 202-224-7703?Andrew High (w/Price) – 202-225-1784
Also helps lay groundwork for eventual preclearance arrangements in restoring Vermont-to-Montreal passenger rail service??WASHINGTON (MONDAY, July 14, 2014) – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Congressman David Price (D-N.C.) renewed their partnership on bicameral legislation to provide accountability for American contractors and government employees working abroad.
The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA), which the lawmakers introduced Monday, would close a gap in current law and ensure that government employees and contractors working overseas can be prosecuted for criminal acts they commit abroad. The two lawmakers have worked together on the legislation for years.
The legislation allows the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute government contractors and employees for certain crimes committed overseas. Tragedies like the 2007 killing of unarmed civilians in Baghdad by private security contractors with Blackwater underscore the need for clear jurisdiction and trained investigative and prosecutorial task forces able to hold wrongdoers accountable. Four Blackwater guards involved in the Nisour Square shooting are currently on trial.
“The Blackwater trial is only just now under way, seven years after this tragedy, and the defendants continue to argue in court that the U.S. government does not have jurisdiction to prosecute them,” Senator Leahy said. “This bill would also provide greater protection to American victims of crime, as it would lead to more accountability for crimes committed by U.S. government contractors and employees against Americans working abroad.”


“Although the number of American military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan has been reduced in recent years, our commitment to the rule of law has not, and closing the accountability gap for U.S. contractors operating overseas is more urgent than ever,” Representative Price said. “We have seen the peril of allowing firms such as Blackwater to operate in a legal no-man’s land—a few bad actors can put our international relationships at risk and undermine the missions we ask our military and diplomatic personnel to complete. The bottom line is: if contractors working on behalf of the United States commit crimes abroad, DOJ should be able to prosecute them.”
CEJA also lays the groundwork to expand U.S. preclearance operations in Canada – which would enhance national security and facilitate commerce and tourism with our largest trading partner. The United States currently stations U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers in select locations in Canada to inspect passengers and cargo bound for the United States before they leave Canada, and Leahy has long called for an expansion of land, rail, marine and air preclearance operations that would greatly benefit the U.S. economy. CEJA would ensure that the U.S. has legal authority to hold our own officials accountable if they engage in wrongdoing, and thereby help pave the way to finalizing the expanded Canada preclearance agreement.
Other provisions in the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act include:?Expand criminal jurisdiction over certain crimes committed by United States employees and contractors overseas;?Direct the Justice Department to create new investigative task forces to investigate, arrest and prosecute contractors and employees who commit serious crimes overseas;?Require the Attorney General to report annually to Congress about the offenses prosecuted under the statute and the use of new investigative resources.
The text of the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act is available online.
A Factor In U.S.-Canada Discussions On Pre-Clearance Arrangements For Passenger Rail And Air Service
Another benefit of the bill is that it would complement efforts by Leahy and others to ease and expand air service between Burlington International Airport and Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport, and to restart passenger rail service between Vermont and Montreal. Leahy has sought to expand U.S. preclearance operations in Canada – a process in which travelers clear customs prior to boarding a plane or train rather than upon arrival in the United States.
The United States currently stations U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Officers in select locations in Canada to inspect passengers and cargo bound for the United States before they leave Canada. These operations relieve congestion at U.S. airports, improve commerce, save money, and provide national security benefits. The two nations are in ongoing conversations about an expansion of land, rail, marine and air preclearance operations that would greatly benefit Vermont’s and the U.S. economies. But one barrier in these discussions is that the United States lacks legal authority to prosecute U.S. officials engaged in preclearance operations if they commit crimes while stationed in Canada. The Leahy-Price bill would ensure that the U.S. has legal authority to hold U.S. officials accountable if they engage in wrongdoing, and would thereby help pave the way to finalizing the expanded Canada preclearance agreement.
In particular, a key to restoring Amtrak service between Vermont and Montreal is the creation of a preclearance facility in Montreal’s Central Station. This would eliminate the need for the train to stop at the U.S. border to allow CBP officers to inspect passengers, a process that currently takes about an hour on the Amtrak’s Adirondack Line in New York.
Today, air travelers from Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport to Burlington International Airport must deplane and pass through customs at a separate facility before re-boarding the plane to be transported to the airport terminal. Leahy continues to work with CBP on proposals to establish preclearance operations at these Canadian travel hubs.
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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),?Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,?On Introduction of the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act?July 14, 2014
Today, I reintroduce the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA). The United States has huge numbers of Government employees and contractors working overseas, but the legal framework governing them is unclear and outdated. To promote accountability, Congress must make sure that our criminal laws reach serious misconduct by U.S. government employees and contractors wherever they act. The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act accomplishes this important and common sense goal by allowing United States contractors and employees working overseas who commit specific crimes to be tried and sentenced under U.S. law.
Tragic events in Iraq and Afghanistan highlight the need to strengthen the laws providing for jurisdiction over American government employees and contractors working abroad. In September 2007, Blackwater security contractors working for the State Department shot more than 20 unarmed civilians on the streets of Baghdad, killing at least 14 of them, and causing a rift in our relations with the Iraqi government. Efforts to prosecute those responsible for these shootings have been fraught with difficulties. The Blackwater trial is only just now under way, seven years after this tragedy, and the defendants continue to argue in court that the U.S. government does not have jurisdiction to prosecute them.
I worked with Senator Sessions and others in 2000 to pass the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA), and then, again, to amend it in 2004, so that U.S. criminal laws would extend to all members of the U.S. military, to those who accompany them, and to contractors who work with the military. That law provides criminal jurisdiction over Defense Department employees and contractors, but it does not explicitly cover people working for other Federal agencies, like the Blackwater security contractors. Had jurisdiction in the tragic Blackwater incident been clear, it could have prevented some of the problems that have plagued the case.
Other incidents have made all too clear that the Blackwater case was not an isolated incident. Private security contractors have been involved in violent incidents and serious misconduct in Iraq and Afghanistan, including other shooting incidents in which civilians have been seriously injured or killed. MEJA does not cover many of the thousands of U.S. contractors and employees who are working abroad. The legislation I introduce today fills this gap.
Ensuring criminal accountability will also improve our national security and protect Americans overseas. Importantly, in those instances where the local justice system may be less than fair, this explicit jurisdiction will also protect Americans by providing the option of prosecuting them in the United States, rather than leaving them subject to potentially hostile and unpredictable local courts. Our allies, including those countries most essential to our counterterrorism and national security efforts, work best with us when we hold our own accountable.
In 2011, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from the Justice Department and from experts in the area of contractor accountability about the many diplomatic and national security benefits of expanding criminal jurisdiction over American employees and contractors overseas. That hearing also explored how best to ensure that our Nation’s intelligence activities would not be impaired by CEJA. The legislation I propose today has been carefully crafted to ensure that the intelligence community can continue its authorized activities unimpeded.
This bill would also provide greater protection to American victims of crime, as it would lead to more accountability for crimes committed by U.S. government contractors and employees against Americans working abroad. The Committee has previously heard testimony from Jamie Leigh Jones, a young woman from Texas who took a job with Halliburton in Iraq in 2005 when she was 20 years old. In her first week on the job, she was drugged and gang-raped by coworkers. When she reported this assault, her employers moved her to a locked trailer, where she was kept by armed guards and freed only when the State Department intervened.
Ms. Jones testified about the arbitration clause in her contract that prevented her from suing Halliburton for this outrageous conduct. But criminal jurisdiction over these kinds of atrocious crimes abroad remains complicated and depends on the specific location of the crime, which makes prosecutions inconsistent and sometimes impossible. We must fix the law to help avoid arbitrary injustice and ensure that victims will not see their attackers escape accountability.
This legislation also provides another important benefit: It will lay the groundwork to expand U.S. preclearance operations in Canada – thereby enhancing national security and facilitating commerce and tourism with our largest trading partner. The United States currently stations U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers in select locations in Canada to inspect passengers and cargo bound for the United States before they leave Canada. These operations relieve congestion at U.S. airports, improve commerce, save money, and provide national security benefits. The United States and Canada are in ongoing conversations about an expansion of land, rail, marine and air preclearance operations that would greatly benefit the U.S. economy. But one barrier in these discussions is that the United States lacks legal authority to prosecute U.S. officials engaged in preclearance operations if they commit crimes while stationed in Canada. CEJA would ensure that the U.S. has legal authority to hold our own officials accountable if they engage in wrongdoing, and thereby help pave the way to finalizing the expanded Canada preclearance agreement.
In the past, legislation in this area has been bipartisan. I hope Senators of both parties will work together to pass this important reform.
I ask unanimous consent that that a copy of the bill be printed in the Record.

Press release here.