Posts Tagged SOFA

Legal News: Leahy, Price Reintroduce CEJA Bill

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.”

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Afghanistan: The Discussion On Troop Numbers Beyond 2014

A Wall Street Journal report, meanwhile, said top Obama administration officials want to keep about 10,000 American troops in the country – a midpoint in the range of options that Allen presented to Panetta, which the newspaper said varied from 6,000 to 15,000.
Many observers have said the Afghan government is unlikely to be able to take over logistical operations, air support and other facets of the current war, in addition to the training and counterterrorism missions foreign troops would provide.

As the article pointed out below, a solid number is premature. But you can definitely point to a ‘range’ of what we are looking at in the quote up top.

The other thing to think about with this stuff is the logistics requirements of Afghanistan beyond 2014. We have given the Afghans a military force that requires some serious upkeep, and especially the aviation assets. Couple that with the idea that most Afghans have a poor reading capability (hence cannot read a manual to fix or maintain whatever), that it will take someone with outside expertise to continue to assist. That is where contractors will come in.

I also look at Afghanistan’s means of financially supporting this military as the west exits. Where will the revenue come from to pay salaries and maintain this military and government?  So economics plays into this, and I think the west will continue to support Afghanistan well after we are gone. So yet again, with western dollars comes western contractors to support the Afghans.

One final point is Iraq and how that turned out, might be a scenario for Afghanistan. Meaning we purposely depended upon Iraq to use their parliament to come up with a SOFA, knowing full well that parliament would not support immunity of any sorts for US troops in their country. It is a smart political move by the US administration, who wanted fully out of Iraq, because they knew that Iraqi politicians did not want to be known as the leaders that wanted US troops to stay. Some would say we pulled out prematurely in Iraq because of those politics and not because of a logical withdrawal plan–but that is another discussion and only time will tell with that country.

So if we start doing actions that put the full decision of troops staying in Afghanistan, into the hands of Afghans and not just one main leader, then we might see an exodus of troops from Afghanistan much like how Iraq turned out. Just because Afghan politicians do not want to be viewed as the folks that supported foreign occupiers to stay. (May is when a new SOFA is to be decided upon…) Any SOFA that does not have troop immunity in it, is a sure sign that we will be exiting, and contractors will be the only ones left standing–just like in Iraq. –Matt


Pentagon: Discussion of troop numbers remaining in Afghanistan ‘premature’
November 26, 2012
The Pentagon says it plans to tell the White House within weeks how many American troops military leaders believe will be needed in Afghanistan after 2014 to train local forces and continue to target al-Qaida.
With NATO’s formal combat role set to end in just over two years, the United States — along with its NATO allies and the Afghan government — is keen to define a postwar presence well in advance, avoiding the precipitous pullout and security problems that came with the end of the Iraq War.
The troop calculations, however, have to achieve a delicate balance that weighs military capability against the U.S. public’s weariness of continuing conflict – and meets Afghan expectations of the residual force.
The troop strength recommendation will be based on options presented in recent weeks by Marine Gen. John Allen, the NATO commander for the war, to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The final decision has yet to be made, officials said.

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Afghanistan: So Will Contractors Be Thrown Under The Bus With The New SOFA?

This is a very important deal, because with these Status of Forces Agreements contractors can get left behind and disregarded–even though they are a vital part of the post war mission. We saw this with the quick and highly political exodus from Iraq, and I would hate for us to experience the same thing in Afghanistan. We have so many lessons to learn from past SOFA mistakes, and to ‘not’ create a fair and comprehensive SOFA with Afghanistan that actually covers contractors would be profoundly idiotic.

So what I would like to do here is get folks talking about this future SOFA, and let DoS and our law makers know that contractors in Afghanistan must be taken care of in this agreement. That our lives are just as important as soldiers and our services will be crucial to our long term strategic goals in Afghanistan. From reconstruction to training Afghanistan’s military, contractors will be there doing good work.  They need protections in order to be effective and continue that work.

I would also like to see law makers and diplomats confront Karzai on this idiotic scheme called the APPF. Even the SIGAR has identified that this program is deficient. Are we going to wait until an incident happens–like a rogue APPF guard killing clients?  Or watch as guards that are poorly trained and equipped, do a horrible job of protection–and then insurgents easily kill or kidnap clients? pffft…

The latest quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (or SIGAR) released on Monday also chronicles how corruption in the country shows no signs of having let up.

The report’s most urgent warning concerns the “imminent transition” from private security contractors (PSC) to the state-owned Afghan Public Protection Force.

Steven J. Trent, the acting special inspector general, expressed concerns that as many as 29 major USAID projects costing nearly $1.5 billion are at risk of full or partial termination “if the APPF cannot provide the needed security.” About half that amount has already been spent.

And whether it can is very much an open question, Trent wrote. The U.S. embassy, the Afghan government and the U.S.-led military forces agreed a year ago to check the progress of the Afghan Public Protection Force at the 6-, 9-, and 12-month marks.

“The 6-month assessment, completed in September 2011, found that the APPF was not ready to assume any of the essential PSC responsibilities to meet contract requirements — such as training, equipping, and deploying guard forces,” the report pointed out. “[T]he December assessment, which would have been at the 9-month mark, has not yet been made public” and “the deadline for the 12-month assessment has passed.”….

Yep, that inspires confidence….

Either way, the SOFA must include provisions that allow security contractors to continue offering their services without being hassled or imprisoned by Afghanistan–like what is going on in Iraq.  Or these reconstruction programs will just have to pack up and leave….because obviously the APPF is such a horrible option and Afghanistan could care less about this aid. So what do you think, and what would you like to see in this new SOFA, or are contractors destined to be ‘thrown under the bus’? –Matt


U.S. – Afghan agreement short on specifics
By Mike Mount
President Barack Obama and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement that outlines cooperation between their countries after the withdrawal of U.S.-led international forces in 2014.
With little detail and few specifics in the document, U.S. officials say it paints a broad stroke of what the U.S.-Afghanistan relationship will look like from 2014 through 2024.
Officials said the document highlights military, diplomatic and economic relationships between the two countries without offering specifics on troops levels, economic assistance and the status of diplomatic relations.
With some 88,000 U.S. troops operating inside Afghanistan, the document does state that there will be no permanent U.S. bases in the country after the 2014 withdrawal, officials said. The agreement also allows for the possibility of U.S. troops staying in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to train and conduct counterterrorism operations to go after what a White House fact sheet described as “targeting the remnants of al Qaeda.”??The U.S. and Afghanistan will begin negotiating a new Status of Forces Agreement. The United States will also designate Afghanistan a “Major Non-NATO Ally” to provide a long-term framework for security and defense cooperation,” according to the White House statement.

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Legal News: Iraq Releases 3 Security Contractors That Have Been Detained Since December 9th

I have no clue what company these guys were working for, but stuff like this burns me up. The US has had plenty of time to plan for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and prepare the legal battlefield for security contractors and others. These folks must have legal protections or some kind of an agreement established with Iraq so that these contractors can perform the service they were hired to do.

The other thing that bothers me with this is that two of these contractors were Americans. Yet again, why isn’t the DoS fighting tooth and nail to get every reasonable protection and agreement they can with Iraq so that US citizens at the least are treated fairly and with dignity. I mean someone should be reminding Iraq about how much blood and treasure the US has expended in this whole thing. Or remind them that we did not take their oil and other treasures, like most armies would have done in the past. (yep, I went there….)

The partners of US contractors deserve to be treated fairly and with dignity as well. The Fijians have certainly lost contractors in this war doing extremely dangerous missions all over Iraq. Missions that helped support efforts to rebuild Iraq and helped to encourage peace and stability there. There are and will be other contractors from other parts of the world who are supporting the mission to rebuild post war Iraq, and to treat them with disrespect is not right.

Either way, I think most contractors in Iraq have the feeling that regardless of whatever laws or agreements that are passed or lack there of, Iraq will do whatever they want. So I expect to see more of this kind of thing over the next year or couple of years. And contractors will do in Iraq, like they normally do in all countries where there is no SOFA, or has a corrupt/weak legal system. They will accomplish the task as best they can, and take huge risks in the process. I am sure money will be thrown all over the place in order to buy off a police officer or ministry official, or free a contractor from detention, or whatever. That is how these things work…. –Matt


NY Rep. King: Iraq releases 3 security contractors
December 27, 2011
A U.S. congressman from New York says three security contractors, including two Americans, have been released by Iraqi Army forces after they were held for more than two weeks.
Republican Peter King announced the releases of the men Tuesday. He identifies them as an Army veteran from Long Island, a former National Guardsman from Savannah, Ga., and a man from Fiji. He says they were working for a security firm when Iraqi Ministry of Defense officials rejected paperwork prepared on their behalf by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and held them Dec. 9.
The men weren’t charged with any crimes. King says they were released Tuesday after efforts by his office, the State Department, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the Defense Department and the White House.
Story here.

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Legal News: DoD General Counsel Issues Guidance On Tax Exemptions For Contractors And Contractor Personnel In Iraq And Afghanistan

The Government of the United States of America, its military and civilian personnel, contractors, and contractor personnel shall not be liable to pay any tax or similar charge assessed within Afghanistan…. Acquisition of articles and services in the republic of Afghanistan by or on behalf of the Government of the United States of America in implementing this agreement shall not be subject to any taxes, customs duties or similar charges in Afghanistan. -From the US/Afghan SOFA

Below I have posted both fact sheets that detail exactly what parts of the SOFA agreements we signed with Iraq and Afghanistan that details these exemptions. So this is the battle line that the US government has drawn, and these are the agreements between the US and these countries.  So if you think you or your company is being wrongly taxed or charged by government folks in these countries, you need to let your company know and remind all parties of what the position of the US government is on this matter. If you give these folks an inch, they will take a mile. –Matt

DoD General Counsel Issues Guidance on Tax Exemptions for Contractors and Contractor Personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan
April 20, 2011
The United States is bound by two distinct international agreements which contain specific provisions regarding the tax exemptions afforded to U.S. contractors and U.S. contractor employees in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) was entered into force on May 28, 2003. In Iraq, the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement was entered into force on January 1, 2009. Both agreements provide broad tax exemptions for U.S. government personnel, including contractors and contractor employees doing business on behalf of the U.S. government. The terms of the agreements generally do not provide tax exemptions for persons or legal entities normally resident in Iraq or Afghanistan.
On March 28, 2011, DoD/OGC issued two fact sheets—one for Iraq and one for Afghanistan—addressing the tax exemptions for U.S. federal government contractors and contractor employees conducting business in these countries:
DoD/OGC fact sheet on Tax Exemptions for United States Contractors and United States Contract Personnel-Iraq
DoD/OGC fact sheet on Tax Exemptions for United States Contractors and United States Contract Personnel-Afghanistan

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Legal News: Fitzsimons Gets Life Sentence In Iraq, Escaping Hanging

     Interesting verdict. Thanks to Carmen for giving me the heads up on this story and this is hopefully the final chapter on a very tragic incident.

     This is also significant because this is the first Western contractor to be prosecuted and convicted of a crime in Iraq. –Matt

UK contractor gets life sentence in Iraq, escaping hanging

February 28, 2011

An Iraqi judge sentenced a British contractor to life in prison Monday, sparing him the death penalty.

Daniel Fitzsimons, 30, was charged with murder in the 2009 shooting deaths of two colleagues in Baghdad, in the first trial of a Westerner in Iraq since the Iraq War started in 2003.

He pleaded not guilty, telling a three-judge panel that he shot the two men in self-defense.

The judge who sentenced him said he didn’t give him the death penalty “because you’re still young and because of the circumstances of the crime,” he said.

Fitzsimons smiled and thanked the judge when he heard the verdict Monday.

The victims were Paul McGuigan, a British national, and Darren Hoare, an Australian. Fitzsimons was also accused of the attempted murder of a guard.

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