Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Los Angeles Times Endorses Blackwater-Backed Legislation

Better late than never: The Los Angeles Times is more a year behind Blackwater CEO Erik Prince in endorsing private contractor accountability legislation. Even so, it's good that the Times editors are finally sharing Blackwater's views.

Testifying before Congress on October 2, 2007, Prince alerted lawmakers to pending legislation that would fill holes in the law and tighten ambiguities, thus taking away the gray areas that made accountability difficult in the private security contracting business for the US government abroad. He said he was "happy" with the proposed legislation, authored by Rep. David Price (D-NC) and endorsed it. The House later passed the bill.

BlackwaterFacts.com reported this on October 4, 2007.

Fourteen months later, the LA Times is finally on board. Here's what the editors say in a December 15, 2008 editorial:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that "there is a hole” in the law where prosecution of private contractors was concerned.

Rice may be right. The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act allows for the prosecution of civilians who are "employed by or accompanying the armed forces outside the United States." A grand jury concluded that even though the Blackwater defendants worked for the State Department, they were supporting a military mission and are thus covered by the law. Certainly that interpretation is in the spirit of the law; whether it satisfies the law's letter must be decided by the courts. (The defendants also argue that they can't be prosecuted because they were offered immunity by the State Department.) Meanwhile, Congress should enact legislation passed last year by the House that would allow for the prosecution of U.S. contractors in foreign countries -- regardless of the agency for which they work -- if the foreign country doesn't choose to prosecute. If the "hole" mentioned by Rice exists, it should be plugged.

No doubt the LA Times editors are clueless about this, and think that they're sticking it to Blackwater. In reality, the company wants tight laws and rules for accountability and responsibility, so that it can operate without the legal ambiguity that has been so problematic.

Standish is writing to the LA Times editors to congratulate them and to ask them to recognize Blackwater for endorsing the legislation more than a year before they did.

Readers of this blog should do the same. Click here to see how, or write directly at: letters@latimes.com.

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