The Loophole Won't Be Any Smaller Next February


This week U.S. District Judge Richard Urbina declined to halt the prosecution of five former Blackwater guards who were involved in the one-sided 2007 shootout that killed at least 14 civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square. Although he conceded that the arguments for tossing out the charges "are rather strong," Urbina said the question of whether the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act applies to security contractors hired by the State Department can be decided after the prosecution presents its case, which is supposed to happen about a year from now.

In December I argued that the statute does not apply to these men, which is too bad, since their actions seem to have been criminal and probably would constitute voluntary manslaughter if committed in the United States or by American soldiers (or Pentagon contractors) in Iraq. They would also be crimes under Iraqi law, if only the U.S. occupation authorities had not declared Iraqi law inapplicable to Americans. Since this is an issue of law and not an issue of fact, I don't see how letting the prosecution present the government's version of the events in Nisour Square can illuminate the matter. I understand the desire not to let the defendants escape through a "loophole," but in this case the loophole happens to be the law. 

In related news, Blackwater Worldwide has changed its named to Xe (pronounced "zee") and is undergoing layoffs.