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kskiska Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-06-04 10:57 PM
Original message
Ashcroft Says U.S. Can Prosecute Civilian Contractors for Prison Abuse
By Dan Eggen and Walter Pincus

Attorney General John D. Ashcroft said yesterday that killings or abuse of military detainees in Iraq that involved civilian contractors could be prosecuted by the Justice Department under several statutes, including civil rights violations and anti-torture laws.

Federal criminal prosecutors can pursue cases against nonmilitary personnel and against those who have left the military, Ashcroft said. In addition, Ashcroft and other Justice Department officials said, the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 1999 allows for prosecution of civilian contractors who commit crimes while working overseas for the military.

"We obviously are shocked by conduct which would violate the rights of the detainees, and we'll take action where appropriate within the jurisdiction of the Justice Department," Ashcroft said.

Ashcroft's comments came as the Bush administration struggled to control a widening scandal over the treatment of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison, where U.S. soldiers took photographs of naked prisoners in degrading positions.

more
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6875-200...
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ClassWarrior Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-06-04 10:58 PM
Response to Original message
1. Yeah. Like they will.
n/t
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ugarte Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-06-04 11:09 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Don't be so sure
If there's one thing that offends Ashcroft, it's nudity.
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kysrsoze Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-06-04 11:14 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Yeah, besides it makes them look good and it's not as if these dumbass
soldiers mean a thing to them anyway. They're expendable, though Rumsfeld apparently is not.
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submerged99 Donating Member (299 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 01:31 AM
Response to Reply #2
10. This is what would ensure a prosecution
What they need is a photo of a nude person that happens to be DANCING as well. That would make it 2 things that Ashcroft hates and would ensure a prosecution.
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yardwork Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 01:34 PM
Response to Reply #2
24. Awesome point! Very well taken.
They crossed the nudity line. Uh-oh. A$$croft's mad now. Look out.
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primavera Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 07:04 PM
Response to Reply #2
27. Gotta distance the administration from the "bad apples"
Far better to offer up a few independent contractors as sacrificial scapegoats than to admit that human rights abuses are the natural and systemic byproduct of the atmosphere of fear, violence, and lawlessness which he and his Fuehrer have worked so hard to create.
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JoFerret Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 08:19 PM
Response to Reply #2
28. ...any calico cats involved?
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silverlib Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-06-04 11:42 PM
Response to Original message
4. So, when contractors do it, it's torture?
but when the military does it it's abuse?

"My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which
I believe technically is different from torture," Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday. "I don't know if it is
correct to say what you just said, that torture has taken place, or
that there's been a conviction for torture. And therefore I'm not
going to address the torture word." quote from Rumsfeld

Interesting.
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Failure Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu May-06-04 11:43 PM
Response to Original message
5. They really can't prosecute them. Ashcroft is full of it...nt
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Occulus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 12:37 AM
Response to Reply #5
7. Care to explain your surety? n/t
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Failure Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 06:48 AM
Response to Reply #7
11. I saw a Professor of Law from_________University on
One of the shows last night, and he said, he sees no possible way that these mercenaries can be prosecuted. Not under US law, not under Military law, not under Iraqi law. Period. Ashcroft was throwing that out as red meat, but the fact is, these guys operate with impugnity, and aren't accountable to anyone, anywhere.

failure.
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July Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 07:25 AM
Response to Reply #11
12. On the other hand, they don't worry much about law
when it comes to "enemy combatants" and Guantanamo. It seems they feel free to offer constitutionally dubious arguments about Guantanamo not being under our jurisdiction and about holding people, including American citizens, without charges, counsel, or any other rights. I would think that if they REALLY wanted to hold people accountable, they would find a way, given their past creativity.
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Devils Advocate NZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 07:41 AM
Response to Reply #11
13. He's wrong.
War crimes law is quite clear on the matter. If the nation under whose jurisdiction the crime occurs is unable to prosecute, then the prosecution is handed over to the International Criminal Courts.

International law states that even though the US invaded Iraq, Iraqi law applies and Iraqi courts have jurisdiction. Therefore Iraqi courts can be used to prosecute them, just as they can be used to prosecute Hussein.

Failing that, the US has an obligation to hand them over to the Hague.

This is yet another case of the US-centric worldview of many Americans. I have yet to see even people on DU mention that it is Iraqi courts that have the right to prosecute NOT US courts.
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Divernan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 08:07 AM
Response to Reply #13
15. Hasn't Bush denied jurisdiction of International Criminal Court?
Can't come up with a cite, but I recall reading that among the many international treaties his administration has repudiated was the one providing for jurisdiction over Americans (this would include military as well as civilian personel) re: war crimes.

You flatter many Americans if you believe they have a US-centric worldview about warcrimes/jurisdiction/the international court at the Hague. The vast majority of Americans are so ill-educated and/or disinterested when it comes to the American legal system, let alone The International Court at the Hague, that they cannot be said to have ANY worldview.

If this administration were to pursue, oh, I don't know, a Haliburton employee, in criminal court, or even civil court (for breach of contract), imagine what those pesky defense lawyers would uncover from corporate records in the way of discovery requests. I bet the paper shredders are being operated 24/7 in those corporate offices as we speak.
Any prosecution of these civilian contractors will never be allowed to proceed as long as Bush is in office.
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Devils Advocate NZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 08:24 AM
Response to Reply #15
16. Actually, they did refuse the ICC, but that does not mean they can refuse
Iraqi jursidiction, nor does it mean they could refuse jursidiction of an International Criminal Tribunal set up by the UN specifically to deal with war crimes in Iraq (just like they did for Rawanda and Yugoslavia).

Of course they may do it, but they won't be legally covered. If they do, then the US as a nation will be admitting to being a war criminal, and I could imagine that many nations around the world will simply refuse to cooperate with the US - even to the extent of calling for sanctions in the UN.

The legal argument is quite clear. The problem is that the US is moving towards the destruction of the rule of law. If the US refuses to accept the law, then there is very little anyone can do about it short of starting a major war.
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Divernan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 08:46 AM
Response to Reply #16
17. Re Iraqi courts: Bush's adminstrator could set up a puppet judge/court.
And his choice of judge would not be subject to advise and consent of any other entity. Do you know if any Iraqi legal system is even in place now? You are absolutely right that under Bush the US is destroying the rule of law, domestically with the Patriot Act, and in the world arena with his rejection of international treaties and courts.
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yardwork Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 01:38 PM
Response to Reply #16
25. They could get us on economics.
It's a stretch, but if the EU manages to band together strongly, they could cut off trade with the U.S. Likewise, the EU or Asian countries could smash the dollar if they worked together.

I have a feeling that is the only way that the rest of the world could impose international law on the U.S. at this time.
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Devils Advocate NZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-08-04 11:23 AM
Response to Reply #25
33. Do you think the US under Bush, or Kerry, for that matter...
would accept such sanctions without agression? I doubt it very much. "American Arrogance" as projected by at least half of the US population wouldn't allow it!

Not be THE SUPERPOWER??? No Way!!!
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Failure Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 11:36 AM
Response to Reply #13
19. Well, far be it from me to challenge a law professor's
Edited on Fri May-07-04 11:40 AM by Failure
knowledge of...law. But one thing I find interesting is that you #1, think that the Iraqi courts can prosecute US "civilian contractors" and #2, that International law means two shits to the United States...(in case you don't remember, the president's* council said suspending the Geneva Conventions would give the US more 'flexibility')

failure.


on edit:

Can U.S. contractors in Iraq be prosecuted under domestic (Iraqi) law?
Licensed contractors with the U.S. government reportedly sign agreements that provide them with immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law. This is probably consistent with U.S. powers as an occupying power under the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Geneva Conventions.

Can contractors be prosecuted under U.S. military law?
U.S. civilians can only be tried by U.S. courts-martial during a declared war. As a US military field manual states: Contractor employees are not subject to military law under the UCMJ when accompanying US forces, except during a declared war. Maintaining discipline of contractor employees is the responsibility of the contractors management structure, not the military chain of command.

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Devils Advocate NZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-08-04 11:17 AM
Response to Reply #19
31. Well bugger me!
I had no idea you could sign an agreement and get immunity from prosecution when the agreement is NOT with the country whose jurisdiction covers the scene of the crime!

No, here is me thinking that the Geneva Convention (which specifically mentions civillian contractors) meant that legally the contractors were liable!

I bet the Germans wish they had though of signing immunity agreements with themselves before WWII - they might have avoided the noose then!

I don't give a stuff what some American law professor says, when it comes to Iraqi law ONLY a legitimate Iraqi government can waive the right to prosecute, not some bullshit "agreement" signed with the nation that committed a war crime by invading Iraq in the first place.
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0007 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 08:29 PM
Response to Reply #11
29. I think that professor from _________University
doesn't know what he's talking about when he sez mercenaries operate with impunity. What program was this proffessor on?
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Proud Liberal Dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 12:04 AM
Response to Original message
6. Gee......I would hope so!!!!!
Interesting that Ashcroft felt the need to come out and make a specific public statement about it. I thought that prosecuting ANYBODY who was involved with these heinous acts was a foregone conclusion (or am I giving the Bush Administration too much credit)? Whether it's military personnel, civilian contractors, or high-ranking cabinet officials (i.e. Rumsfield!!!), I thought that Bush swore to bring any and all perpetrators/enablers of these heinous acts to justice!!! Keep your eyes and ears out for what actually happens with prosecutions (and possible resignations/firings?). We all heard what Bush said '-). He promised! Note to Kerry:Campaign Issue!
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Occulus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 12:49 AM
Response to Reply #6
8. Not necessarily a foregone conclusion, sadly, re civ. contractors...
Edited on Fri May-07-04 01:01 AM by kgfnally
they're in a war zone, and they're being contracted by the military. This inherently creates a special situation that I doubt was debated when the laws which normally would prosecute such behavior were written.

Granted, the military does have such laws. What it doesn't have is jurisdiction over America civilians. I think this is where the core of the difficulty lies- not in whether they should be punished for these acts of torture, but whether they can be.

The very fact that this is such a fuzzy issue is because we've never used civilian contractors during a war, in a war zone, at nearly the level we are today in Iraq. At the time the laws regarding torture were written, I'm sure there was nothing going on like we're seeing today regarding civilian contractors. In fact, I'd bet it was unthinkable to do so. I've certainly never heard of this many contractors being directly involved in a war before. If this continues for years, or perhaps even several months more, the US economy could be in serious trouble.

Oh, and another thing: suppose the US economy tanks and there's unrest elsewhere in the world, related or not. How long do you think it would be before these US corporations currently involved with Iraq decide it's more profitable to contract to India to deal with their upcoming dispute with Pakistan?

How long, given such a spiral, would it be before US corporations are actively fomenting war and general unrest throughout the world in the name of the Profit? Profit need not be measured in dollars; it could be euros or yen just as easily. It only depends on what's tanking and what isn't.

Corporations will, first, foremost, and only seek to expand their bottom lines if left to their own devices. We are now involving corporations with connections to the highest political offices in our country in our ongoing wars.

How can this possibly be a good thing for anyone but the corporations involved?
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Devils Advocate NZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 07:50 AM
Response to Reply #8
14. Did you ever think about the Iraqi courts? Or do they not count?
Edited on Fri May-07-04 07:52 AM by Devils Advocate NZ
There is NO fuzziness. A crime was commited within the state of Iraq, and thus Iraqi courts have clear jurisdiction. If Iraqi courts are unable to prosecute these people, then they are eligble for prosecution in the Hague.

This is standard law as applied by the US to nations such Serbia.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that civillians in an area controlled by an Occupying Power as defined by the Geneva Convention fall under the responsibility of the Occupational Authorities. In other words if the US refuses to prosecute the civillians involved in this crime, they will be commiting a breach of the Geneva Convention and thus commiting yet ANOTHER war crime.

So here are the legal choices: 1) The US military prosecutes them under its power as Occupational Authority (the same power that allows them to arrest Iraqi civillians). 2) Failing that, the US military hands them over to Iraqi Police to be prosecuted in the Iraqi courts. 3) Finally, if the Iraqi Judicial System is unable to prosecute them, the US hands them over to the Hague to be prosecuted.
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Failure Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 11:42 AM
Response to Reply #14
20. You're totally wrong. The "civilian contractors" cannot
be prosecuted under iraqi law...

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Devils Advocate NZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-08-04 11:20 AM
Response to Reply #20
32. No, YOU'RE totally wrong. Civillian contractors can be...
prosecuted under Iraqi law, just as Iraqis in America can be prosecuted under US law.

The only difference is whether or not Iraq can force the US to give them up. Maybe if the rest of the world gets pissed off enough?...
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Occulus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 01:10 PM
Response to Reply #14
21. All true, but
" A crime was commited within the state of Iraq, and thus Iraqi courts have clear jurisdiction."

Only if we allow the Iraqi courts jurisdiction. I don't have much faith in that... hmm, I wonder why.
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jdj Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 08:35 PM
Response to Reply #8
30. Tinoire posted this about a law concerning civ cons
The contractors are NOT immune from prosecution even by the MilitaryEdited on Tue May-04-04 09:25 AM by Tinoire
That again is (predictably) right-wing spin about why they aren't doing anything. That and the fact that it's not just "contractors", it's the CIA, the DIA and "allies" in the Middle East. So far we know that they were Egyptians there too, I am sure we'll be hearing more about the involvment of allies. Myers and the CIA have already admitted to CIA presence during these interrogations.
Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 1999"
Opening Statement of Chairman Bill McCollum
on H.R. 3380, the "Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 1999"
Today the Subcommittee will consider H.R. 3380, the "Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 1999." This bill was introduced by Congressman Saxby Chambliss and I was pleased to be the original cosponsor of the bill. H.R. 3380 would amend the Federal criminal code to apply it to persons who commit criminal acts while employed by or otherwise accompanying the U.S. Armed Forces outside of the United States. It would also extend Federal criminal jurisdiction to persons who commit crimes abroad while a member of the Armed Forces but who are not tried for those crimes by military authorities before being discharged from the military.
Civilians have served with or accompanied the American Armed Forces in the field or ships since the founding of the United States. In recent years, however, the number of civilians present with our military forces in foreign countries has dramatically increased. Many of these civilians are nonmilitary employees of the Defense Department and contractors working on behalf of DOD. In 1996, there were more than 96,000 civilian employees of the Department of Defense working and living outside the United States.
Family members of American service personnel make up an even larger group of the civilians who accompany U.S. forces overseas. In 1999, there were almost 300,000 family members of military personnel and DoD civilian employees living abroad.
While military members who commit crimes outside the United States are subject to trial and punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, civilians are not. In most instances, American civilians who commit crimes abroad are also not subject to the criminal laws of the United States because the jurisdiction for those laws ends at our national borders. As a result of these jurisdictional limitations, American citizens who commit crimes in foreign countries can be tried and punished only by the host nation. Surprisingly, however, host nations are not always willing to prosecute Americans, especially when the crime involves acts committed only against another American or against property owned by Americans.
Because of this, each year incidents of rape, sexual abuse, aggravated assault, robbery, drug distribution, and a variety of fraud and property crimes committed by American civilians abroad go unpunished because the host nation declines to prosecute these offenses. And this problem has been compounded in recent years by the increasing involvement of our military in areas of the world where there is no functioning government -- such as Somalia, Haiti, and the Balkans. Because, in those places, no government exists at all to prosecute crimes, American civilians who commit crimes there go unpunished.
The bill before us today would close this gapping hole in the law by extending Federal criminal jurisdiction to crimes committed by persons employed by and accompanying the U.S. Armed Forces overseas. Specifically, the bill creates a new crime under Title 18 that would make it a crime to engage in conduct outside the United States which would constitute an offense under Title 18 if the crime had been committed within the United States. The new crime would apply only to two groups of people. First, persons employed by or who accompany the Armed Forces outside the United States. This group includes dependents of military members, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and Defense Department contractors or subcontractors and their employees. This group also includes foreign nationals who are relatives of American military personnel or contractors, or who work for the Defense Department, but only to the extent that they are not nationals of the country where the act occurred or ordinarily live in that country.
The second group of people to whom the bill would apply are persons who are members of the Armed Forces at the time they commit a criminal act abroad but who later are discharged from the military without being tried for their crime. This portion of the bill is designed to authorize the government to punish persons who are discharged from the military before their guilt is discovered and who, because of that discharge, are no longer subject to court-martial jurisdiction.
We simply cannot allow violent crimes and crimes involving significant property damage to go unpunished when they are committed by persons employed by or accompanying our military. The only reason why these people are living in foreign countries is because our military is there and they have some connection to it. And so, our government has an interest in ensuring that they are punished for any crimes they commit there. Just as importantly, as many of the crimes going unpunished are committed against Americans and American property, our government has an interest in using its law to punish those who commit these crimes.
I wish to point out that both the Defense Department and the Justice Department support the legislation before the Subcommittee here today. The legislation is the product of close collaboration between the staff of the Subcommittee on Crime and the representatives of these agencies, and I am pleased that both Departments have seen fit to send representatives to our hearing today. I welcome all the witnesses before the Subcommittee today and look forward to receiving their testimony.
http://www.house.gov/judiciary/mcco0330.htm
That bill was passed...
---------------------------
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newyawker99 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 05:40 PM
Response to Reply #6
26. Hi butlerd!!
Welcome to DU!! :toast:
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The_Casual_Observer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 12:50 AM
Response to Original message
9. Locking the barn door
It appears as though there is much more to this than meets the eye.

It should have been fairly straight forward to maintain the prison in an orderly way. What has happened here seems to have been intentional and policy based. What is the involvement of the CIA in this???
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noonwitch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 09:03 AM
Response to Original message
18. Finally, Ashcroft has someone deserving to prosecute, instead of
Tommy Chong, dying cancer and AIDS patients who smoke weed, and Louisiana hookers.
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tom_paine Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 01:28 PM
Response to Original message
22. Heinrich A$$croft might be forecd to actually sort of investigate
It might not be so easy as letting the Bushevik Anthrax Assassin go or tanking the Plame Leaker Investigation.

I predict a very slight and cursory investigation with a handful of sham arrests in which the perps will get promotions after the cameras are off.
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Just Me Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri May-07-04 01:31 PM
Response to Original message
23. Ooooo, Meyers is getting pounded for suppressing the information.
:bounce:
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