from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2007, Issue No. 68
July 5, 2007

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The extensive reliance by the U.S. government on private security contractors to support military forces in Iraq poses numerous policy and legal questions that are explored in a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

"The use of armed contractors raises several concerns for many Members, including transparency and accountability," the report begins. "Transparency issues include the lack of public information on the terms of their contracts, including their costs and the standards governing their hiring and performance, as well as the background and training of those hired under contract."

"The apparent lack of a practical means to hold contractors accountable under U.S. law for abuses and other transgressions, and the possibility that they could be prosecuted by foreign courts, is also a source of concern."

"Contractors working with the U.S. military (or with any of the coalition forces) in Iraq are non-combatants who have no combat immunity under international law if they engage in hostilities, and whose conduct may be attributable to the United States."

"This report summarizes what is currently known about companies that provide personnel for security missions in Iraq and some sources of controversy surrounding them."

A copy of the report was obtained by Secrecy News.

See "Private Security Contractors in Iraq: Background, Legal Status, and Other Issues," updated June 21, 2007:

The Los Angeles Times reported on July 4 that "The number of U.S.-paid private contractors in Iraq now exceeds that of American combat troops... More than 180,000 civilians -- including Americans, foreigners and Iraqis -- are working in Iraq under U.S. contracts, according to State and Defense department figures obtained by the Los Angeles Times."


Some other new reports of the Congressional Research Service that have not been made readily available to the public include the following.

"Enemy Combatant Detainees: Habeas Corpus Challenges in Federal Court," updated June 26, 2007:

"Defense Procurement: Full Funding Policy -- Background, Issues, and Options for Congress," updated June 15, 2007:

"Data Mining and Homeland Security: An Overview," updated June 5, 2007:

"Coast Guard Deepwater Program: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress," updated June 22, 2007:

"Recess Appointments Made by President George W. Bush, January 20, 2001-June 4, 2007," updated June 14, 2007:


National security information sharing between the executive branch and Congress is examined in a recent law review article by Heidi Kitrosser. The author suggests that legitimate executive branch secrecy concerns can be addressed by limiting disclosure of certain information to selected congressional committees or other subsets of Congressional membership, which she calls "information funnels." See "Congressional Oversight of National Security Activities: Improving Information Funnels" by Heidi Kitrosser, Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 29, 2007:

Intelligence oversight in democratic societies is the subject of a new book from the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces. For more information and selected excerpts from the book, see "Democratic Control of Intelligence Services : Containing Rogue Elephants" by Hans Born and Marina Caparini, July 2007:


A new pamphlet from the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) History Office describes locations in and around Washington, D.C. that have significant associations with the history of U.S. military intelligence.

"The sites selected span two centuries of military intelligence in support of the Nation and its Army, starting with George Washington in the Revolutionary War and ending with William F. Friedman in World War II," according to the introduction.

A dozen or so sites are described, and directions for finding them are provided.

The locations of grave sites of notable figures in military intelligence at Arlington National Cemetery, including cryptologists William Friedman and his wife Elizebeth (misspelled here as "Elizabeth"), are provided.

The new INSCOM pamphlet was published this year in hardcopy only, but a scanned version is now available online.

See "On the Trail of Military Intelligence History: A Guide to the Washington, DC, Area," U.S. Army INSCOM History Office, 2007 (36 pages, 2.6 MB PDF):


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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