I figured I should muse on Mark Mazzetti’s NYT piece about the CIA hiring Blackwater for its "significant actions" assassination program, but I’m swamped on other stuff, so this is the best I could do for now, over at the Windy…
We already established during the Nisour Square shootings in Iraq in 2007 that Blackwater, like other private security companies, falls under nebulous legal authority. Are they under U.S. law? Iraqi (or other host-country) law? The Uniformed Code of Military Justice? The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act? There are cases to be made for any or all of these laws to apply to private military companies, and yet Congress hasn’t clarified the answer. Now, similarly, the CIA doesn’t claim to be bound by host-country law when it operates outside the United States, but it still claims to be under U.S. law. Well, if you were to design a program that gets into the legally dubious territory of assassinations, wouldn’t it make sense to contract that work out to an industry that already has a murky relationship with the law in the event that something should go wrong?
I don’t want to hang too much on the 1981 assassinations ban known as Executive Order 12333. Marcy Wheeler has pointed out that there are credible indications that the Bush administration didn’t consider itself bound by it. And it still says that its prohibitions apply to “person[s] employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government,” not just government employees, so on the face of it, the ban seems to also apply to contractors. But if there was a question about the legality of the operations, hiring contractors is a sensible way to dodge it.
Update: New Jeremy Scahill piece on Blackwater/CIA at The Nation. You’ll be surprised to read that
Blackwater Xe thinks the U.S. government is the real culprit for Nisour Square. It’s like Erik Prince as Bruce’s Johnny 99.