Drowning in Blackwater: How Weak Accountability Over Private Security Contractors Significantly Undermines Counterinsurgency Efforts

Army Lawyer 64 (July 2008)

27 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2013

See all articles by Jeffrey Thurnher

Jeffrey Thurnher

Office of the US Army Judge Advocate General

Date Written: July 1, 2008

Abstract

More must be done to control private security contractors (PSCs) operating on a complex battlefield. Fundamentally, the current use and lack of oversight of PSCs are detrimental to winning a counterinsurgency. If the United States chooses to rely on PSCs in unstable counterinsurgency operations in the future, it must significantly change the manner of control it has over these forces. Some essential improvements include placing accountability for all contractors under one overarching command, implementing stronger screening and training programs, and strengthening the options for investigating and prosecuting contractor misconduct.

Drastic measures need to be taken to improve the overall United States policy for controlling PSCs and holding those contractors accountable for their actions. Part II of this article provides an overview of the history of PSCs on the battlefield and explains how the United States got itself into such a precarious position in Iraq. Part III addresses the law of war implications of using PSCs while comparing the methods and approaches of the various governmental agencies who hired PSCs in Iraq before the September 2007 Blackwater incident. Part IV examines in depth the changes made in the wake of the Blackwater incident to better control PSCs. Finally, Part V proposes the additional accountability measures over PSCs necessary to ensure American success in future counterinsurgency campaigns.

Keywords: Private Security Contractors, Blackwater, Accountability

Suggested Citation

Thurnher, Jeffrey, Drowning in Blackwater: How Weak Accountability Over Private Security Contractors Significantly Undermines Counterinsurgency Efforts (July 1, 2008). Army Lawyer 64 (July 2008), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2296362

Jeffrey Thurnher (Contact Author)

Office of the US Army Judge Advocate General ( email )

2200 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 22204
United States

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