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September 08, 2008


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Doug Brooks

Mr. Press,

Interesting piece though it is not clear why MEJA is only mentioned in a footnote.

Happy to discuss a slightly different, more nuanced, perspective that might add some depth to your article. At the very least you should follow up by tracking Laura Dickinson's excellent work on this topic.

Feel free to contact me directly (and this is to anyone working on this topic).


Doug Brooks
DBrooks AT IPOAonline DOT org
+1 (202) 464-0721

Joshua S. Press

Mr. Brooks,

Regarding the MEJA, that seems to be more of a vehicle for personal accountability rather than as a vehicle for public (democratic) accountability. I have been following much of Prof. Dickinson's work, and agree with her view that the MEJA already extends to PMF employees' criminal actions (indeed, her predictions regarding MEJA will likely be put into action very soon). But in my mind, it is obvious that the necessity for such a system admits the public functions that PMFs already serve (as well as how ingrained they have become within our military).

My essay was essentially written to call this to people's attention, and to urge potential litigants to use the Anti-Pinkerton Act to enjoin the U.S. government from using PMFs for tactical deployments--where PMFs go "over the line" from being passive or training forces to operational foot soldiers on the ground in what is essentially a combat-like situation. The public needs to know more about these firms and Congress needs to exert much more oversight over them. All I'm arguing is that the Anti-Pinkerton Act is a vehicle that a court could use to let these two pro-democratic events to occur.


Doug Brooks

Apologies for the delay in replying.

Nevertheless, in terms of the issue of 'greater regulation' you would be surprised how much there is in place already (aside from MEJA, there's ITAR, FAR, DFARS not to mention astonishingly detailed contractual clauses (I'm sure you've seen David Isenberg's work on this and his FOIA'd version of the WPPS contract).

Indeed, as we've seen from the various reports on the issue (GAO, CRS, Gansler - from an academic perspective I certainly wouldn't rely on Scahill too much - entertaining to be sure, but one has to search long and hard to find the kernels of reality in his books) the real issue is not the lack of regulation, but the lack of enforcement. And good enforcement benefits the better companies.

Also worth pointing out in terms of scale of the issue that of the 180,000 contractors working for the coalition in Iraq, 2/3s of them are Iraqis. Less than 9,000 are Private Security Companies, and less than 1,500 of those are Americans. In Afghanistan 99.7% of security contractors are local Afghans.

I run a news and discussion group (with some 1500 academics, industry, government, human rights, NGO folks) on the larger issue of private sector operations in conflict and post conflict environments and I'd be happy to sign you on if you plan to follow this topic. The list would certainly help clarify some of the more significant concerns and offer a better understanding of the ongoing issues. Just drop a note to my personal email address (it is kept very separate from my day job) at Hoosier84 AT Hoosier84 DOT com.

Doug Brooks

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