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Copyright (c) 2009 University of Oregon
Oregon Law Review

ARTICLE: No More Nisour Squares: Legal Control of Private Security Contractors in Iraq and After


Oregon Law Review

88 Or. L. Rev. 745




As a Commissioner on the federal Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan established by Congress in 2008, 1 I have been immersed in the issue of how to control the abuses and injuries of private security contractors. The key incident epitomizing this issue occurred in late 2007, when members of the Blackwater Worldwide (Blackwater) private security firm were escorting a convoy of State Department personnel through Baghdad. At Nisour Square, the Blackwater guards, some of whom claim they faced a threat, opened fire on civilians, killing seventeen Iraqis. 2 Public attention continued as five Blackwater employees were indicted in December 2008, and the case continued in 2009 until the court dismissed the charges due to improper prosecutorial use of the guards' statements. 3 Negative Iraqi public perceptions of private security contractors continued from 2009 to 2010. 4

As one commentator put it, "the fallout from the September 16 shooting by Blackwater guards in Baghdad was as publicly damaging to U.S. efforts in Iraq as was the My Lai massacre in Vietnam." 5 Moreover, coverage reminded observers of previous incidents involving private contractors, such as Abu Ghraib. 6

This Article analyzes and builds upon the somewhat successful steps taken by the Department of Defense and the Department of State in 2008-2009 to manage the problem. 7 Analyzing those steps shows a key strand consisting of what may be called the "contract law" approach. In the much-expanded form proposed in this Article, the " ...
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