Today’s Washington Post reports here that DOJ has sent target letters to six Blackwater security guards arising from a September 2007 firefight in Iraq that reportedly resulted in 17 Iraqi civilian deaths. According to the article, “The sources said that any charges against the guards would likely be brought under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which has previously been used to prosecute only the cases referred to the Justice Department for crimes committed by military personnel and contractors overseas. Legal experts have questioned whether contractors working for the State Department can be prosecuted under its provisions.”
The article also reports, “Lawyers for the Blackwater guards have argued in ongoing discussions with prosecutors that the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, known as MEJA, can be applied only to contractors working for the Defense Department, two sources said. That position appeared to be buttressed by the Congressional Budget Office, which said in a report on contractors in Iraq released last week that MEJA ‘does not apply to civilians working . . . for federal departments or agencies other than DOD [the Department of Defense].’
“Legislative proposals to extend MEJA’s provisions beyond the Defense Department — which have been repeatedly opposed by the White House — have made the same point.
“But the question has never been tested in court. Some outside legal experts said that prosecutors would be able to make a compelling argument that MEJA covers Blackwater guards involved in the shooting under a 2005 amendment that expanded MEJA’s provisions to include contractors ‘supporting the mission of the Department of Defense.'”