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07/16/2010 12:04 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The GAO Transcripts, Part 14: When PSCs and Soldiers Throwdown

This is the fourteenth installment of the Government Accountability Office interview transcripts that were prepared pursuant to the July 2005 GAO report "Rebuilding Iraq: Actions Needed To Improve Use of Private Security Providers."

This interview was with someone from the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division, which is one of the oldest and most prestigious armored divisions in the United States Army.

In the build-up in the months prior the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, two battalions of the 1st Armored Division's 3d Brigade were deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 2-70 Armor and 1-41 Infantry battalion task forces augmented the 82nd Airborne Division, the 3d Infantry Division, and the 101st Airborne Division throughout the campaign to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

In April 2003, the remainder of the division deployed to Iraq and assumed responsibility for Baghdad, under command of Brigadier General Martin E. Dempsey, and the surrounding areas, relieving the 3d Infantry Division. The division was scheduled to return to Germany in April 2004, but was extended three months in order to defeat a Shia militia led by Moqtada Al Sadr.

Although the 1st AD official interviewed found few serious problems with private security contractors there were tensions between PSCs and soldiers.

There were several incidents between 1 AD [Armored Division] personnel and PSCs when PSCs escorted dignitaries on 1 AD bases. PSCs acted as though they had the right to do whatever they wanted and thought they were exempt from 1 AD rules. Sometimes there were confrontation between 1 AD soldiers and PSCs that came to fist fights and drawing weapons.

And, although it is hardly novel to say this, back in 2004 it was not just Iraqi civilians complaining that contractors seeming operated under no rules.

It was unclear as to what laws covered contractors. There was no martial law in Iraq before the transition. ___________ had numerous conversations on the applicability of the law of occupation, which she did not believe was developed for the modern battlefield. The law of occupation mostly deals with obligations to the civilian population, not contractors. In many ways they were in unchartered territory in Iraq. Existing laws went back to the 1940s and 1950s. There was even some debate about whether the laws applied.

Standard disclaimer: I have put in ( _____ ) to reflect those words of phrases which have been blacked out in the transcript. I have also put in the underlining as it appeared in the original transcript. As in the transcript, I have left out letters from various words, even when it seems obvious what the word is.

Prepared by: Steve Sternlieb Index: Type bundle Index here
Date Prepared: March 18, 2005 DOD Number: 1281431
Reviewed by: Type reviewer name here DOD Library. H02
Job Code: 350544

_____________
Record of Interview

Title _____________ Interaction with Private Security Contractors (PSC) in Iraq
Purpose To discuss _____________ Division Interaction with Private Security Contractors in Iraq
Contact Method Interview
Contact Place _____________
Contact Date December 9, 2004
Participants _____________
Steve Sternlieb, Assistant Director, GAO

Comments/Remarks:

_____________vided the following information.

_____________ _____________ _____________ _____________ _____________ _____________ She said that there were few offenses involving PSCs and contractors overall. She could recall no incident reaching her involving PSCs in Iraq that would rise to the serious level (murder, aggravated assault, rape). There were smaller incidents involving allegations of theft by PSC employees and allegations involving weapons permits involving either a PSC employee or an interpreter (she could not recall which). The result in those instances was that the employee was dismissed. She did say that the more contractors there are, the more there are claims.

There were several incidents between 1 AD [Armored Division] personnel and PSCs when PSCs escorted dignitaries on 1 AD bases. PSCs acted as though they had the right to do whatever they wanted and thought they were exempt from 1 AD rules. Sometimes there were confrontation between 1 AD soldiers and PSCs that came to fist fights and drawing weapons. The issue for the SJA was whether soldiers used excessive force. _____________ did not think the problem was fully resolved as of April 2004 when the division moved to a new location and was not as close to the Coalition Provisional Authority and so had fewer such issues The problem did not go away but it get better (Auditor's note _____________ _____________ _____________ _____________ _____________ _____________ __________________________ _____________

_____________ AD elevated confrontations, which was easier for 1 AD than other divisions since they were collocated with MNF-I HQ. If PSC's went over the line they had no means to punish the person (they could punish the soldier if he/she was at fault); would send a complaint or result of investigation to higher HQ. IF an incident involved killing an Iraqi the matter would be outside I AD'S jurisdiction but 1 AD would probably investigate it.

Contractor legal issues/visibility

She did deal with other types of legal issues. The chain of command on 1ega issues was from _____________ _____________ _____________ _____________ _____________
Arming contractors' was one of the biggest issues the SJA worked. At some point CENTCOM's position

Page 1 Record of Interview

was that arming contractors was that arming contractors was a violation of the rule of war as was having contractors provide security, including for convoys. There was, however, a distinction between contractors accompanying the force and other contractors. For example, although soldiers were stationed at The Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) because it was owned by the Iraqi Ministry of Transportation security contractors could guard the outside perimeter of the airport. CPA order 3 and CPA memo 17 had to be enforced by military JAGs. CENTCOM guidance said that contractors could not be given weapons, She also said ___________ that as of July 2004 CENTCOM had to approve arming contractors. However, arming PSCs was outside the SJA world because it did not involve the military. Auditor's note: ___________ ___________ ___________ ___________

___________ had a hard time enforcing any contracts that were not let b 1 AD. It was hard to get a copy of contracts let by others and usually 1 AD could not get the contracts. Therefore local commanders did not know what the rules and entitlements were for those contractors although the division could go back to the source for an interpretation of what was required under the contract. One of the SJA legal lessons learned was that all contracts are difficult at the division level and that lesson was forwarded to the JAG corps. There is a need to take someone trained in contract law and with experience on deployment. There is also a need for boilerplate language for all contracts supporting deployed forces and for language to be provided to the divisions for contracts they write.

It was also hard to know who contractors were in theater in part due to the mix of military and civilian contractors. People would come in and out of the battlespace. There was no central processing system for contractors. For example, sometimes people would arrive in Kuwait or RN- an, rent a car, and drive into Iraq. ___________ elieved that there was supposed to be a central processing system for contractors in Kuwait.

It was unclear as to what laws covered contractors. There was no martial law in Iraq before the transition. ___________ had numerous conversations on the applicability of the law of occupation, which she did not believe was developed for the modern battlefield. The law of occupation mostly deals with obligations to the civilian population, not contractors. In many ways they were in unchartered territory in Iraq. Existing laws went back to the 1940s and 1950s. There was even some debate about whether the laws applied.

Contractors did not provide convoy security for contractors accompanying the force. The distinction was if the contractors were accompanying the force.

Lack of Higher HQ Guidance

___________ is not involved in writing an order or info paper on how the division was to interact with PSCs in its sector. She does not recall any rules/instructions being provided the division from CJTF-7 and MNF-I that laid out for the division what its relationship should be with PSCs. If there were no such rules there should be The division did get rules on arming, contractors (again see above re distinction between contractors accompanying the force and PSCs.)

Page 2 Record of Interview