04/14/2015 11:12 am ET Updated Jun 14, 2015

Blackwater Security Guards Get Substantial Sentences for 2007 Shootings in Baghdad

On Monday a federal jury sentenced four former Blackwater security personnel who were convicted in the horrific shooting of dozens of Iraqis in Baghdad on Sept. 16, 2007. One of the four was given life without the possibility of parole, and the other three were given 30-year sentences.

I am pleased to see that the perpetrators of the Nisour Square shootings will be punished for their heinous actions over seven years ago. I am thankful that justice has been served in this case. What occurred in Nisour Square in September 2007 was a true tragedy, and we must ensure that similar actions do not happen again.

I raised concerns about the events in Nisour Square multiple times in the aftermath of the shooting. In October 2007, during a House Oversight and Government Reform Hearing, I questioned Erik Prince, the creator of Blackwater (now known as Academi), about the practices of his organization, because I, like many others, was very disturbed by the preventable shooting that had occurred a month earlier. As a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the years since, I have repeatedly questioned our nation's reliance on private military contractors.

I remain as sure as ever that we must revisit our nation's policies involving private military contractors. No military contractors should have a "shoot first" culture that puts civilians or our brave military service members in danger. This should serve as a lesson to all of us that relying on private military contractors who answer to a for-profit corporation instead of military commanders is an ill-advised protocol.

In conflict zones in particular, we need personnel who wear the badge of the United States, are a part of our official military command and are always held accountable for their actions. That is why in past Congresses I have introduced the Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act to phase out the use of for-profit contractors for "mission-critical" tasks in conflict zones, and why I look forward to reintroducing this important legislation in this Congress. I will continue to push for solutions to eliminate reliance on hired guns to provide security in war zones.