Lawmakers Want U.S. Government to Prosecute Feds Committing Crimes Abroad

A new bill would allow the U.S. government to prosecute federal employees and contractors who commit crimes while stationed overseas.

The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act would “close a gap” to ensure government employees and contractors working outside of the country are not “immune” from prosecution for their crimes, said Rep. David Price, D-N.C., the bill’s author.

Currently, the Justice Department can only prosecute Defense Department employees and contractors, per a 2000 law that was updated in 2004. Price’s bill, introduced with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., would expand that authority to all federal agencies and require Justice to create new task forces to “investigate, arrest and prosecute contractors and employees who commit serious crimes overseas.”

Price said the bill would strengthen diplomatic relationships and improve the oversight of federal spending.

“Contractors employed by our government must not be allowed to operate in an opaque, legal no-man’s land when they commit serious crimes abroad,” Price said. “The actions of our country’s employees must be subject to the rule of law.”

The measure would require the attorney general to report annually on the criminal activity Justice prosecuted under its new authority, as well as the resources it expended to do so. The measure would ensure the crimes were investigated “without impacting the conduct of U.S. intelligence agencies abroad,” Price said.

Price cited the incident in which employees of the private security contractor Blackwater killed unarmed civilians in Iraq in 2007 as necessitating legislation to ensure bad actors are held accountable. Civilian employees and contractors, he said, are held to a different standard than uniformed personnel “because the laws governing their activities remain unclear and outdated.”

Issa added the bill would benefit federal employees and contractors, who would avoid prosecution in a local legal system that “may not provide the same level of due process.” 

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