The Blackwater Hearings
Congressman Issa's recent
interview on CSPAN (
In regards to the role of private contractors in war, one of the basic issues which must be addressed is the definition and categorization of functions which are inherently governmental in war. Such a discussion must also be conducted within the context of the current GWOT as the rules of war are being debated and re-written.
The basic consideration is that we, in a democratic society composed of equals, have given to our government, and only to our government, the authority to execute certain actions either affecting us or affecting others in our name which impact basic human rights, particularly rights to life and liberty. We have adopted rules about how our government must proceed when taking such actions. The execution of these functions is inherently governmental. That is not to say, necessarily, that our government cannot contract for support services in carrying out these functions if we, as a people, agree to that. It does mean, however, that the responsibility and accountability for carrying out these functions in accordance with the rules we have collectively agreed to remains with the government. Current law, however, bars contracting out inherently governmental functions. The basic question remains, then; are private contractors performing functions which are, in the most basic sense, inherently governmental – depriving others of life or liberty?
One of the proscriptions on private security organizations
Apart from lethal force and the taking of life, PSOs have also been widely used in issues of restrictions of individual liberty. This is not to insinuate in any way that the use of lethal force or detention is either illegal or immoral in war so long as that war is just, but that these issues go to the heart of matters which have heretofore been considered inherently governmental.
PSOs have been extensively used in such roles as intelligence, prison duty, and interrogations both with DOD as well as with other agencies or departments. To what degree are these or should these operations be considered inherently governmental?
It is undoubtedly true that the Blackwater hearings will be used by some for political gain. This does not mean that they should not also be taken advantage of for discussing and potentially resolving some of these basic related issues and additional ones such as the size and capabilities of our governmental forces. If these operations are, in fact, inherently governmental and therefore found to be not subject to contracting out, what does that say in regards to the size and capabilities of our governmental forces? The inability of governmental forces to carry out their essential and inherent functions is not sufficient reason to justify paying private contractors to do them and, in fact, if they are inherently governmental, we are restricted by law from doing so. It would, however, suggest some important considerations in regards to force structure, budgets, and government department roles and missions.