Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Contractors in Afghanistan and Thomson Correctional Facility

This is a quick rundown of two news stories that caught my eye:

Thomson Correctional Facility- This is a prison in Illinois where the President has decided to relocate all remaining Guantanamo Bay detainees. Yesterday, by Executive Order, President Obama commanded that the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General work together to make TCC ready to house the high security prisoners from Gitmo. The order seems to set the deadline for the move at January 22, 2009 which is the original date set for the closure of Gitmo.

There are a lot of legal questions that go along with this move and I think the move will generate new legal challenges. The one thing I am most interested to know is how moving the detainees to American soil will affect the cases of those detainees that win their habeas petitions. Will they be eligible for release in the U.S. now that they are on American soil? I believe that I read an argument posited by the government at some point that a reason that detainees successful at the habeas stage aren't given the right to release in the U.S. because they were never actually in the U.S. I'm just brainstorming right now and I may be misremembering, but I think I read that argument somewhere.

56,000 more contractors to Afghanistan- The Washington Post reports that the Congressional Research Service is estimating that up to 56,000 more private contractors may be sent to Afghanistan. The use of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan is something that has interested me for awhile and I've published one paper and written another on the topic. The Washington Post article says that it could raise the number of contractors in Afghanistan to over 160,000. That is a lot and is similar to the number of contractors used in Iraq. The increase in the number of contractors also increases the risk of contractors getting into trouble in Afghanistan. There were several high profile incidents in Iraq involving contractors (mostly from Blackwater) that raised the question of whether or not private contractors that commit crimes in a war zone should be subject to the military justice system. I argue in the second paper that I mentioned above that they should be subjected to the military system for practical purposes and because they are in fact involved in fighting a war. Whether or not contractor problems will actually arise in Afghanistan like they did in Iraq remains to be seen, but with the increase in number the chances get higher.

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