This Extension of U.S. Criminal Law Is Unnecessary

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On June 3, 2011, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Representative David Price (D-N.C.) re-introduced the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA), which aims to extend U.S. criminal jurisdiction in to U.S. citizens working abroad as federal contractors or employees. Leahy and Price introduced similar legislation in the last congressional session. However, that attempt died in committee because of concerns that it would extend to U.S. intelligence workers and cause them to pause before undertaking their crucial missions. The most recent version would “carve out” an exception for intelligence agency contractors.

Since 2000, the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act has placed U.S. government contractors within the reach of U.S. prosecutors only if they are employed by the Department of Defense. Some observers have argued strongly for a broader criminal jurisdiction, which would include non-DOD contractors as well. They point to a number of crimes committed by U.S. government contractors and employees working abroad. One of these crimes was the shooting of unarmed Iraqi citizens in 2007 by U.S. government contractors for Blackwater. Another was the drugging and gang raping of Jamie Leigh Jones, a young woman from Texas, by her coworkers who were working overseas as a government contractor for Halliburton.

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