Sunday, June 03, 2007
A federal judge yesterday ordered the military to temporarily refrain from awarding the largest security contract in Iraq. The order followed an unusual series of events set off when a U.S. Army veteran filed a protest against the government practice of hiring what he calls mercenaries, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The contract, worth about $475 million, calls for a private company to provide intelligence services to the U.S. Army and security for the Army Corps of Engineers on reconstruction work in Iraq. The case, which is being heard by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, puts on trial one of the most controversial and least understood aspects of the Iraq war: the outsourcing of military security to an estimated 20,000 armed contractors who operate with little oversight.
Brian X. Scott, a 53-year-old Colorado man, filed the complaint in early April. He argues that the military's use of private security contractors is "against America's core values" and violates an 1893 law that prohibits the government from hiring quasi-military forces.
Scott's challenge set off a domino effect, prompting the Government Accountability Office to dismiss protests brought by two major private security contractors the Army had removed as potential bidders -- Erinys Iraq, a British firm, and Blackwater USA of North Carolina.
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