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Washington Post Meets Soldiers' Justice

060720contractor.jpgTwelve days ago, Peter Singer broke the story here, that private military contractors were going to be subject to the same laws as soldiers. Since then, big media outlets from the Boston Globe to the Financial Times have picked up on Singer's scoop. Today, it's the Washington Post's turn. The paper puts the story on the front page.

"Right now, you have two different standards for people doing the same job," said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who pushed the provision. "This will bring uniformity to the commander's ability to control the behavior of people representing our country."Graham, an Air Force Reserve lawyer, said the change will help morale in the field. "If the troops see someone getting away with something that hurts the overall mission, that is a morale buster," he said.Under military law, known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice, commanders have wide latitude in deciding who should be prosecuted. Crimes include many that have parallels in civilian courts -- murder and rape, for instance -- as well as many that don't, such as disobeying an order, fraternization and adultery.Legal experts say that latitude is one reason why attempting to hold civilians to the same standards as U.S. troops could be a messy process. It is also likely to raise constitutional challenges: Civilians prosecuted in military court don't receive a grand jury hearing and are ultimately tried by members of the military, rather than by a jury of their peers...To try to solve the problem, Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.) introduced legislation last week that he said would strengthen MEJA [the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which supposedly expand federal prosecutors' authority to foreign battlefields], an option he considers superior to using military law. "Military law is not appropriate for civilians," Price said. "The constitutional questions just confuse the issue."
The New York Times also gives our lil' site a shout-out over the scoop, in the "What's Online" column.
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