By Kathryn R. Johnson | 61 Am. U. L. Rev. 1417 (2012)

The United States’ military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan have been heavily dependent on civilian contractors.  The reliance on personnel not under the direct control and management of the United States military and the presence of contractors in foreign battle zones raise significant questions about how military contractors can be held responsible for their actions abroad.  Abuses perpetrated by military contractors abroad are exemplified by several contractors’ participation—or complicity—in the torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison and other locations in Iraq.

In September of 2011, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decided two related cases addressing the ability of federal courts to review U.S. government contractors’ misbehavior in war zones.  Al-Quraishi v. L-3 Services, Inc. and Al Shimari v. CACI International, Inc. directly addressed the ability of foreign citizens to sue government contractors for their actions abroad.  This Note argues that the Fourth Circuit panel decisions missed an opportunity to clarify the precise nature of the defense available to military contractors and failed to determine whether contractors can be held liable at all for their actions overseas.

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