Jamie Leigh Jones Case Going to Court
Great news: Jamie Leigh Jones is finally getting her day in court.
HOUSTON – Jury selection began Monday afternoon in the case of a Houston woman who says she was raped by co-workers in Iraq when she worked for KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton.
The suit was filed by Jamie Leigh Jones against Halliburton and its ex-subsidiary, KBR Inc. Jones says she was raped while working for KBR at Camp Hope, Baghdad, in 2005. KBR and Halliburton, both based in Houston, split in 2007.
Jones has fought for the past six years to get her day in court. She finally had that chance Monday, arriving at the courthouse early with her attorneys at her side.
Jones can only file a civil suit. The Bush administration and Congress placed contractors under State Department supervision. Military contractors are not under the Defense Department. Therefore the the military article code does not apply. That is why Blackwater has been able to break the law in Iraq. Attorney Scott Horton explained the legal failure of the policy.
(1) The Justice Department is effectively not present on the scene, does not have personnel deployed charged with conducting investigations, collecting evidence and making preliminary decisions as to whether incidents are suitable for prosecution. This would require a team of FBI agents with appropriate training, including access to forensic labs and personnel.
(2) The case when first alleged seems to have been treated as an issue related to administration of a contract, rather than a criminal justice matter, triggering only a State Department investigation. But the State Department does not have authority to conduct criminal inquiries or to bring charges.
(3) The Department of Defense was called upon to provide medical expertise, which was a reasonable step. But no guidelines appear to have been available as to how this was done. The alleged surrender of the rape kit by military medical personnel to Kellogg Brown & Root was grossly improper, producing a serious lapse in the chain of custody—and in this case, loss of evidence which cannot be reproduced. It reflects an attitude which I hear constantly when interviewing State Department and Defense Department personnel—namely, that the problem is the contractor’s. Of course, the contractor has an interest in performing its contract and maintaining a good relationship with the contracting agency. The contractor does not have any interest per se in law enforcement. It might well decide to terminate employees it believes are involved in a crime, but beyond that the contractor will, very appropriately, believe that the responsibility for law enforcement lies with law enforcement agencies.
Sadly, the Obama administration has done nothing to change the military contracting rules.