The House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would make all private contractors working in Iraq and other combat zones subject to prosecution by US courts. It was the first major legislation of its kind to pass since a deadly shootout last month involving Blackwater employees.
Democrats called the 389-30 vote an indictment of the shooting incident there that left at least 11 Iraqis dead. Senate Democratic leaders said they planned to follow suit with similar legislation and send a bill to President George W. Bush as soon as possible.
"There is simply no excuse for the de facto legal immunity for tens of thousands of individuals working in countries" on behalf of the United States, said Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, a Democrat.
The FBI is currently leading an investigation into the Sept. 16 shootout, although administration officials acknowledge they are unsure whether US courts would have jurisdiction in the case or others like it.
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