By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - The House passed a bill Thursday that would make all private contractors working in Iraq and other combat zones subject to prosecution by U.S. 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 11 Iraqis dead. Senate Democratic leaders said they planned to follow suit with similar legislation and send a bill toas 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, D- .
Thearrived in Baghdad Thursday to investigate the Sept. 16 shooting, although administration officials acknowledge they are unsure whether U.S. courts would have jurisdiction in the case or others like it.
In a separate incident, a drunk Blackwater employee left a Christmas eve party in Baghdad and fatally shot the guard of one of Iraq's vice presidents. That contractor was fired, fined and returned home to the United States, but no charges have been filed.