(by Richard Tomkins, WashingtonTimes.com) BAGHDAD – Some U.S. troops in Iraq could begin applying for warrants before detaining terrorist suspects or searching Iraqi homes as soon as Dec. 1 — a month before they might become required to do so under a new status-of-forces agreement.
Military sources, who asked not to be identified because of the
sensitivity of the topic, said at least some units of the 4th Infantry
Division in Baghdad would begin obtaining warrants from Iraqi legal
authorities next month before making arrests or searching homes for
weapons caches and other contraband in noncombat situations.
U.S. military officials would not confirm or deny the report.
According to the sources, discussions have been held between some
U.S. military officials and their Iraqi counterparts on procedures the
soldiers will have to follow to get the warrants. Thus far, no
guidelines have been issued, the sources said.
“I really don’t know how it is going to work out,” said Maj. Geoff
Greene, executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment,
which operates in east Baghdad. “I don’t know how to get them yet,” he
said of the warrants, adding that he expects to “receive guidance
The need for warrants is stipulated in the status-of-forces
agreement signed this week in Baghdad by Iraqi Foreign Minister
Hoshiyar Zebari and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. The accord, which
has yet to be ratified by the Iraqi parliament, would provide a
three-year legal framework for a continued U.S. military presence in
Iraq. It is to go into effect Jan. 1, when a United Nations Security
Council mandate presence expires.
Warrants are a key provision of the agreement. Currently, U.S.
troops do not need Iraqi permission to search homes or detain Iraqis.
Under the agreement, they would still not need warrants if they are in
the midst of a battle.
The Iraqi Cabinet approved the accord earlier this week after eight
months of negotiations and last-minute wrangling over Iraqi demands for
amendments, including a provision that would preclude U.S. combat
forces from staying in Iraq beyond Dec. 31, 2011.
Iraq’s fractious parliament has yet to approve the measure, but a
vote could come as early as Monday. At least three blocs in the
parliament are opposed to the accord. Among them is one composed of
lawmakers loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is thought
to be in Iran.
U.S. diplomats say passage of the agreement would mark the start of
new talks between the two governments and military officials over
Some of the other main provisions of the agreement include:
withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from cities, towns and villages by the
end of June; Iraqi approval for U.S. military operations; and the
barring of the United States from using Iraqi territory to attack
Some American officers have expressed concern that requiring
warrants for searches and detentions, even in noncombat situations,
could lead to information leaks that could compromise operations.
Others have wondered about a possible loss of ability to move quickly
against wanted individuals when tips about their whereabouts are
“It’s one of the concerns we have,” said an officer who requested
anonymity. “We get information on a bad guy and it may be good for only
an hour. We don’t have time to go to a judge and get a warrant.”
Warrant-based targeting is not entirely new. Earlier this year, U.S.
troops operating in Muqdadiya in Diyala province conducted
warrant-based search-and-detain operations along with Iraqi police. The
police got the warrants for terrorist suspects from the local court.
To get the warrants, complainants and witnesses signed court
affidavits and appeared before a judge. By doing so, they identified
themselves and risked retribution from terror suspects and their
allies. Despite that danger, the court in Muqdadiya issued about 700
warrants for people thought to be extremists, Iraqi police and U.S.
forces in Muqdadiyah said.
Warrants in the Baghdad area could be obtained by Iraqi security
forces from the Ministry of Interior. Whether U.S. forces and their
Iraqi counterparts could obtain standing warrants for “most wanted”
terror suspects is unclear.
Maj. Rob McMillan, operations officer with 1st Battalion, 68th Armor
Regiment, said any early start of the mandated warrant searches would
help identify problems in procedures.
“This is the Army and we like to practice things,” he said.
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1. Status-of-forces agreements define the legal status of U.S. personnel and property in the territory of another nation. The purpose of such an agreement is to set forth rights and responsibilities between the United States and the host government on such matters as criminal and civil jurisdiction, the wearing of the uniform, the carrying of arms, tax and customs relief, entry and exit of personnel and property, and resolving damage claims.
What will U.S. troops in Iraq need search warrants for, after a new status-of-forces agreement is signed?
2. If ratified by the Iraqi parliament for January 1st, for how long will the status-of-forces agreement be in effect?
3. Under the status-of-forces agreement, under what circumstances would U.S. troops not be required to obtain warrants?
4. List the other main provisions of the status-of-forces agreement described in the article.
5. Why have U.S. officers expressed concern over a warrant requirement?
6. a) When was the first time U.S. troops used warrants in Iraq?
b) What danger do warrants pose for Iraqi complainants and witnesses?
7. Re-read para. 17-18. What do you think of Maj. McMillan’s attitude toward the required use of warrants?
Read more about progress being made in Iraq at the Multi-National Force website mnf-iraq.com.
Read about “Status of Forces Agreements” at globalsecurity.org.