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Grand Jury to Probe Shootings by Guards

But the U.S. government's ability to prosecute remains hampered by the lack of clarity over what laws may apply. For instance, contractors were immunized from Iraqi laws under a June 2004 order signed by the U.S. occupation authority. That ruling remains in effect.

In addition, investigations are complicated by questions about evidence, jurisdiction and the availability of witnesses. "If they're going to try to indict, they've got a lot to overcome," said Patricia A. Smith, an Alexandria lawyer who represents two former employees of Triple Canopy, a private security firm based in Herndon, in a civil lawsuit. The former employees say they were wrongfully terminated after reporting that their Triple Canopy team leader fired shots into the windshield of a taxi for amusement last year on Baghdad's airport road.

A jury ruled against the two former guards but said Triple Canopy acted inappropriately. The guards are planning to appeal.

After that shooting, the company fired three guards -- including the two who reported the incident -- and reported the shooting to U.S. military officials in Baghdad. But no investigation was conducted by the military or Iraqi or U.S. authorities.

Smith said she was unaware of any subpoenas being issued related to the Triple Canopy shooting.

Staff writer Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.

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