A federal judge Monday sentenced a former Blackwater Worldwide security guard to life in prison and three others to 30-year terms for killing 14 unarmed civilians in a Baghdad traffic circle in 2007, an incident that fomented deep resentments about the accountability of American security forces during one of the bloodiest periods of the Iraq war…. Prosecutors said the four defendants, among 19 Blackwater guards providing security for State Department officials in Iraq, fired machine guns and grenade launchers in a reckless and out-of-control way after one of them falsely claimed that their convoy, called Raven 23, was threatened by a car bomber….. Attorneys for Slough, Liberty and Heard criticized prosecutors’ decision to charge them with using military firearms while committing a felony, an offense that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison, twice as long as a manslaughter conviction. The charge has primarily been aimed at gang members, rarely against police officers accused of misconduct and never before against security contractors given military weapons by the U.S. government….
The largest nonprofit contractor working for the U.S. Agency for International Development during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan billed the government $1.1 million for staff parties and pricey retreats — three of them held at one of the poshest destinations on the East Coast, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania. International Relief and Development of Arlington, Va., collected hundreds of millions of dollars to work in the war zones and help impoverished nations around the world. At the same time — between 2007 and 2010 — its executives were using IRD’s government overhead account to fund the parties and retreats, according to financial records provided by IRD to The Washington Post. The previously undisclosed retreats to Nemacolin were the fanciest by far. The five-star spa and resort, 180 miles northwest of Washington, is nestled in the Allegheny Mountains near Fallingwater, the famous home designed over a waterfall by Frank Lloyd Wright. IRD spent $484,338 on those retreats at the height of U.S. war spending, billing the expenses to the government as “training” and “staff morale” items, according to the records and current and former employees….
Top USAID contractor allegedly billed taxpayers for Redskins tickets, alcohol
Source: Scott Higham and Steven Rich, Washington Post, February 9, 2015
Two weeks after being suspended from government work, the leading development nonprofit for the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan has purged numerous longtime senior executives amid a widening investigation of allegations of “serious” financial misconduct. International Relief and Development, headquartered in Arlington, Va., allegedly used taxpayer money for Redskins season tickets, personal travel and meals, and alcohol at company receptions and retreats, according to current and former government and nonprofit officials. Last May, The Washington Post examined allegations of poor performance and excessive pay at IRD, which has collected $2.4 billion since 2007 to undertake some of the most ambitious projects in the war zones and elsewhere for the U.S. Agency for International Development…..
Big budgets, little oversight in war zones
Source: Scott Higham, Jessica Schulberg and Steven Rich, Washington Post, May 4, 2014
…After the United States launched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mom-and-pop nonprofit corporation boldly ramped up, undertaking some of the federal government’s biggest and most ambitious projects in the battle zones, everything from building roads to funding wheat production. In doing so, International Relief and Development increased its annual revenue from $1.2 million to $706 million, most of it from one corner of the federal government — the U.S. Agency for International Development. IRD has received more grants and cooperative agreements from USAID in recent years than any other nonprofit relief and development organization in the nation — $1.9 billion. Along the way, the nonprofit rewarded its employees with generous salaries and millions in bonuses. Among the beneficiaries: the minister, Arthur B. Keys, and his wife, Jasna Basaric-Keys, who together earned $4.4 million in salary and bonuses between 2008 and 2012….. In the world of humanitarian NGOs — nongovernmental organizations — those kinds of salaries are unusual. Rarer still are bonuses of any kind….It is not unusual for government officials to move into the private sector for higher salaries. Before joining IRD, the officials received letters from USAID requiring them to pledge not to take part in any programs that may conflict with the responsibilities they had at the agency. IRD officials said they hired the USAID employees for their expertise, not their connections. As acting director of USAID, Alonzo Fulgham made $199,418. As vice president of IRD, he received $330,000. Jeffrey Grieco made $185,000 as the top public affairs official at USAID. As chief of public affairs at IRD, he received $225,000……
Two members of a powerful congressional committee on Tuesday asked one of the nation’s largest government contractors to produce internal corporate files, signaling a widening investigation into claims that the company covered up reports of fraud. The lawmakers, from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter KBR chairman William P. Utt saying they had launched an inquiry into allegations that the company required employees seeking to report fraud to sign confidentiality agreements. Those agreements barred employees from speaking to anyone about their allegations, including government investigators and prosecutors, according to court records and lawyers involved in the case. Those who violated the agreement faced dismissal and legal action….The whistleblower case was brought by Harry Barko, a former KBR employee who claimed that Halliburton and KBR inflated the costs of services provided to military bases under a multi-billion dollar logistics contract in Iraq. The suit was filed in 2005, when Halliburton was the parent of the company, then known as Kellogg Brown & Root. Between 2002 and 2011, KBR was the largest U.S. contractor operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, winning nearly $40 billion worth of work….
Source: Dion Nissenbaum, Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2014
Hundreds of contractors working for America’s biggest defense companies are taking on a broader role in helping Iraq’s military learn to use new weapons in a growing battle against Islamist insurgents. Over the next few months, the U.S. government is expected to begin sending more than $6 billion in military equipment to Iraq. The latest deal includes 24 Apache attack helicopters made by Boeing Co. and nearly 500 Hellfire missiles produced by Lockheed Martin Corp. … When the U.S. begins sending the first batch of Apache helicopters and additional Hellfire missiles this year, more than 200 private defense-company personnel will be on hand. They won’t be alone. Across Iraq, military specialists are helping the Iraqi military maintain its growing number of surveillance drones, attack helicopters and powerful missiles. Thousands more support the U.S. government as security guards, analysts, drivers and cooks. … Employees of Bell Helicopter, a unit of Textron Inc., are training Iraqi forces to fly and repair light attack helicopters stationed at a military base in the so-called Sunni Triangle northwest of Baghdad, where the Iraqi military is battling resurgent Islamist fighters….Two dozen Lockheed employees are helping the Iraqi military keep their C-130 transport planes in the air. The company is also sending nearly 500 Hellfire missiles, which are being increasingly used in the fight against al Qaeda militants. And more than a dozen employees with Beechcraft Corp. and General Atomics maintain a fleet of “Peace Dragon” surveillance airplanes used to track insurgent activity around the country. The U.S. spent more than $200 billion on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade as its reliance on private support grew, according to congressional estimates. In all, more than 5,000 contractors now work in Iraq as intelligence analysts, security guards, military trainers, translators and cooks….
A military contractor in Iraq shipped a worker’s body home in pieces, without the heart, then after “painful negotiations” but “no apology,” tried to charge his family for shipping home the heart, the family claims in court…. In addition to the insult and agony, the family of the late Chuck L. Doherty claims, the company made it impossible to collect on life insurance because of the mutilation of the body and the missing heart. Doherty’s family sued his employers, FrontierMEDEX, and Pacific Architects and Engineers dba PAE Group, in Harris County Court….
During the Iraq war, private defense contractors providing security and support outnumbered troops on the ground at points. Contractors can enhance US military capacity but also entail risks. US experience with private security contractors holds several key lessons….Ten years after it began, the Iraq war might best be remembered as America’s most privatized military engagement to date, with contractors hired by the Pentagon actually outnumbering troops on the ground at various points….
The Army official who signed a secret agreement that military contractor KBR claims should burden taxpayers with the bill for the company’s negligent poisoning of U.S. soldiers in Iraq resigned from the military in 2003 after a tenure marked by questions about his ties to Enron Corp.
Thomas E. White, named secretary of the Army in 2001, signed an indemnity agreement protecting KBR, the military’s largest contractor, from legal liability on March 19, 2003. KBR had asked for the agreement as part of its contract to rebuild Iraq oilfields destroyed in the U.S. invasion. White resigned a month later, on April 23, under fire for his previous role as a senior Enron executive and after clashing with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over his advocacy for a multi-billion dollar artillery system.
KBR’s indemnity agreement, obtained by The Huffington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request, was classified as secret until Dec. 21, 2012, the month after a federal jury in Oregon decided the company should pay $85 million for negligence that allowed a dozen soldiers to be exposed to a cancer-causing chemical sodium dichromate at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in Iraq. …
An American contractor hired by the military to provide translation services for interrogators at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has reached a $5 million settlement with scores of detainees who accused its employees of complicity in abusing them, according to financial disclosure documents. … Disclosure of the settlement, completed in October, came in a filing two months ago by Engility Holdings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, stating that “we and the plaintiffs agreed to resolve and dismiss the action in return for a payment of $5.28 million.”
Northern Virginia Contractor Pays $5.2M Abu Ghraib Settlement
Source: Marti Johnson, WAMU Morning Edition, January 9, 2013
Iraqis Held At Abu Ghraib, Other Sites Receive $5M
Source: Assocaited Press, January 09, 2013
After years of following the paper trail of $51 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars provided to rebuild a broken Iraq, the U.S. government can say with certainty that too much was wasted. But it can’t say how much. In what it called its final audit report, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Funds on Friday spelled out a range of accounting weaknesses that put “billions of American taxpayer dollars at risk of waste and misappropriation” in the largest reconstruction project of its kind in U.S. history….. A key weakness found by Bowen’s inspectors was inadequate reviewing of contractors’ invoices….
Source: Public Integrity news release, November 19, 2007
Center Unveils Windfalls of War II Investigation
Center for Public Integrity: “It’s been four years since the Center released its acclaimed Windfalls of War investigation, which first named Halliburton as the largest single contractor in Iraq and revealed the most comprehensive list of the top Iraq and Afghanistan contractors available at the time. That list included more than 70 American companies that had been awarded up to $8 billion in contracts from 2002 through July 1, 2004. By the end of 2006, U.S. contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan have grown to $25 billion, while oversight has seriously deteriorated, according to a new Center analysis, Windfalls of War II. The Center report shows that KBR, Inc., formally known as Kellogg, Brown and Root and a Halliburton subsidiary until April 2007, continues to top the list at more than $16 billion in U.S. government contracts from 2004 to 2006. DynCorp International, at $1.8 billion, came in at a distant second…The Center assembled its list of the top 100 contractors, where the reported place of performance was in Iraq and Afghanistan, by analyzing the General Service Administration’s Federal Procurement Data System. After reviewing this federal database, the Center was able to piece together the 100 companies that received the most contracts from fiscal years 2004 to 2006. However, even this publicly available federal database does not include all Iraq and Afghanistan contracts, including the ones originating at the Baghdad contracting agency. The Baghdad contracting agency has rebuffed Center efforts to obtain missing contracts. The Center is now seeking to acquire them through Freedom of Information Act requests.”