International Herald Tribune September 29, 2011
CHAMAN: One person was killed on Thursday when a bomb disposal unit tried to defuse an explosive device planted near a convoy of trucks carrying fuel through Chaman to NATO forces in Afghanistan, a security official said.
Earlier on Tuesday, unknown gunmen torched three NATO oil tankers near Dasht area in Mastung district.
According to Balochistan Levies, the tankers were on their way to Kandahar from Karachi when armed men opened fire on them, after which fire erupted from the oil tankers.
Balochistan is the second largest route for North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) suppliers
Defense Department Inspector General says KBR and the military failed to respond quickly to health risks posed to Oregon soldiers
The OregonianSeptember 28, 2011
The Defense Department and contractor Kellogg, Brown & Root failed to act as quickly as they should have to protect those exposed to a carcinogenic chemical at an Iraqi water treatment plant in 2003, according to a report Wednesday by the Defense Department’s Inspector General.
The report was hailed as a victory for Oregon soldiers by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who was one of a group of senators who sought the IG’s evaluation, and by Oregon National Guard troops who are among those suing KBR. They accuse the contractor of knowingly exposing them to sodium dichromate, an anticorrosive compound that can cause skin and breathing problems and cancer.
Because KBR “did not fully comply with occupational safety and health standards required” under its contract with the Army, the Inspector General found, “a greater number of Service members and DoD civilian employees were exposed to sodium dichromate, and for longer periods, increasing the potential for chronic health effects.”
The report found that “nearly 1,000 Army soldiers and civilian employees were exposed to the compound in the five months it took from the initial site visit until the military command required personal protective equipment.”
“To me, the bottom line is this report confirms what Oregon soldiers and I have been saying for years,” said Wyden. “KBR and the military command failed to protect soldiers from a known threat.”
Houston-based KBR couldn’t be reached for comment before deadline. KBR has previously denied knowingly exposing soldiers or contractors to health risks.
Rocky Bixby of Tualatin, the former Oregon National Guard soldier who is listed as the first plaintiff in the suit against KBR, said Wednesday afternoon that he hadn’t yet seen the report, but is “obviously happy.”
“I’m just happy that the government is making a stand on this and protecting its troops,” said Bixby, who says he continues to suffer breathing difficulties that started after he helped secure the plant where KBR was working to restore water service.
The 56-page report also faults the military’s handling of the work at Qarmat Ali, from the vague wording of its initial contract to its failure to monitor the contractor’s compliance with its terms
CHICAGO —September 28 A U.S. official and an Illinois family have identified the CIA contractor killed during a shooting at an agency facility in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The father of 61-year-old Jay Henigan says his son was killed in the attack Sunday. Henigan was a lifelong resident of Sycamore, Ill., about 50 miles west of Chicago.
Tom Henigan says his son had just begun his second stint working as a plumber for the CIA in Kabul.
A U.S. official says Jay Henigan was shot by an Afghan worker who was providing security to the facility. The official requested anonymity because he was speaking about intelligence matters.
Tom Henigan says his son went back to Afghanistan “because he just wanted to help out.”
Carney said five contractor specialists were on the ground to work with the new Libyan leadership to secure weapons stockpiles.
The US State Department has provided $3 million to help destroy weapons and raised particular concern over the spread of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, also known as Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems (MANPADS), which could be used to target civilian aircraft.
AFP September 27 2011
ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE — The United States is working closely with Libya’s new interim leaders to secure all arms stockpiles, amid concerns over weapons proliferation, the White House said Tuesday.
“Since the beginning of the crisis we have been actively engaged with our allies and partners to support Libya’s effort to secure all conventional weapons stockpiles including recovery, control and disposal of shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles,” spokesman Jay Carney said.
“We are exploring every option to expand our support,” he told reporters on Air Force One as President Barack Obama toured western states.
US General Carter Ham, who led the first stage of the coalition air campaign in Libya, said in early April that there were fears that militants could seize some of the estimated 20,000 shoulder-launched missiles in Libya, calling it “a regional and an international concern.”
The proliferation of arms raided from the vast stores of ex-strongman Moamer Kadhafi is raising fears not only for Libya’s future stability, but also that the weapons will fall into the hands of radical groups like Al-Qaeda
T Christian Miller ProPublica September 27, 2011
Private contractors injured while working for the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan filed a class action lawsuit  in federal court on Monday, claiming that corporations and insurance companies had unfairly denied them medical treatment and disability payments.
The suit, filed in district court in Washington, D.C., claims that private contracting firms and their insurers routinely lied, cheated and threatened injured workers, while ignoring a federal law requiring compensation for such employees. Attorneys for the workers are seeking $2 billion in damages.
The suit is largely based on the Defense Base Act, an obscure law that creates a workers compensation system for federal contract employees working overseas. Financed by taxpayers, the system was rarely used until the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the most privatized conflicts in American history.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians working for federal contractors have been deployed to war zones to deliver mail, cook meals and act as security guards for U.S. soldiers and diplomats. As of June 2011, more than 53,000 civilians have filed claims for injuries in the war zones. Almost 2,500 contract employees have been killed, according to figures kept by the Department of Labor, which oversees the system.
An investigation by ProPublica, the Los Angeles Times and ABC’s 20/20  into the Defense Base Act system found major flaws, including private contractors left without medical care and lax federal oversight. Some Afghan, Iraqi and other foreign workers for U.S. companies were provided with no care at all.
The lawsuit, believed to be the first of its kind, charges that major insurance corporations such as AIG and large federal contractors such as Houston-based KBR deliberately flouted the law, thereby defrauding taxpayers and boosting their profits. In interviews and at Congressional hearings, AIG and KBR have denied such allegations and said they fully complied with the law. They blamed problems in the delivery of care and benefits on the chaos of the war zones
Statement concerning filing of class action for fraud and bad faith against KBR, DynCorp, Blackwater, G4S/Wackenhut/Ronco Consulting, CNA Insurance, AIG Insurance and others who conspired to deny benefits to severely injured contractors and to harm them further
Scott Bloch files complaint for $2 billion against major government contractors like
KBR, Blackwater.XE, DynCorp, G4S/Wackenhut/Ronco Consulting and the global insurance carriers AIG, CNA, ACE and Zurich, on behalf of thousands of former employees, for unlawful, fraudulent and bad-faith mistreatment of injured employees and their families
Since 2003, top government contractors like Blackwater, KBR, DynCorp, CSA/AECOM and ITT have been perpetrating a fraud on their employees and on the American public.
The silent warriors who work for these companies, many of them decorated former military service members, have been injured, mistreated and abandoned by the contracting companies and their insurance carriers who have been paid hundreds of millions of dollars in premiums.
“It is a grave injustice,” Bloch said, “to those who rode alongside American soldiers, including Iraqi and Afghani Nationals, to be case aside without the benefits of the law. We are supposedly trying to bring them the rule of law. We are supposedly trying to encourage them in democratic institutions.
We are the ones asking them to believe in justice and individual rights.
This is a travesty to all Americans and those around the world who look to America for an example of humanitarian aid and proper treatment of workers.”
This is a lawsuit for damages in the amount of $2 billion to remedy the injuries and destruction caused to the lives, finances and mental and physical well being of thousands of American families and others whose loved ones were injured while serving America under contracts with the United States.
It seeks an additional unspecified amount to punish the companies who made massive profits while causing this harm to people unlawfully and maliciously and working a fraud on the American public who paid them.
“This abusive and illegal scheme by the defendants has been allowed to go on for too long.
We are talking about loss of life, suicide, loss of homes, marriages, families split up, “ Bloch said, “and the culprits are the large government contractors who should have treated their employees better, and the mega-insurance companies who were paid a hefty sum to make sure the employees were taken care of with uninterrupted benefits in the event of injuries in these war zones.”
This complaint is filed due to actions and omissions of defendants, in conspiracy with others, and individually, to defeat the right of American citizens and foreign nationals to receive their lawful benefits and compensation under the Defense Base Act (“DBA”), as it adopts the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“LHWCA”).
The lawsuit explains that those sued engaged under the RICO statute in an enterprise of fraudulent and or criminal acts to further their scheme to defeat the rights of individuals who have been injured or suffered occupational diseases, and death, while on foreign soil in support of defense activities under the DBA.
These acts were perpetrated repeatedly through bank fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, using telephones, faxes, and United States mail .
“These are heroes, decorated by America’s Armed Services,” said Bloch.
“Some of the foreign contractors were decorated special forces soldiers from their countries who assisted the United States in combating threats. The sheer disregard for human dignity and law is reprehensible and deserves punishment.
These families and many others who have been harmed need treatment, need compensation, need redress of the wrongs that have been perpetrated by these huge companies and insurance carriers for the last 10 years.
They have earned $100 billion per year on the backs of these people, with the blood of these plaintiffs and those whom they represent.”
The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and covers individuals from all over the United States, South Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan and other counties.
Contact Scott J. Bloch, PA:
Scott Bloch, 202-496-1290
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini says officials are working with the Somali government to free Italian sailors held by pirates.
Frattani, speaking on Italian TV, said new measures against the Somali pirates were agreed upon at the United Nations summit in New York last week, ANSA reported. Frattani told the father of one of the captives the government and intelligence groups are taking action along the Somali coast where 11 crew members from two Italian ships are being held.
Frattini said he and Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali have had long discussions and agreed to a joint action. An international agreement reached earlier this year forbids governments from paying ransom to the pirates.
“In the past we have succeeded in freeing other ships with patience and undercover work. Intelligence services have been mobilized,” Frattini said.
US Citizen Killed in Attack was CIA employee, wounded American still not identified
KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan working for the U.S. government killed one CIA employee and wounded another American in an attack on the intelligence agency’s office in Kabul, officials said Monday. The assailant was killed.
Afghan employee kills U.S. citizen at Kabul CIA base
(Reuters) - An Afghan employee of the U.S. government opened fire inside a CIA office in Kabul on Sunday evening, killing an American and injuring a second, U.S. and Afghan officials said, in the second major breach of embassy security in two weeks.
The CIA compound is one of the most heavily guarded in Kabul, and has been off-limits for almost a decade, since shortly after the Taliban’s fall from power in 2001.
It also lies at the heart of the capital’s heavily-guarded military, political and diplomatic district, a virtual “green zone” that is almost impossible for ordinary Afghans to enter.
The New York Times Alissa Rubin September 26, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan — An American citizen was killed and another was wounded on the grounds of an annex to the United States Embassy here by an Afghan employee, an embassy spokesman said on Monday
The gunman was killed and the motivation for the attack is under investigation, said Gavin Sundwall, the embassy spokesman. The wounded American was evacuated to a military hospital for treatment.
The killing was followed by a barrage of gunfire between 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Sunday. People who were near the compound where the attack occurred said they heard an explosion before gunfire erupted.
The attack was at a building used by the Central Intelligence Agency in Kabul, according to several western officials. It is near the presidential palace. It was not clear whether the dead American was a C.I.A. employee, a contractor or someone else working on the grounds.
Rarely visible, the agency has acknowledged few losses in Afghanistan. The last one that was made public was in 2009 when a suicide bomber penetrated the agency’s base in Khost Province, killing at least seven agency employees, including a senior operative.
The C.I.A. station in Kabul, the agency’s largest outpost overseas part of the United States Embassy complex. On Sept. 13, militants carried out a daylong attack on another part of the embassy grounds, and top American officials have attributed that attack to a group called the Haqqani network, which they say is supported by parts of Pakistan’s spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence. A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment about the latest attack.
They’ve lost more (active-duty military) to suicide than overseas. They were technically killed there, too. So, don’t discount them,” Melissa said. “It’s the same battle, just a different battlefield.”
NWF Daily News September 17, 2011
MARY ESTHER —Jeremy Gibson is a casualty of war, but you won’t find his name on any memorial wall.
On a balmy Monday afternoon last Oct. 11, the Hurlburt Field Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician dialed 911, walked into his backyard and took his life.
“He shot himself in the heart,” said his wife, Melissa.
Jeremy was 31.
In the 11 months since then, Melissa has been forced to cope with blame from others and the guilt she harbors. There were no signs that Jeremy was contemplating suicide, but Melissa says she will play the “what if” game until the day she dies.
Jeremy wasn’t a complicated guy. The native of Chattanooga, Tenn., was incredibly smart, good at math and chemistry and often was misjudged as a “know-it-all.”
He knew a lot about cars and loved racing at amateur tracks. He and Melissa would go on drives in his blue Mini Cooper with no destination in mind. Jeremy always picked the winding roads for “precision driving” (aka speeding).
Melissa said he ate French fries only for the texture in his massive consumption of ketchup.
He was like a kid on Christmas when Melissa returned from the store with Blue Monster energy drinks and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
He taped and edited videos for fun and brought his wife a snow globe from every TDY.
Melissa called Jeremy her little James Bond.
His work took him to Peru with President George W. Bush and to Paris with Colin Powell. He covered the Republican National Convention and guarded the Bush family on Thanksgiving Day.
There were missions with explosives so massive that Jeremy did not bother with a bomb suit; it wouldn’t have helped.
Melissa hates that a man that heroic is judged by friends, family and strangers. She braces herself for judgment every time she has to tell someone how Jeremy died.
Melissa wants people to remember his achievements, not the day he lost hope.
“He went from the lowest of the low to flight chief. He was a tech sergeant and had two Bronze Stars,” she said.
Melissa’s own dream of joining the military did not die with her husband. She would love to be a nurse and save lives like her husband did every time he detected and dismantled a bomb.
Jeremy believed in what he was fighting for, she said.
Melissa will never replace the pride she feels for her husband’s service with any anger for ending his life.
She would do anything to remove the stigma associated with military suicide. She calls the topic a bastard child in this society.
“They’ve lost more (active-duty military) to suicide than overseas. They were technically killed there, too. So, don’t discount them,” Melissa said. “It’s the same battle, just a different battlefield.”
Jeremy was very familiar with the battlefield. He spent two of his last four years deployed.
The only things that slowed the six months on/ six months off rotation were ankle reconstruction and spinal fusion surgeries. Lugging around the heavy EOD gear had taken its toll.
Jeremy had been home nearly a year recuperating from the back surgery and had the ankle reconstruction about six weeks before he died. He was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in January.
“You could tell when he came back when the deployments were really, really hard,” Melissa said
German man and Afghan companion killed in Ghor province when gunmen opened fire on van they were traveling in
Rueters at The Guardian September 24, 2011
Unknown gunmen killed a German tourist and his Afghan companion in central Afghanistan on Saturday. Two other Afghans were wounded when the gunmen opened fire on the van the tourist was travelling in, a senior police officer said.
The men were on a road in poor, remote Ghor province, driving towards Bamiyan province, which is more often visited, deputy provincial police chief Abdul Rashid Bashir told Reuters.
Bashir said the dead man was a tourist, and documents found in his possession showed that he was German. The German embassy in Kabul could not immediately be reached for comment.
Two German nationals were killed last month while hiking in mountains near the capital Kabul. Their killers have not been found.
Ghor is still relatively peaceful, even though it shares a border with Helmand province, an insurgent stronghold. But it is a risky place for foreigners to visit as tourists.
Abdul Hai Khatibi, a spokesman for the provincial governor, declined to make a direct comment on the killing, but said the Taliban had limited influence in Ghor and appeared to suggest that the shooting was likely to be the work of bandits, not insurgents
Mark “Steve” Brown is suspected of placing two hidden video cameras inside his condominium at 1255 Florida Road to record the activities of a woman who was watching the condo while he was in South Korea as a civilian contractor providing post-traumatic stress therapy to military personnel.
The Durango Herald September 23, 2011
When the trial for a man accused of surreptitiously videotaping his housesitter begins Oct. 3, video clips will be visible only to jurors via television, 6th Judicial District Judge David Dickinson ruled Friday.
Dickinson’s order was an alternative to a motion by Deputy District Attorney Justin Faye that the courtroom be closed during the showing of an undetermined number of video clips.
Mark “Steve” Brown is suspected of placing two hidden video cameras inside his condominium at 1255 Florida Road to record the activities of a woman who was watching the condo while he was in South Korea as a civilian contractor providing post-traumatic stress therapy to military personnel.
Brown, who is charged with stalking, could spend up to three years in prison. He is free on $5,000 bail. The videotaping occurred in the fall of 2010.
Brown also is charged with two counts of unlawful sexual contact, part of a Peeping Tom statute that prohibits photographing or videotaping people without their consent when they have a reasonable expectation of privacy and the use of the images for sexual gratification.
“From the Court’s view, KBR ‘protests too much,’ ” Judge Fischer wrote
For the second time, U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer has denied a motion by Houston-based defense contractor Kellogg Brown & Root Services Inc. to have the civil case stemming from a sergeant’s death decided under Iraqi law.
“From the Court’s view, KBR ‘protests too much,’ ” Judge Fischer wrote in an order denying the firm’s motion for reconsideration of her June order that laws of the U.S. apply in the death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Douglas Maseth, 24. “Iraq’s negligible interests in this case are far outweighed by those of the United States and the controlling law of the United States will be applied.”
Mr. Maseth’s parents, who live in the North Hills, sued KBR over his death by electrocution on Jan. 2, 2008, while showering on the U.S. base at Radwaniyah Palace complex in Baghdad. They blame a short circuit in an electrical water pump, and say KBR was responsible for fixing electrical problems at the complex.
Neither KBR’s attorneys, nor those representing the parents, could be reached for comment. Had KBR prevailed, Judge Fischer would have tried the case locally, but under Iraqi law that does not allow for punitive damages.
Eritrea: Free Political Prisoners 10 Years On – President Isaias in New York to Demand UN Respect His Rights, Denies Them to His People
“Instead of lobbying the UN, President Isaias should allow people to speak freely, to worship as they please, and to leave Eritrea if they want,” said Bekele. “Eritreans will continue to face prolonged, indefinite national service, repression, and torture unless President Isaias changes his abusive policies”
All Africa Human Rights Watch Washington DC September 22, 2011
Ten years after President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea ordered the detention of 21 senior government members and journalists who criticized him, his government should release the detainees or reveal their fate, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper released today. Eritrea should also open its jails to international monitors, Human Rights Watch said.
Isaias is visiting New York for the United Nations General Assembly in an attempt to rehabilitate his country’s image even as his government labors under UN sanctions for its role in supporting the Somali insurgent group al-Shabaab.
In the past 10 years, Isaias has closed all independent media outlets and turned Eritrea into a country where arbitrary arrest, torture, disappearance, and death are rife and where it is almost impossible to leave. The paper, “Eritrea: 10 Long Years, A Briefing on Eritrea’s Missing Political Prisoners,” outlines what is known about the political prisoners, none of whom has been seen by outsiders since being detained in September 2001.
“Eritrea is effectively a giant prison, and international pressure should continue on Eritrea until President Isaias frees political prisoners and restores the rule of law,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “To start with, President Isaias should end the inhumanity of prolonged secret, silent detention and allow family members and international monitors to see the prisoners.”
In mid-September 2001, Isaias ordered the arrest of 11 high government officials who had written open letters criticizing his rule. He also arrested 10 journalists who had published the letters and other information critical of him and his policies, and closed all independent newspapers.
The 20 men and one woman have never been seen again by anyone outside the penal system, including their families, lawyers, or prison monitoring groups. They have never been afforded a hearing; rather, all 21 were incarcerated in secret detention facilities in solitary confinement. According to former guards whose reports Human Rights Watch has not been able to confirm, 10 of the 21 have died in prison and the remaining 11 are physically or mentally incapacitated and emaciated.
The 21 are the most prominent victims of Isaias’s denial of basic rights, but hundreds of thousands of others in the country of 5 million have been victimized during the past decade. The briefing paper recounts that thousands of Eritreans are incarcerated because they are suspected of not fully supporting the regime or have attempted to flee Eritrea’s compulsory and indefinite national service. They are given no access to a court and no means to appeal to any impartial body. Thousands more Eritreans are incarcerated because they are members of religious groups that the Eritrean government refuses to recognize as legitimate: Jehovah’s Witnesses, evangelical Christian churches, and reformist wings of the Eritrean Orthodox Church.
Since 2006, cluster munitions have killed or injured 408 Lebanese civilians, 115 of whom were children, Maj Pierre Bou Maroun, chief of the Lebanese Armed Forces Regional Mine Action Centre (RMAC) in Nabatiyeh, told IRIN on the sidelines of the second meeting of states parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions which ended on 16 September.
RMAC coordinates all demining operations in the country.
Speaking at the meeting, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman called cluster munitions a “despicable weapon” designed to “sustain programmed killing and handicapping” long into the future. He said the Lebanese state was “fully committed” to the Convention, “particularly when it comes to assisting victims of cluster munitions and ridding its territory” of the weapons.
The meeting brought together representatives from over 115 governments, the UN, civil society organizations and cluster munitions survivors to discuss how to advance the Convention’s key obligations.
“Governments need to demonstrate that they are acting with the urgency and comprehensiveness that they have promised in eliminating cluster munitions and addressing the effects these inhumane weapons have on civilians all over the world,” said Steve Goose, chair of the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC) and director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch.
Lebanon and Tunisia are the only Arab states to have ratified the Convention. Iraq has signed but not yet ratified.
According to the CMC, Iraq and Lebanon are the worst-affected countries in the Middle East/North Africa region, but Libya is the most recently contaminated country, following use of cluster munitions by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi earlier this year.
The Beirut meeting heard that as a result of the Convention, around 50 percent of the world’s cluster munitions have been destroyed. In Lebanon, the CMC said, around 66 percent of contaminated land has been cleared and returned to residents.
Goose said that while the success was impressive, some 80 countries had still not signed the Convention, including some of the world’s biggest manufacturers, users or stockpilers of cluster munitions, such as Israel, the US, China, Russia, Pakistan and India
He has not chosen to fight for Moammer Gaddafi, or for the Libyan rebels. But Zoran G, a northern Kosovo resident and former soldier of fortune, says he understands why others may have done so.
“I would go to Libya or any other country to fight for a good salary,” he told SETimes.
Ever since turmoil erupted in February, there have been reports of Balkan mercenaries in the north African country. Media reports last week claimed that rebel fighters executed a large group of fighters-for-hire in the city of Misrata, including nine Croats, 12 Serbs and an unknown number of Bosniaks.
That story remains unconfirmed, and details about the overall number of Balkan mercenaries active in the country are hard to come by. Still, military operations experts say they have enough data to form a rough estimate.
“According to my information, about 250 persons from Serbia are located in Libya,” military analyst Ljubodrag Stojadinovic told SETimes. He said several hundred well trained troops emerged from the Balkan wars, and are willing to use their expertise.
The mercenaries are driven by the promise of monetary gain, and not by politics or ideology, Stojadinovic added