Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

SIGIR’s Latest on PMCs

By David Isenberg at Huff Post

The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has just released its latest Quarterly Report.

The last report released in January, noted “For the quarter ending December 31, 2009, the Department of Labor (DoL) received reports of 13 new deaths of civilian contractors working in Iraq. DoL also received reports that 669 civilian contractors suffered injuries requiring them to miss at least four days of work. Since September 2001, the DoL has received reports of 1,459 deaths of civilian contractors.”

Contractor casualties nearly doubled in the latest quarter. SIGIR reports that in the first quarter of 2010, 25 deaths were reported to the Department of Labor (DoL),and 740 injuries were reported to the DOL as causing more than 3 days of lost work. Asof March 31, 2010, the number of deaths reported in Iraq is 1,471 since the DOL began compiling this data in March 2003.

The level of contracting services needed to support the drawdown of troops and equipment from Iraq has yet to be fully identied. Contractors will continue to provide a wide range of tasks essential for operations and for reconstruction programs, but DoD announced plans for a 30% reduction in overall contractor support (to a force of 75,000) by the end of FY 2010.

As of January 22, 2010, USF-I reported 100,035 DoD contractors working in Iraq:

51,990 third-country nationals
27,843 U.S. citizens
20,202 Iraqi nationals

As of March 31 there were approximately 102,000 DoD contractors working in Iraq, more than half of whom were providing life-support services to the U.S. military. DoD estimates that fewer than 75,000 contractors (excluding those working on the LOGCAP contract) will be operating in Iraq by August 2010, with more reductions anticipated after the U.S. military’s footprint shrinks. However, as the number of DoD contractors drops, there will be a concomitant increase in the number of contractors supporting DoS. For example, the advisors who will serve as the focal point for INL’s police-training program will need to be supported by about 1,500 other contractor personnel, including a significant number of security contractors.

This represents a significant decline in the absolute number of DoD contractors, from a high of more than 160,000 in September 2008. However, as a ratio of contractors to troops, the projection for August 2010 increases from roughly 1:1 to 3:2.

As of March 31, there were 2,795 DoS and USAID private security contractors (PSCs) working in Iraq. The report says that even today, it is difficult to estimate the total cost of providing security for reconstruction projects and personnel. DoD, DoS, and USAID have not been required to systematically identify financial data for PSCs. As the reconstruction effort evolves from large-scale infrastructure projects to capacity building, physical security could become a larger portion of total contract cost. In addition, requirements for PSC services for DoS and US AID are set to increase to compensate for support previously provided by the U.S. military. Services provided by the military, such as quick-reaction forces and medical evacuation, are difficult to quantify.

Despite years of effort to improve oversight corruption still occurs in the awarding of contracts. The report notes several indictments and plea agreements, including:

• An ongoing joint investigation by SIGIR, British investigators, and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service led to the arrest of two British citizens. The investigation involves an $8.48 million contract awarded by the Coalition Provisional Authority to provide armored vehicles to Iraq’s Ministry of the Interior (MOI). It is alleged that the contractor personnel provided false documentation in order to receive full payment for the contract and failed to deliver any vehicles to the MOI.
• On January 27, 2010, Theresa Russell, a former staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, pled guilty to a one-count criminal information charging her with money laundering arising from a scheme involving the fraudulent awarding and administration of U.S. government contracts in Iraq. Her sentencing is scheduled for May 21, 2010.

• In February, former DoD contractor Terry Hall pled guilty to conspiring to pay more than $3 million in bribes to U.S. Army contracting officials stationed at Camp Arijan, Kuwait. Hall owned and operated several companies that provided goods and services to the Department of Defense. The case against Hall arose out of a wide-ranging investigation of corruption at the Camp Arijan contracting office. To date, eight individuals, including Hall, have pled guilty for their roles in the bribery scheme.

• On February 26, 2010, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a criminal information charging a former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel with three counts of accepting illegal gratuities involving the award of a one-year, $8.2 million warehouse contract in Iraq.

• That same day, DOJ filed a criminal information charging a U.S. Army captain with one count of accepting a gratuity involving a DoD contract at Camp Arijan. The information was filed as a result of the captain’s alleged acceptance of $15,000 in cash from a government contractor for preparing a contract performance survey and recommending an overall rating of excellent.

• In early March, a captain in the United States Marine Corps was charged with conspiring with his wife to skim approximately $1.75 million from government contracts awarded under the Iraqi First Program while he was acting as a COR in Iraq. Moreover, because they allegedly failed to report any of these illegal payments on their tax return for 2008, they substantially understated their income to the Internal Revenue Service. During the course of this investigation, government agents also seized from the couple two properties in California, two automobiles, and approximately $40,000 in cash.

The military is trying to improve the quality of its acquisition workforce. On March 2, 2010, General Peter Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, issued a memo that established new standards for the selection and training of contracting officer’s representatives (CORs), who are responsible for contractor oversight. Among the reforms are pre-deployment selection and training and improved training materials for deployed CORs. In addition, commanders and supervisors are required to nominate personnel with experience in the type of contract support required, to ensure they receive contract-specific training, and to consider their effectiveness as CORs when preparing performance evaluations.

Follow David Isenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/vanidan

April 30, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. Subpoenas Times Reporter Over Book on C.I.A.

By Charlies Savage   The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is seeking to compel a writer to testify about his confidential sources for a 2006 book about the Central Intelligence Agency, a rare step that was authorized by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

The author, James Risen, who is a reporter for The New York Times, received a subpoena on Monday requiring him to provide documents and to testify May 4 before a grand jury in Alexandria, Va., about his sources for a chapter of his book, “State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration.” The chapter largely focuses on problems with a covert C.I.A. effort to disrupt alleged Iranian nuclear weapons research.

Mr. Risen referred questions to his lawyer, Joel Kurtzberg, a partner at Cahill Gordon & Reindel L.L.P., who said that Mr. Risen would not comply with the demand and would ask a judge to quash the subpoena.

“He intends to honor his commitment of confidentiality to his source or sources,” Mr. Kurtzberg said. “We intend to fight this subpoena.”

The subpoena comes two weeks after the indictment of a former National Security Agency official on charges apparently arising from an investigation into a series of Baltimore Sun articles that exposed technical failings and cost overruns of several agency programs that cost billions of dollars.

The lead prosecutor in both investigations is William Welch II. He formerly led the Justice Department’s public integrity unit, but left that position in October after its botched prosecution of Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska.

Matthew A. Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to discuss the subpoena to Mr. Risen or to confirm its existence. “As a general matter, we have consistently said that leaks of classified information are a matter we take extremely seriously,” he said.

Mr. Risen and a colleague won a Pulitzer Prize for a December 2005 New York Times article that exposed the existence of the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program. While many critics — including Barack Obama, then a senator — called that program illegal, the Bush administration denounced the article as a damaging leak of classified information and opened an investigation into its sources. No one has been indicted in that matter.

The second chapter in Mr. Risen’s book provides a detailed description of the program. But Mr. Kurtzberg said the Justice Department was seeking information only about Mr. Risen’s sources for the ninth chapter, which centers on the C.I.A.’s effort to disrupt Iranian nuclear research. That material did not appear in The Times.

The book describes how the agency sent a Russian nuclear scientist — who had defected to the United States and was secretly working for the C.I.A. — to Vienna in February 2000 to give plans for a nuclear bomb triggering device to an Iranian official under the pretext that he would provide further assistance in exchange for money. The C.I.A. had hidden a technical flaw in the designs.

The scientist immediately spotted the flaw, Mr. Risen reported. Nevertheless, the agency proceeded with the operation, so the scientist decided on his own to alert the Iranians that there was a problem in the designs, thinking they would not take him seriously otherwise.

Mr. Risen described the operation as reckless, arguing that Iranian scientists may have been able to “extract valuable information from the blueprints while ignoring the flaws.” He also wrote that a C.I.A. case officer, believing that the agency had “assisted the Iranians in joining the nuclear club,” told a Congressional intelligence committee about the problems, but that no action was taken.

It is not clear whether the Iranians had figured out that the Russian scientist had been working for the C.I.A. before publication of Mr. Risen’s book.

The Bush administration had sought Mr. Risen’s cooperation in identifying his sources for the Iran chapter of his book, and it obtained an earlier subpoena against him in January 2008 under Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey. But Mr. Risen fought the subpoena, and never had to testify before it expired last summer. That left it up to Mr. Holder to decide whether to press forward with the matter by seeking a new subpoena.

If a judge does not agree to quash the subpoena and Mr. Risen still refuses to comply, he risks being held in contempt of court. In 2005, a Times reporter, Judith Miller, was jailed for 85 days for refusing to testify in connection with the Valerie Plame Wilson leak case.

Department rules say prosecutors may seek such subpoenas only if the information they are seeking is essential and cannot be obtained another way, and the attorney general must personally sign off after balancing the public’s interest in the news against the public’s interest in effective law enforcement.

Congress is considering legislation that would let judges make that determination, giving them greater power to quash subpoenas to reporters. The Obama administration supports such a media-shield bill, and the House of Representatives has passed a version of it. But a Senate version has been stalled for months.

April 29, 2010 Posted by | CIA | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Legal Case for Robot War Gets Complicated

Danger Room by Nathan Hodge Photo by Noah Shachtman

The legal debate over America’s undeclared drone war in Pakistan is getting sharper: In a congressional hearing yesterday, a prominent law professor suggested that drone operators could, in, theory, be liable to criminal prosecution for “war crimes.”

It’s just one of the many sticky legal issues raised by observers of the CIA’s (and the military’s) lethal drone operations. “This is not an academic debate,” Shane Harris of National Journal noted earlier this year. “Quietly, and with little apparent notice from the Obama administration, a broad range of important international actors are raising fundamental questions about the legality of drone strikes, particularly in countries where the United States does not have a military presence.”

Kenneth Anderson, one of the law professors involved in the discussion, stated in his testimony (.pdf) that the one of the main challenges to drone campaign comes from the “international law community” – an influential group of players that includes UN investigators, human-rights activists and other critics.

In in our comments section, Anderson elaborated a bit more on this point. “I regard the participation of the CIA in this activity as well as covert action under orders from the President and as an exercise in legitimate ’self-defense’ in international law as both legal and, from a political and policy standpoint, a very good thing,” he said. “The questions I raised were not from a belief that it was illegal or a bad idea, but that underlying many of the objections — whether from academics, activists, UN officials, and others — is a fundamental objection to the idea of a covert civilian service that in under certain circumstances uses force. I think that covert civilian service is lawful and a good idea – but underlying many people’s objections is an unstated premise that it is not.”

In an e-mail, Danger Room pal Peter Singer — who testified in the first hearing on this subject — amplified another point: The drone war has blurred the traditional lines between contractors, uniformed military and intelligence personnel. “Again, the problem isn’t so much bad people in these roles or malicious intent, but that we are really flouting the original vision of dividing out roles in realms of policy and war, such as how Title 10 [the military] and 50 [intelligence agencies] were to be something different, and that difference used to be very important both politically and legally,” he said. “Whether its doublehatting the NSA and military cyber command, the CIA recreating the 21st century equivalent of the force of B-26s it not so ‘covertly’ used in the Bay of Pigs, or the rise of ‘government owned-contractor operated’ weapons platforms, there is a lot of strange morphing of uniformed military, civilian intelligence, and private business roles going on.”

Under the Obama administration, the drone war in Pakistan has steadily escalated; CIA Director Leon Panetta has described the Predator strikes as  “the only game in town” in terms of trying to disrupt al Qaeda operations and decapitate its leadership. But the tangle of legal and bureaucratic issues created by the campaign promises to have very real political consequences.

As Mike Innes of Current Intelligence writes Danger Room: “Intelligence and SF/SOF [special operations] targeting in general is a surprisingly ordinary, bureaucratic process. Can’t imagine there’s all that much that’s fundamentally different about the drones approach. If I had to guess, there’s a long chain of individuals who take small decisions that add up to one big one. Everyone’s responsible, so no one’s responsible … which doesn’t mean someone somewhere won’t be covered in sh*t once it hits the fan over all this.”

April 29, 2010 Posted by | CIA, Civilian Contractors, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Government Made Me Do It?

by David Isenberg at Huff Post

Hmm, CACI can’t be very happy about this development. Almost about two years ago it announced the release of Our Good Name, A Company’s Fight to Defend Its Honor and Get the Truth Told About Abu Ghraib.

Written by company chairman Dr. J. Phillip (“Jack”) London and the CACI team who defended the company during the crisis the book recounted how the Iraqi Abu Ghraib prison scandal of 2004 dragged the Virginia-based contractor into the spotlight.

For those that have forgotten, CACI was one of two companies implicated in the scandal. CACI, provided interrogators and the other, Titan, provided translators. CACI provided 27 interrogators to work in detention centers in Iraq. Several worked at Abu Ghraib, including Steven Stephanowicz, who was named in General Antonio M. Taguba’s report on events in Abu Ghraib.

Among other things Gen. Tabuba found:

In general, US civilian contract personnel (Titan Corporation, CACI, etc …), third country nationals, and local contractors do not appear to be properly supervised within the detention facility at Abu Ghraib. During our on-site inspection, they wandered about with too much unsupervised free access in the detainee area.

Given that it was written by CACI and published by Regnery a conservative publishing house, it is unsurprising that the book found CACI blameless of all charges and that it was the victim of “erroneous and malicious reports by a rampaging media.”

But that was then and this is now. Most people have moved on and relegated Abu Ghraib to the ash heap of history and CACI had successfully put all this behind it. Indeed, just yesterday its latest quarterly results were announced

We are pleased to report record third quarter net income of $26.7 million, or $0.87 diluted earnings per share. This net income was a 21.6 percent increase over net income of $22.0 million, or $0.72 diluted earnings per share, for the same period last year. The 16.3 percent increase in revenue in the quarter was driven by organic growth of 14.2 percent, reflecting the continued strong performance of our defense and intelligence businesses.

Indeed, it won approximately $65 million in previously unannounced awards from the Intelligence Community.

And so CACI must be very happy; at least it probably was until this past Tuesday when the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) announced that it had asked the Supreme Court to take up the case against CACI and L-3 Services (formerly Titan).

CCR argues that the Supreme Court should hear the case because the Court of Appeals decision of September 11, 2009, gave corporate government contractors more protections than even U.S. soldiers enjoy, and constituted judicial overreaching. The lawyers also argued that the military’s own investigations had found CACI and L-3 employees participated in the torture, humiliation and dehumanization of the Iraqi civilians detained at Abu Ghraib. Finally, the lawyers argued that corporations could be held liable for war crimes, including torture, under international law.

The case it refers to is Saleh v. Titan, first filed in 2004, which is a federal lawsuit brought by more than 250 former Iraqi prisoners against private contractors CACI and L-3 Services that alleges the companies’ employees participated in torture and serious abuses while they were hired to provide interrogation and interpretation services, respectively, at Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities in Iraq.

The suit charges defendants with torture and other war crimes, as well as common law torts including sexual assault and battery, and negligent hiring and supervision. The acts to which the plaintiffs alleged they were subjected at the hands of the defendants and certain government co-conspirators include: rape and threats of rape and other forms of sexual assault; being forced to watch a family member tortured and abused so badly that he died; repeated beatings, including beatings with chains, boots and other objects; forced nudity; hooding; being detained in isolation; being urinated on and otherwise humiliated.

The history of the case thus far is that on November 6, 2007, U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson denied CACI’s motion for summary judgment and ordered a jury trial against CACI. CACI appealed this ruling to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. In the same Order, Judge Robertson granted Titan’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing the case against Titan.

On September 11, 2009, in a 2-1 decision, a panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed the dismissal of all claims against Titan/L-3, and, reversing the district court’s decision, also dismissed all claims against CACI. Judge Merrick Garland, in his lengthy dissent, critiqued the “breadth of the protective cloak” that the majority “cast over the activities of private contractors.”

When one reads the suit one finds gems like this:

Respondent CACI admitted that CACI management was present at Abu Ghraib, and had the authority to stop their employees from torturing detainees. Respondent CACI claimed that their employees were nonetheless under the military’s command and control.

Of course, one wants to hear what CACI has to say about this new suit but one hope that its defense is something other than they were just following orders. Nuremberg-like defenses do not have much credibility these days. The government made me do it is not a sufficient defense for many regular military personnel and even less so for private contractors.

Follow David Isenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/vanidan

April 29, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Private Military Contractors, Wartime Contracting | , , , | Leave a comment

KBR 1Q profit slides 40 percent on military losses

Engineering and construction company KBR Inc. said its first quarter earnings fell 40 percent, as income from Iraq and Afghanistan faded.

Shares slid 6 percent Thursday before the market opened.

The company is one of the largest military contractors for the U.S. and cited the loss of awards under the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program.

KBR said it received no award fee recognition from the program in the first quarter, an impact of 8 cents per share.

KBR was excluded from a contract to receive a combined $3 billion contract from the Army last year to provide a wide-range of support services to U.S. troops in Afghanistan last year. The contract was awarded to defense contractors DynCorp International and Fluor.

Government officials have questioned KBR’s quality of work and earlier this month, the U.S. sued KBR over what prosecutors say were improper charges to the Army for private security services.

The company, based in Houston, said late Wednesday it earned $46 million, or 29 cents per share, compared with $77 million, or 48 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue fell 18 percent to $2.63 billion.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a profit of 39 cents per share on revenue of $2.75 billion.

KBR built everything from water and sanitation systems to base camps for the Army under the LogCAP III contract, in addition to providing other logistical support for U.S. forces. KBR said the loss of these award fees hurt earnings by about 5 cents per share.

The company was spun off from Halliburton in 2007.  Original here

April 29, 2010 Posted by | KBR | , , , | Leave a comment

Foreign contractors could face prosecution in U.S. courts

By Robert Brodsky Gov Exec

Foreign contractors could soon face civil or criminal prosecution in U.S. courts for acts committed overseas.

On Wednesday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a bill (S. 526) that would require foreign companies working on government contracts to consent to “personal jurisdiction” in U.S. federal courts for civil action or criminal prosecution related to alleged wrongdoing in connection with the contracts.

The legislation, introduced in March 2009 by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., would provide legal protection to any U.S. service member, government employee or American contract employee who alleges an overseas company caused serious bodily injury, including death, rape or sexual assault. Companies failing to appear in court to answer charges could be suspended or debarred from contracting.

The bill is named for Lt. Col. Dominic Baragona, who was commander of the 19th Maintenance Battalion in Iraq when he was killed by a supply truck driven by an employee of Kuwait Gulf and Link Transport Co., a Defense contractor. The Baragona family attempted to sue the company for wrongful death, but the firm successfully argued that American courts lacked jurisdiction.

“It’s not right that soldiers can get killed and the contractor can just thumb their nose,” McCaskill said at a committee meeting Wednesday.

McCaskill, who held a hearing on the Baragona case last November, said she amended the legislation to address concerns the Pentagon raised about the bill’s application and retroactivity.  Original Here

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Legal Jurisdictions, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blackwater Will Be Allowed to Bid on Big State Department Contract

By Spencer Ackerman 4/28/10

GUANTANAMO BAY — A brief detour from my Guantanamo coverage, as a State Department official, speaking only on background, confirmed something else I’ve been working on. The private security company formerly known as Blackwater and now known as Xe Services, will be allowed to bid on the next generation of the State Department’s lucrative Worldwide Protective Services Contract. The company’s track record of killing Iraqi civilians, shooting at Afghan civilians, taking for personal use U.S. military-issued rifles from the Afghan police and setting up shell companies to win government contracts will not be an obstacle.

Once again, the fact that no federal acquisition official has recommended Blackwater be barred from bidding on federal contracts means, the official said, that “any company, including Xe Services and its subsidiary companies, [may] submit a proposal in response to an acquisition process established on the basis of full and open competition.” While a Blackwater/Xe Services spokeswoman did not reply to repeated phone calls seeking comment before I left for Guantanamo, she told me last year that the company intends to bid on the contract — which is the successor contract to the one that allowed it to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place.

Nor is the fact that the Iraqi government took away Blackwater’s license to operate in Iraq a dealbreaker. “The solicitation is for undefined worldwide requirements,” the State Department official said, meaning any specific country “license is not required for the award of the base contract.”

The last Worldwide Protective Services contract, as it’s formally known, was awarded to a consortium of three firms: Blackwater/Xe, Triple Canopy and DynCorp. This time around, State intends to award it to six firms, who will then bid on the right to protect diplomats in specific dangerous countries. The year-long contract has an annual option for renewal for four years, making it essentially a four-year contract. Its cost has yet to be determined, but it’ll be announced — along with the winners — by September 30. A back-of-the-envelope calculation places the value of the previous WPS contract at $2.2 billion.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), whose Armed Services Committee uncovered the shell-company establishment and the Afghanistan weapons diversions, wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder in February to request the Justice Department investigate the company for fraud.

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Blackwater, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, State Department, Wartime Contracting | , , | Leave a comment

Eric W. Hooker, Civilian Contractor, Died April 21, Iraq

Drums man working as contractor killed in Iraq

A Drums man who died in Iraq while serving as a contractor is the first civilian to have government video coverage granted for the dignified transfer of his body.

Eric W. Hooker, 41, of Clear Springs Circle, died April 21, and his body was returned from Iraq to Dover Air Force Base.

Capt. Newman Robertson of Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations at Dover could not give any details about Hooker, but did confirm that Hooker was the first civilian to have such coverage granted by the Department of Defense.

Under a policy approved by the defense department last year, the deceased’s next of kin decides whether to allow media outlets to be on hand for dignified transfers.

The next of kin also decides whether to allow internal coverage, in which media outlets are barred from attending but the deceased’s family receives a recording of the transfer produced by Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations, Robertson explained.

The other option, he said, is to disallow any type of coverage by the media or the government.

Hooker, according to his obituary, was a U.S. Army veteran. In Iraq, he was employed as a loss prevention manager for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service of Dallas, Texas.

It was unclear Tuesday how Hooker died. Messages left with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service public affairs office were not returned, and calls to Hooker’s Drums home went unanswered.

Eric W Hooker

April 21, 2010

Eric W. Hooker, 41, of Clear Springs Circle, Drums, passed away April 21 in Iraq while serving as a civilian contractor with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service.

Eric returned to the United States from Iraq at Dover Air Force Base. He became the first civilian to be granted a dignified transfer ceremony under a new policy from the Department of Defense.

Born in Los Angeles, Calif., on May 27, 1968, he was the son of the late William E. and Doreen (Maude) Hooker and resided in Drums for the past six years after moving from Hanover.

While serving in Iraq, he was employed as a loss prevention manager for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, headquartered in Dallas, Texas. Although not currently on active duty, Eric was an Army veteran, and was also a member of the American Legion.

Eric was a member of Hazle Azalea Fellowship Lodge No. 327 of the Masons. He was a member of the Shriners and was also a member of the Civil Air Patrol.

Eric was a loving husband and father, who enjoyed riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Surviving are his loving wife of the past 18 years, the former Stacey Lynn Easten; and a daughter, Paige Leigh Hooker, at home.

A celebration of life memorial gathering to share memories and stories will be held Friday at 11:30 a.m. at Beech Mountain Lakes Community Clubhouse, Beech Mountain, Route 309. There will be no viewing.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Eric W. Hooker Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o KNBT Bank, 24 S. Hunter Highway, Route 309, Drums, PA 18222.

Harman Funeral Homes and Crematory Inc. (East), 669 W. Butler Drive, Drums, is assisting the family with the arrangements.

Condolences may be e-mailed from and more information is available at www .harmanfuneral.com.

Former Conewago supervisor dies in Iraq

Eric Hooker supposedly died of natural causes while working as a civilian contractor.


Updated: 05/02/2010 08:29:40 AM EDT

A former Conewago Township supervisor and Adams County prison guard died last week while serving as a civilian contractor in Iraq with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service.

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// ]]>Eric W. Hooker, 41, currently of Drums, Pa., apparently died of natural causes April 21, according to Chris Ward, of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Public Affairs Office.

Hooker moved to Drums six years ago after living in Hanover where he sat on the Conewago Township Board of Supervisors for two years out of his six-year term.

In his brief time as a supervisor, before his family moved to Drums, Hooker argued the township manager had too much power and pushed for the manager ordinance to be revamped to give more authority to the board of supervisors and to allow for a variety of other changes.

Former supervisor and current Penn Township Police Officer Travis Shearer said Hooker was a “great guy and family man.”

The two met while running for the board of supervisors, and were behind the push for changing the manager ordinance.

“He put a lot of hard work into the township,” Shearer said, adding that the time got cut short because of Hooker’s job offer and move out of the area.

Shearer said their work together, however brief, brought justice and change to a few areas in the township that needed to be addressed.

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Defense Base Act | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Afghan court jails Briton on bribery charges

A British manager of a firm providing security to the UK embassy in Kabul has been jailed for two years after being found guilty of bribery charges

Ex-army officer Bill Shaw was tried by the Afghan anti-corruption court, partly funded by the UK government.

He was also fined $25,000 (£16,185). Reports say his lawyers will appeal against his conviction.

Shaw admitted paying for the release of two armoured cars – impounded by the Afghan authorities last October.

But his defence lawyer insisted Shaw thought he was making an official release payment rather than handing over a bribe.

The BBC’s Martin Patience in Kabul says his trial was one of the first cases heard by an anti-corruption court which was set up to help the Afghan government crack down on corruption.

But there are suggestions that Shaw’s conviction is an attempt by the Afghan government to prove its claim that foreigners are responsible for most of the country’s corruption, our correspondent adds.

This has been denied by the Afghan authorities.

‘Not bribe’

Shaw said he believed he was paying a legitimate fine to release two vehicles that were impounded by the national directorate due to licensing irregularities, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reports.

It says Shaw arranged with a man called Eidi Mohammad for the cars to be released in return for $25,000.

His lawyer argued in court that the fact that he attempted at the time the money was paid and for weeks afterwards to get a receipt proved that he had not intended to pay a bribe.

Shaw also co-operated with authorities, voluntarily attending interviews with investigators, the newspaper said.

He also returned to the country after a 12-day holiday in the UK in early January before he was arrested on 3 March, it added.

According to reports, Shaw is now set to be moved to Pul-e-Charkhi prison – a notorious jail on the outskirts of the capital, Kabul – in the coming days.

His lawyer Kimberley Motley said the trial had been poorly conducted and that there would be an immediate appeal.

“For some reason [the tribunal] decided not to follow Afghan law or the UN conventions to which Afghanistan is a party. Furthermore, the presumption of innocence did not exist for him,” she told the Guardian.

The security firm Shaw worked for – G4S – said his conviction – along with an Afghan colleague – was “patently unfair”.

A former soldier, Shaw served for 28 years in the British army and was awarded the MBE, an official British honour.

Original Story here

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taliban protection payoffs denied by contractor

Afghan MP suggests bribery a fact of life

Allegations that a private security firm has been bribing Taliban and other insurgents to ensure safe passage for NATO convoys in Afghanistan are being denied by a key player in the business.

Kabul-based Watan Risk Management was among the private companies fingered in recent media reports alleging that the firms are paying off insurgents to protect supply routes, essentially funnelling international funds to the very groups troops are fighting against.

“We want to clear our position,” Watan Group’s owner, Ahmad Rateb Popal, told the CBC’s Amanda Lang in an exclusive interview in Dubai.

“I know every penny, where we are spending it, where it’s coming from and where it goes. And none of it is going to the Taliban.”

Popal heads Watan Group, a consortium, while his brother Rashid Popal runs its military arm Watan Risk Management.

Among the company’s contracts is the protection of supply convoys travelling Highway 1, a key Afghanistan road linking the cities of Kabul and Kandahar, located in the province of Kandahar, where most Canadian troops are located.

Experts question claims

Popal argues it would be impossible to pay off the patchwork of insurgent groups attacking the supply routes, since there’s no single commander.

Watan Risk Management also has the highest casualty rate among private security firms, he notes, with an average of 50 deaths per month between May and October 2009.

But some experts don’t buy Popal’s denials.

Afghan member of parliament Nur-ul-haq Olomi, former chair of the government’s defence affairs committee, paints bribery as simply a fact of life in the war-torn country.

“Security company, without paying that money, cannot keep safe … this kind of convoy,” Olomi said.  Read the full story here

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Wartime Contracting | , , , , | Leave a comment

State Beats Pentagon, Unfortunately

David Isenberg at Huff Post

Recently I wrote about the contract for training the Afghan National Police. Actually I wrote about a Newsweek/Pro Publica article on the subject. This contract was held DynCorp which naturally enough, given some of the allegations in the article, took exception with what I wrote.

I don’t know what the truth is. T. Christian Miller from Pro Publica who worked on the article has an outstanding record on reporting on this issue. But DynCorp said it had records proving it did everything required under the contract. Hopefully, the truth of the matter will come out in the near future.

But since DynCorp subsequently brought up the issue of its record, albeit limited to Afghanistan, I think it fair to look back further. So let’s step into Mr. Peabody’s time machine and look at its performance doing similar training in Iraq.

We don’t have to travel very far in time; only to February 24, when the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight, chaired by Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) held a hearing, “Hard Lessons Learned in Iraq and Benchmarks for Future Reconstruction Efforts.” The witness was Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). Before you read the below excerpt. bear in mind that it says as much about the U.S. government as it does about DynCorp.

REP. CARNAHAN: Thank you. Now I want to move on to talk about the issue of the police training. When I traveled to Iraq back in early 2005, I had a tour of a police training facility, and there was much fanfare about — this was one of the highest priorities for success in the country, and substantial funding had been provided to it, and there were glowing numbers about how quickly they were going to get the numbers of police trained up to where they needed to be. And, you know, even today, as you mentioned, General McChrystal saying, you know, that’s one of the number one priorities, is to get our police trained. You know, between 2005 and now we haven’t seen anywhere near the progress that we need to have seen. And I guess with the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by December 31, 2011, what challenges do you foresee — I guess my first question – what challenges in terms of the transition and responsibility from the military to state, and do you believe state will be able to successfully take over that training program in October of 2011? MR. BOWEN: First of all, great question, because I think it is the critical issue to ensure improved security in Iraq going forward. We’re going to go down to 50,000 troops in four months. And that’s going to obviously mean that the Iraqis have to shoulder the complete security burden moving forward. We have trained hundreds of thousands of police and equipped them over the last five years, and we’re doing an audit now to provide you the particulars of how the military executed the police training contract. And that’ll be out later this year.

But the transition issue I think that’s paramount is the fact that the contract and the management of the contract that we criticize in this — most recent audits, the DynCorp contract, is up for bid right now in Iraq, and no surprise. DynCorp is one of the bidders for that, and I think that it’s got — it’s a contract that has to be managed by the State Department. And the core of our criticism was the lack of in-country oversight, the failure to review invoices, the questions raised about the vulnerability to fraud and waste regarding billions of taxpayer dollars.

Those weaknesses have not been remedied yet. Now, Deputy Secretary Lew, when I met with him on this a month ago, assured me that he is going to take a personal interest and ensure that there is adequate oversight. But that promise needs to be fulfilled, and thus, here is the issue, the number one issue, ensuring contract management of this continuingly very expensive oversight package for Iraq.

REP. CARNAHAN: So to the question of this transition, how do you see that happening?

MR. BOWEN: Well, I have visited with the State Department, individual in charge of management. It’s going to be a radical reform, I think, of the approach simply because of the limited assets the State Department has vis-a-vis the Department of Defense. And so it’s going to move, as he described it, up to 30,000 feet from 5,000 feet. It’s going to be about macro improvements to ministry capacity, and it’ll be a reduction — there won’t be the individual police training execution at the level that’s going on now.

REP. CARNAHAN: And to the specific contract, you indicated we have put $2.5 billion into police training — that’s correct —

MR. BOWEN: Mm-hmm, yes, sir.

REP. CARNAHAN: — and that this is the largest single contract —


REP. CARNAHAN: — in all of the Iraq reconstruction?

MR. BOWEN: In State Department —


MR. BOWEN: — in — the State Department has ever managed.

REP. CARNAHAN: In State Department history.


REP. CARNAHAN: And how many U.S. government officials were overseeing this contract?

MR. BOWEN: In-country contracting Office of Representatives — three. This is the tough story here, Chairman Carnahan. We looked at this four years ago, and the problem we identified four years ago was lack of contract management raised in our first audit issued in first month of 2007. Then we got into the whole contract and found that it was inauditable, and so we issued a review in October saying the State Department asked for three to five years to get their records in order because it just — it was a mess. And then we went in in 2008 to see if there were remedial measures, and there were. Then we go in last summer and find the same problem, three people in-country overseeing a contact that has — that is spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. And more disturbing — the lack of clarity about who was supposed to do what. The in-country contracting Office of Representatives — my auditors interviewed said well, invoice accountability is being done back in Washington. We went back to Washington, asked them. They said it’s being done in Iraq. Huge vulnerability.

REP. CARNAHAN: And with regard to the contractor, DynCorp, describe how that contract was initially awarded.

MR. BOWEN: It was an existing contract that was held by the State Department that was used
— I don’t have the specific facts of the bidding process, but it was in existence in 2004 and used to apply to this program in — at the level of $2.5 billion. And again, as I said, it was DOD money that went into it. So I think DOD was looking for a vehicle that it could use to spend this money, and it did so, and I think there are some questions about that process. But it certainly shows how bifurcated or disjointed both the source of the money, the contract management of the money, and then the execution of the contract, all different places. It shows, I think, just the lack of clarity in stabilization reconstruction contracting.

REP. CARNAHAN: And in your reviews, to what extent can you account for how that money has been spent?

MR. BOWEN: As I said, we’re looking at the execution of it now. My auditors in Iraq are
today reviewing that matter, and the outcomes, which are an important question for you, we
will answer later this year.

REP. CARNAHAN: And you expect that report out when?

MR. BOWEN: By July. No later than July.

REP. CARNAHAN: I’m going to yield to Judge Poe.

REP. POE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I had just one question. Which of our government agencies, in your opinion, was the most irresponsible about money, DOD, State Department, USAID?

MR. BOWEN: I think that the State Department did not carry out its contract oversight responsibilities sufficiently enough. In this particular contract we’re discussing – is the most egregious example of that. And the disturbing point is it hasn’t remediated that weakness sufficiently today.

REP. POE: All right, thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

REP. CARNAHAN: Thank you, Judge Poe. Yeah, I think if — I don’t know anything about police training, but if I had a $2.5 billion contract, I think I could figure out a way to train police. I mean, that’s outrageous.

Think about that last question and Bowen’s answer for a moment. When the State Department is judged to be more irresponsible than the Pentagon in terms of contract oversight you know you have a huge problem on your hands.

Follow David Isenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/vanidan

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, DynCorp, Pentagon, State Department | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

KBR files motion to dismiss hexavalent chromium lawsuit filed by Oregon soldiers

By Julie Sullivan, The Oregonian

Attorneys for Kellogg, Brown & Root have filed a second motion to dismiss an Oregon Army National Guardsmen lawsuit against the war contractor, saying the Oregon court lacks jurisdiction over the federal government’s military and foreign policy decisions in wartime.

Friday’s filing comes three weeks after U.S. District Judge Magistrate Paul Papak denied an earlier motion to dismiss, ruling that the case should go forward.

Twenty-one current and former Oregon Army National Guard soldiers, mostly from the Portland area, are suing the Houston-based firm and four of its subsidiaries saying they were intentionally exposed to the cancer-causing chemical, hexavalent chromium after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Troops from Oregon, Indiana and West Virginia were ordered to guard KBR employees working to restore oil production in southern Iraq. Soldiers from all three states have filed lawsuits. They claim that at the Qarmat Ali water plant near Basra, KBR ignored and downplayed the health risks of a corrosion-fighter scattered across the facility that contained hexavalent chromium. Soldiers allege breathing, stomach and other health problems as a result. At least two soldiers, including one in Oregon, died of cancer after serving at the plant.

According to the 41-page memorandum, KBR attorneys wrote the firm won the Army Corps of Engineers’ contract to “Restore Iraqi Oil” 17 days before the United States invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003. Restoring oil flow from the dilapidated and heavily looted Iraqi facilities was one of the United States’ most pressing goals, attorneys said. The circa-1970s water plant at Qarmat Ali was particularly important, as it provided the needed water pressure to all the oil wells across southern Iraq.

KBR attorneys Jeffrey Eden  and Stephen Deatherage  wrote that under its contract, KBR was not required to conduct an environmental assessment at Qarmat Ali. U.S. soldiers who did conduct an initial assessment shortly after the invasion noted the orange stains on the soil, but did not ask for further investigation. Instead, they recommended a new plant be built altogether.

The Corps of Engineers decided not to rebuild the plant, but rather repair it and decided not to conduct a full environmental assessment due to the wartime conditions.

KBR attorneys also said that the U.S. and British military, not KBR, were responsible for notifying soldiers of the potential exposure and determining whether and to what extent they were exposed.
The attorneys further claim that the same Federal Tort Claims Act which prevents individuals from suing the government in all but very limited circumstances, should apply to the contractor.

“KBR performing a common mission with the military under military command in a military theater.’

KBR has been barraged with lawsuits ranging from soldiers’ who claimed they were injured by burn pits the to families of drivers killed in Iraq.

The soldiers attorney, David Sugerman,  vowed to go forward.

“We want Oregon soldiers to have their day in court.”

A hearing has been scheduled for 10 a.m. June 7 in federal court in Portland.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Toxic | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kidnappers release four UN South African peacekeepers in Darfur

Earthtimes April 26

New York – Four United Nations peacekeepers from South Africa were released Monday after 16 days in captivity in Sudan’s Darfur region, the UN said.The four police advisers, two women and two men, in the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) were abducted in Nyala on April 11. They underwent medical examinations and were flown back to their home country, the UN said.Ibrahim Gambari, the UNAMID special representative, was in Nyala to greet the four peacekeepers.”We are grateful to have our colleagues back with us,” Gambari said in a statement published at UN headquarters in New York. He said the release was made possible thanks to the intervention of the Khartoum government with the “local authorities” in southern Darfur. The UN did not say who the kidnappers were.

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Africa, Civilian Contractors | , , , | Leave a comment

Schofield Soldier, Spc. Beyshee O. Velez, pleads not guilty to murder in Iraq

by William Cole the Honolulu Advertiser

A Schofield Barracks soldier this morning pleaded not guilty in military court to charges that he murdered a civilian contractor on a U.S. military base in northern Iraq.

Spc. Beyshee O. Velez, 32, a medic and three-time Iraq war veteran, is accused of fatally shooting contractor Lucas “Trent” Vinson at Contingency Operating Base Speicher on Sept. 13, 2009.

An Army mental fitness board previously found that Velez had experienced a “short psychotic episode,” but the board also determined that the soldier was fit to stand trial, according to Velez’ civilian attorney, Philip D. Cave.

On March 11, the commander of the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks referred charges against Velez including two counts of murder, three counts of assault, and one count of fleeing apprehension, officials said.

Cave said the government has provided initial funding for the defense for a ballistics and crime scene expert, forensic pathologist and forensic psychologist to evaluate the case.

A military judge presiding over the case this morning at Wheeler Army Airfield said he wanted to know by July 13 whether Velez would be seeking a trial by a judge or jury. A date of Oct. 12 was set as the “likely” trial date.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Defense Base Act, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Department of Defense employee dies in Iraq

RELEASE No. 20100424-02
April 24, 2010

TAJI, Iraq – A Department of Defense employee died in Iraq of unknown causes; the employee worked as a non-combatant for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service.  AAFES is headquartered in Dallas, Texas.

The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense.

The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/.  The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member’s primary next of kin.

The incident is under investigation.

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Defense Base Act | , , , | Leave a comment