Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Defense bans contractors from interrogating detainees

By Robert Brodsky rbrodsky@govexec.com November 4, 2010 at Government Executive

The Pentagon has issued an interim rule that would formally prevent private contractors from interrogating detainees in military custody.

The notice, published on Wednesday in the Federal Register, implements a fiscal 2010 National Defense Authorization Act provision by allowing only government personnel to question detainees.

The statute, however, does permit the Defense secretary to waive the prohibition temporarily if doing so is “vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

Interrogation is a key tool for the United States and its allies to win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the practice must operate legally and should support the military’s mission overseas, according to the rule.

“It is imperative that contractor activities in support of these efforts comply with the law and do not detract from the commander’s intent in order to contribute to mission success,” the draft regulation stated. “A lack of compliance affects the perception of both local citizens and the international community, which would provide support to our adversaries that will adversely impact the U.S. government’s efforts.”

The CIA already has stopped using private contractors for interrogations.

While private sector firms will not be allowed to grill detainees, they will be permitted to assist in the interrogation.

At the request of the Obama administration, lawmakers revised the 2010 authorization measure to allow contractor personnel with proper training and security clearances to serve as linguists, interpreters, report writers, information technology technicians, and trainers and advisers to the interrogators.

The contractors must be subject to the same laws, rules, procedures and policies as the government interrogators, and qualified and trained Defense Department personnel must oversee them to ensure they do not perform prohibited activities.

“In some limited cases, a contract interrogator may possess the best combination of skills to obtain critical intelligence, and this provision, therefore, could prevent U.S. forces from conducting lawful interrogations in the most effective manner,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a July 2009 statement of policy on the Defense measure.

The final version of the law defines detainees as “enemy prisoners of war, civilian internees and retained personnel” but not Defense Department or contractor personnel being held for law enforcement purposes.

The provision was a response to allegations that employees of private firms CACI International Inc. and L-3 Communication (formerly Titan Corp.) conspired to torture detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003 and 2004.

Some of the Iraqi detainees have successfully sued the firms, but the companies have appealed the ruling. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., is hearing the case. Contractors are arguing they are covered by the same level of immunity that protects U.S. soldiers from being sued by enemy combatants in wartime.

“Immediate implementation of this statute is necessary to preclude a contracting officer from inadvertently awarding a contract that allows for the interrogation of detainees by contractor personnel,” the interim rule stated.

Please see the original article here and leave your comments

Defense will accept comments on the rule through Jan. 3, 2011. They can be submitted by e-mail at dfars@osd.mil; through the Regulations.gov website; or by mail to:

Defense Acquisition Regulations System
Attn.: Julian E. Thrash, OUSD (AT&L) DPAP/DARS
3060 Defense Pentagon, Room 3B855
Washington, D.C. 20301-3060

November 5, 2010 Posted by | CIA, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, Pentagon | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whistleblower Exposed Fraud By The Louis Berger Group; $69.3 Million Settlement Sets Record for Afghanistan and Iraq Contractor Fraud Case

BALTIMORE, Nov. 5, 2010 /PRNewswire/ — A whistleblower lawsuit was the basis for the federal government’s fraud case against the Louis Berger Group that settled today for $69.3 million — the largest recovery in a case involving war-zone contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The “qui tam” (whistleblower) lawsuit against Louis Berger was filed in 2006 “under seal” as the False Claims Act requires in qui tam cases, so it wasn’t publicly known until today when the court lifted the seal and the record settlement was announced. Louis Berger has agreed to pay $46.5 million to settle the whistleblower case, $4.1 to settle other contractual disputes and $18.7 million for a criminal fine.

The whistleblower, Harold Salomon, was a senior financial analyst/auditor for Louis Berger in New Jersey. His lawsuit exposed Louis Berger’s practice of billing the government for indirect and overhead costs that were unrelated to its government contracts. Louis Berger has some of the biggest U.S. contracts for rebuilding projects in Afghanistan.

“Today I can affirm to those who told me the Louis Berger Group can get away with anything that they were wrong,” said Salomon. “To those who said, ‘If you cannot beat them, you have to join them,’ I say they were wrong, too.”

Fraud, waste and abuse by war-zone contractors is estimated to cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars. But fraud cases can be difficult to pursue because of the chaos of war, the lack of a paper trail and other factors. A Department of Justice official estimated earlier this week that the U.S. has recovered only $80 million from cases involving U.S. contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan (excluding the Louis Berger settlement).

“Louis Berger manipulated its accounting system and overhead rate to steal millions from the federal government – money that was supposed to be used to rebuild Afghanistan,” said Peter W Chatfield, a Washington, DC, attorney with Phillips & Cohen, which represented the whistleblower. “The government never would have uncovered this sophisticated scheme without an insider such as our client, Harold Salomon, who had the knowledge and the integrity to stop the fraud.”

Louis Berger’s fraud hurt the U.S. war effort, said Tim McCormack, another Washington, DC, attorney with Phillips & Cohen.

“Fraud undermines U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said McCormack. “Money that should have been used to build roads, clinics and schools in Afghanistan to win support of the Afghan people was used instead to build Louis Berger’s profits.”

Chatfield and McCormack commended the government attorneys and investigators who worked on the case, particularly Michael DiPietro and Tarra Deshields from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore, Russell Kinner from the Department of Justice and the investigative teams from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Defense Contract Audit Agency.

“This was a true team effort,” Chatfield said. “The government attorneys and investigators invested an incredible amount of time and effort into this case. They worked diligently with Mr. Salomon to unwind this sophisticated, fraudulent scheme.”

The False Claims Act allows whistleblowers to sue companies that are defrauding the government and receive a reward if the government recovers any funds as a result. Salomon plans to donate a portion of his reward to the American-Haitian Association for Medical Economic & Educational Support (www.ahames.org), a non-profit group he founded that provides health care and funds various economic development projects in Haiti.

“It is a blessing to have the opportunity to contribute a little to society and at the same time reach out to those in need thru AHAMES,” Salomon said.

Phillips & Cohen represents whistleblowers nationwide in False Claims Act cases and in claims involving tax law and securities law violations made under the Internal Revenue Service’s and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s whistleblower reward programs. It is the nation’s most successful law firm representing whistleblowers. The firm’s whistleblower cases have recovered more than $6.89 billion in civil settlements and related criminal fines and have earned its clients more than $730 million in rewards. For more information, see www.phillipsandcohen.com.

See Harold Salomon’s full statement at http://www.phillipsandcohen.com/CM/NewsSettlements/NewsSettlements618.asp.

Settlement agreement is posted at http://www.phillipsandcohen.com/CM/NewsSettlements/Louis%20Berger%20civil%20settlement%20agreement.pdf.

SOURCE Phillips & Cohen LLP

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November 5, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Whistleblower | , , , | 1 Comment

Judge allows fraud case against translator company

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge wants a closer examination of allegations a defense contractor knowingly hired interpreters who failed language proficiency exams and sent them to work alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema on Friday rejected a bid by the contractor, Mission Essential Personnel of Columbus, Ohio, to have the case thrown out. Attorneys for the company argued the suit filed by Paul Funk, a former Mission Essential Personnel employee, is based on speculation and assertions.

But Brinkema said she is allowing the case to move forward because the service being provided to the government — qualified translators working in a war zone — is so important to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.  Please read the original article here

November 5, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Mission Essential Personnel, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , | Leave a comment