Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Civilian appeals conviction by military court

By MARK SHERMAN, 06.01.11, 05:52 PM EDT AP at Forbes

ARLINGTON, Va. — The first civilian convicted by a military court in more than 40 years is arguing that the Constitution forbids military justice for civilians.

A lawyer for former Army translator Alaa “Alex” Mohammad Ali told an Army appeals court Wednesday that upholding Ali’s conviction would be a “slippery slope” that would lead to increased use of military courts for civilians

Ali, an Iraqi-Canadian, was prosecuted by the military after an altercation in Iraq during which he allegedly stole a U.S. soldier’s knife and used it to stab another translator. He pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

The case is the first under a 2006 law making it easier to bring criminal charges against civilians working for the U.S. military. Defendants have fewer rights in military than in U.S. civilian courts.

The 2006 provision was intended to close a legal loophole that made military prosecution of civilians very difficult without a formal declaration of war by Congress. The fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq has occurred without a congressional war declaration.

In a series of rulings dating back to the 1950s, the Supreme Court has greatly narrowed the use of courts martials for civilians.

Please read the entire story here

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions | , , , | Leave a comment

Conflict of interest: Contractors and their political spending

By Robert Reich  Marketplace,  Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It is no secret that companies spend money lobbying Congress. But there’s a new wrinkle to the relationship between corporations and federal money.

Robert Reich Robert Reich

Tess Vigeland: President Obama met with Congressional Republicans at the White House today. The agenda: coming to an agreement on the government’s ability to borrow. The debt ceiling. The big sticking point is whether spending cuts will be attached to that legislation.

But commentator Robert Reich wants another policy topic front and center. And he says, it too, has a lot to do with your taxpayer dollars.

Robert Reich: President Obama is mulling an executive order requiring that big government contractors disclose their political spending. He should stop their political spending altogether.

Take Lockheed Martin, the nation’s largest contractor. The company has received nearly $20 billion in federal contracts so far this year. It’s already spent more than $4 million lobbying Congress.

Lockheed has also been spending more than $3 million a year on political contributions to members of Congress that vote its way. And an undisclosed amount to the Aerospace Industries Association to lobby for a bigger Defense budget.

But wait a minute. You and I and other taxpayers are Lockheed’s biggest customer. As such, we are financing this political activity. It’s one of the most insidious conflicts of interest in American politics.

And Lockheed is hardly unique. The 10 biggest government contractors are all defense contractors. Every one of them gets most of its revenues from the federal government. And everyone uses a portion of that money to lobby for even more Defense contracts.

Please read the entire interview here

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Follow the Money, Government Contractor | , , , | Leave a comment

Long Path to Courtroom for War Contractor Accused of Bribery

by T Christian Miller at Propublica June 1, 2011

For proof that the wheels of justice turn slowly for private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sometimes bog down all together, look no further than the indictment [1] this week of George H. Lee, American businessman.

A federal grand jury indicted Lee on charges that he allegedly paid bribes to military officers to win contracts for his company, Lee Dynamics International. The company, a family affair that included Lee’s son, Justin W. Lee (also indicted this week), provided bottled water, food, living quarters, and all kinds of everyday items that form the backbone of a military logistical operation. George Lee also stands accused of setting up fake bank accounts, buying airplane tickets for contracting officials, and sending them on spa trips.

According to prosecutors, Lee’s wrongdoing began back in 2004 — almost seven years ago.

Several military officials were held accountable for their roles in his schemes long ago. Maj. John Cockerham pleaded guilty to taking millions of dollars in bribes from Lee and received a 17-year prison sentence [2]. Maj. Gloria Davis killed herself shortly after allegedly confessing to authorities that she had taken a $225,000 payment from Lee.

But it has proven exceptionally difficult to bring Lee himself to justice. Even the indictments this week do not signal the end of the hunt. Lee remains at large, perhaps in Kuwait or Dubai [3]. His son is expected to appear in court in the U.S. The government barred Lee Dynamics from receiving further contracts in 2007.

The case provides further evidence of how difficult it is to secure convictions against private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, no matter how severe the crime. A number of private security guards accused of killing civilians have escaped sanction. Most notably, a judge dismissed [4] all charges in 2009 against five guards from the firm Blackwater for killing 17 Iraqis in a well-publicized shooting in Nisour square.

After nearly a decade of war, few mechanisms exist to investigate wrongdoing by the private sector, despite increasing reliance on contractors by the U.S. military. Attempts to bring private contractors under the military justice system have stalled. When federal investigators with the FBI or the inspectors general for Iraq and Afghanistan have attempted to collect evidence for cases filed in civilian courts, they have struggled to meet the demands of the American justice system.

We’ve annotated the indictment [1] to note highlights of the case and what it shows about difficulty of achieving accountability under the largest, most expensive U.S. reconstruction effort since the Marshall Plan.

Please see the original at ProPublica

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Department of Defense, Follow the Money, Government Contractor, Iraq | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

U.S. Army misled public about Acinetobacter outbreak’s origins, report shows

Injured Civilian Contractors were infected with Acinetobacter baumannii in the military medical evacuation system causing many to lose limbs and some their lives.  At a minimum, treatment for an Acinetobacter baumannii infection causes a much longer recovery time and life long implications.

If you suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury your freshly compressed brain cells were bathed in the huge doses of highly nuerotoxic antibiotics prophylacticly whether or not you had this infection creating a hostile environment for recovery at the very least.

by Bryant Furlow at EpiNewsWire  May 30, 2011

The U.S. Army Public Health Command has released an incomplete list of epidemiological consultation (EPICON) studies from the past decade to epiNewswire, without mentioning the fact that the titles of some studies were not on the list.

One politically-sensitive Army report excluded from the disclosed list is a 2005 EPICON study detailing the spread of multidrug-resistant Acinetobacter infections from contaminated military hospitals in Iraq throughout the military hospital system.

That report details evidence that that improper use of antibiotics and unsanitary conditions at U.S. military hospitals were responsible for the deadly outbreak of Acinetobacter infections among wounded troops, and that the outbreak had spread to civilian patients in the U.S. and Germany, killing several of them.

But for several years after the study’s completion, Army health officials continued to downplay the risk to civilians and to make misleading statements to soldiers and the public, claiming Acinetobacter infections were from Iraqi soil in soldiers’ blast wounds.

In reality, Acinetobacter “wound infections were relatively uncommon,” the 2005 Acinetobacter EPICON report states. “Pre-hospital, primary wound infections in-theater are not likely to have a significant role in transmission.”

In Iraq, military surgeons were using broad-spectrum antibiotics as prophylactics against infection, “introducing a greater risk of multi-drug resistant organisms (MDRO) evolving as a result,” the report notes.

Hand hygiene practices were inconsistently observed by military healthcare workers, the report states.

“Proper hand washing has been the single most important measure in controlling hospital spread of Acinetobacter,” the report states.

All seven military hospitals in Iraq were found to be “contaminated” with Acinetobacter, the report states.

Civilians were at much greater risk from infections than soldiers, the report states.

The report recommended adoption of standardized infection control practices at military hospitals and the air evacuation system, including disinfection and hand washing practices – and noted a pressing need for improved medical record-keeping “at all levels of care, particularly in-theater.”

A German hospital accepting U.S. troops on a referral basis, experienced an Acinetobacter outbreak that spread to German patients, the report states. That outbreak “reflects the potential importance that the outbreak can have, and probably has had, outside of the direct chain of evacuation,” the report states. Similar outbreaks had occurred in British hospitals where UK troops had been treated, the report notes.

Missing and incomplete medical records complicated the study, the report states.

“Relatively few surveillance and infection control data are available from in-theater, although progress has been made,” the report states. “Data quality from patient chart reviews indicates large variation in data available and no standardization.”

The “absence of good documentation either precludes any ability to draw scientific conclusions or significantly complicates investigations and analyses that are critical for prioritizing interventional resources and saving lives,” the report states.

epiNewswire’s Bryant Furlow first reported on an Acinetobacter outbreak among Iraqi and U.S. patients on the U.S. Navy’s hospital ship Comfort in July 2006, in the International Affairs Journal’s International Update newsletter.

In February 2007, Wired magazine writer Steve Silberman subsequently broke the story of Acinetobacter’s spread to Europe, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and elsewhere. Silberman’s report details how the family of a U.S. Marine who died of his infection, was initially told he had died of his wounds.

That summer, citing two medical journal publications based on parts of the EPICON research effort,  Reuters reported that “new research” showed that contaminated hospitals, not Iraqi soil, caused the Acinetobacter outbreak.

In reality, military medical officials had suspected as much since spring 2003, the EPICON report indicates — and had known it to be the case since the first, 2004 symposium on the project’s initial findings.

Further reading:

EPICON #12-HA-01-JK-04, “Investigating Acinetobacter baumannii infections at U.S. Army military treatment facilities 27 August 2004 to 27 May 2005.” (View here, via Document Cloud.)

Steve Silberman. “The invisible enemy.” Wired magazine, February 2007.

Reuters Health. “Field hospitals source of soldier infections.” June 18, 2007.

The Iraq Infections

Please see the original at EpiNewswire

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Acinetobacter, Contractor Casualties, Department of Defense, Friendly Fire, Safety and Security Issues, Traumatic Brain Injury | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Contractor can’t account for $9.8 million in project to aid Iraqi farmers

by Laurel Adams Center for Public Integrity I Watch News

USAID awarded a $343 million contract to Louis Berger Group in 2007 to help Iraqi farmers by promoting crop diversity, improving farmers’ access to information systems and providing technical assistance. An audit by the USAID inspector general has determined that the contractor mismanaged the program and couldn’t account for almost $10 million in costs.

An Iraqi farmer drives his water buffalos from the Euphrates river at a settlement near the Shiite holy city of Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq. Alaa al-Marjani/The Associated Press

The Louis Berger Group failed to implement measurements for agricultural productivity, completely lacked results to demonstrate agribusiness loan increases, reported inaccurate results and millions in unsupported program costs.

The agribusiness contract was supposed to increase agricultural productivity by specific percentages with targeted crops, but the contractor never developed a method of measuring or reporting results. The program was also supposed to generate at least 40,000 agricultural jobs, but fell short of the minimum goal by 10,000. The contractor did not differentiate between full-time or part-time jobs and lacked documentation supporting job creation.

Louis Berger reported $172 million in increased sales for agriculture businesses, short of the $300 million goal, but did not provide adequate documentation for sales. Another aspect of the program was increasing agribusiness loans, which was completely absent from the contractor’s report.

“The lack of supportable agribusiness program results can be attributed to several factors, foremost among them mismanagement,” the inspector general said.

USAID originally described proper result reporting in the contractor’s performance monitoring plan, which both mission and contractor failed to implement. USAID officials did not receive results, enforce reporting requirements or ensure the contractor’s results had adequate documentation. The inspector general also criticized the lack of field monitoring and quality assessments done by USAID.

“Without such knowledge, the mission was unable to manage the contract effectively or measure the impact that activities had on the achievement of program goals,” the inspector general said.

The inspector general also identified $9.8 million in questionable or unsupported costs, which went to fund subcontracts. The subcontractor agreements lacked the required documents to account for program costs.

“The absence of supporting documentation has made Louis Berger program procurements susceptible to unintentional errors, loss, misappropriation, and fraud.”

In one case, the company said it distributed $540,900 worth of seeds to 900 farmers and projected the harvest would be worth a whopping $67 million.

“The contractor derived gross sales based on the assumption that 100 percent of the seeds planted would yield vegetables and would be sold at an estimated price. However, the contractor could not provide support for this estimated price, the yields, or the amount of land planted,” the IG said.

According to USAID/Iraq, it is “aggressively rectifying” program problems with the contractor

Please see the original here

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Contractor Oversight, Iraq, USAID | , , | Leave a comment

CPJ: Impunity Plagues Cases of Journalists in Kurdistan and Iraq

01/06/2011 04:43:00  By WLADIMIR VAN WILGENBURG    at Rudow

ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan — In a report released on June 1, Iraq is ranked first on the 2011 impunity index of the Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ). CPJ criticizes the Kurdish government for its unsatisfactory handling of the murder case of Kurdish writer Sardasht Osman in 2010.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has come in for fierce criticism by human rights and press organizations such as Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), CPJ and Human Rights Watch in the last few months for the way it dealt with demonstrations and the media.

On May 30, the KRG responded to the allegations and didn’t deny violations by Kurdish security forces and ill-treatment of protestors.

“We can assure you, however, that these incidents have occurred despite KRG’s clear directives for strict adherence to the law and the rights of the protesters,” the KRG said in the statement.

CPJ’s impunity index includes Kurdistan and Iraq. The Index examines journalist murders that have occurred between January 1, 2001 and December 31, 2010 and are still unsolved. Only those nations with five or more unsolved cases are included on the index, a threshold reached by 12 countries this year.

According to CPJ 93 journalists have been murdered in Iraq with their cases still unsolved. After a brief decline in targeted killings, journalist murders spiked in 2010. Among the four murder victims in 2010 was Sardasht Osman, a contributor to several news outlets in the Kurdistan region who had received numerous threats for reports that accused Kurdish officials of corruption, CPJ said.

Please read the entire article here

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Casualties, Iraq, Journalists | , , | Leave a comment

DynCorp International Wins AFRICAP Training Task Order

DynCorp Press Release June 1, 2011

FALLS CHURCH, Va.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–DynCorp International (DI) announced today that it has been awarded a task order under the Africa Peacekeeping Program (AFRICAP) to provide basic leadership training to personnel within the military of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“We are proud to continue our work in promoting peace and stability in Africa”

“We are proud to continue our work in promoting peace and stability in Africa,” said DI President Steve Schorer. “DI has extensive experience and success in providing training designed to enhance the leadership and management capability of our partners in the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

The task order, awarded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs, has one base year and two option years. The total potential revenue is $17.1 million if both option years are exercised. The AFRICAP program supports regional stability in Africa by building the capacity of African countries and regional organizations to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts on the African continent.

Under the task order, DI will provide basic leadership and specialty training focusing on junior and mid-level military personnel in functional areas such as communications, logistics, and engineering.

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Africa, Civilian Contractors, Contracts Awarded, DynCorp, State Department | , , , | Leave a comment