The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Secretly monitored the private emails of staff scientists and doctors who complained to Congress that the agency was approving dangerous medical devices for public use, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the staff members.
Infosecurity January 31, 2012
The current and former employees, who work for an FDA office that approves medical devices, told Congress that the agency was approving medical devices that in fact posed risks to patients.
In response, the FDA began surveillance of the employees’ personal email accounts, which they accessed from government computers, to monitor their communication with congressional staffers, according to a lawsuit filed by the employees. They allege that the information gained from the monitoring was used to harass and, in some cases, dismiss them.
In the lawsuit, the employees allege that FDA managers violated the Constitution by taking their private emails “without due process or just compensation”, conducting unlawful searches and seizures, as well as violating their rights to free speech and association.
The Washington Post has published a large dossier of letters, emails, and memos obtained by the FDA during their surveillance of the employees.
Washington Post January 31, 2012
WASHINGTON — Federal investigators have concluded that Air Force officials at the military mortuary in Dover, Del., illegally punished four civilian workers for blowing the whistle on the mishandling of war remains.
The Office of Special Counsel said in a report released Tuesday that they have recommended to the Air Force that it discipline the three officials who allegedly retaliated against the whistleblowers. The three were not identified by name. It said one is an active-duty military member and the other two are civilians.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said in a written statement that he has appointed a two-star general to review the findings and take “appropriate action.” Donley said reprisals against whistleblowers are unacceptable.
Donley said he and the Air Force’s top officer, Gen. Norton Schwartz, “believe strongly there is no place for reprisal in the Air Force. Reprisals against employees are unethical and illegal and counter to Air Force core values.”
In an earlier investigation report released last November, the Office of Special Counsel said it had found “gross mismanagement” at the Dover facility, where small body parts of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan were lost on two occasions. The Air Force said at the time that it took disciplinary action — but did not fire — three senior supervisors there for their role in the mismanagement. The reprisal accusations were a separate matter and were investigated by the Special Counsel under the Whistleblower Protection Act.
The three disciplined in connection with the earlier Special Counsel included Air Force Col. Robert Edmondson, who commanded the Dover mortuary at the time of the incidents, and two civilian supervisors — Trevor Dean and Quinton Keel
The Managing Director of Trojan Security Services Gerhard Brand has filed papers with the High Court in Lobatse to stop the company’s planned acquisition by G4S Security Systems. He says he has never authorised the acquisition of the security company to G4S Security Systems.
In the court papers, Brand contends that the acquisition of Trojan by G4S is unauthorised and illegal and cannot be allowed to go on.
Brand says as the Chairman of the Board and the majority shareholder of Trojan, the Board or a meeting of the shareholders has never authorised Trojan to enter into any transaction with G4S, more so a transaction whereby G4S will ‘acquire’ Trojan.
Brand says he is in the dark as to what G4s intends to do with Trojan after its purported transaction.
“As the chairman of the Board and the majority shareholder, I do not know the terms and conditions of the purported agreement by the Respondent,” says Brand.
Brands holds 99% shareholding and the remaining 1 % is being held by his sister Debbie Ann Cloete (nee Brand).
He says on January 16, he purchased a copy of the Mmegi Monitor newspaper whereupon he was shocked to learn on page 23 that G4S was in the process of acquiring Trojan together with tow operating ‘divisions’ being Hotline Security Services (PTY) LTD and Cyber (PTY) LTD which was subject to relevant regulatory approvals.
Brand said on the same day he called the Managing Director of G4s Security Services who confirmed that indeed G4S has ‘acquired’ Trojan Security Services subject to regulatory approval.
US Africa Command January 31, 2012
According to the Defense Department’s Foreign Clearance Guide, all DoD-affiliated and sponsored travelers, including military, DoD civilians and contractors, are subject to the clearance process. All DoD members are required to submit a request for clearance, regardless of where they are stationed.
When traveling to Africa, members and their leadership are urged to always check and be familiar with the Foreign Clearance Guide (FCG), which outlines specific requirements for each country and type of travel. Official travel, leave and approval levels differ for each country and travel type. The FCG is the authoritative document that shows the country-by-country requirements for travel to a foreign country.
“For the AFRICOM affiliated countries, clearance is required for all official travel,” said Marla Mann, U.S. AFRICOM theater clearance manager. “What some are surprised about is that it is also required for all military leave travel and recommended for civilian leave travel.”
Mann said there are consequences for violating this directive.
BBC News UK January 31, 2012
Two British private security contractors working in Afghanistan have been charged with carrying unlicensed weapons.
The men, who work for the Canadian company, Garda World, were arrested by police earlier this month in the eastern part of the capital, Kabul.
It is alleged 30 AK-47 assault rifles were found in their vehicle.
Afghan authorities claim the weapons were illegal and many were missing their serial numbers.
It is understood the contractors’ Afghan driver and interpreter have also been charged.
Thousands of private security guards operate in Afghanistan, including many foreigners.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has in the past accused them of undermining the security services and taking work from Afghan nationals.
In one of those rare, “perfect storm” of coincidences, three events converge to provide the topic for this column. First, the latest issue of the in-house magazine, the arriviste named “Journal of International Peace Operations,” published by ISOA, a PMSC trade group, is devoted to the topic of “Women & International Security.”
Since ISOA, like any good trade group, generally tries to dismiss any criticism of its member companies, as being the ravings of liberal hacks in pursuit of a “spicy merc” story, it is interesting to note that the very first article in the issue states:
Companies need to adopt institutional measures to prevent and address cases of misconduct. Appropriate gender training for PMSC personnel, alongside training in international humanitarian law and human rights law – as recommended by the Montreux Document on PMSCs -will help to create a more gender-aware institution, thus preventing human rights abuses and reputation loss. Having clear rules of behaviour and mechanisms to punish individuals responsible for human rights violations will benefit the host populations, individual companies and the industry as a whole.
Second, the recent release in the UK of last year’s movie, The Whistleblower, a fictionalized version of the involvement of DynCorp contractors in sex trafficking and slavery in Bosnia back in the nineties, serves to remind us that despite DynCorp’s rhetoric over the subsequent years not nearly enough has changed.
For those whose memories have faded, employees of DynCorp were accused of buying and keeping women and girls as young as 12 years old in sexual slavery in Bosnia. Perhaps even more shocking is that none of those involved have ever been held accountable within a court of law. The United States subsequently awarded DynCorp a new contract worth nearly $250 million to provide training to the developing Iraqi police force, even though the company’s immediate reaction to reports of the crimes was to fire the whistle-blowers.
As an article in the Jan. 29, Sunday Telegraph noted:
Most disappointing of all was what happened next: several men were sent home, but none was punished further. No future employer will know what these men were guilty of. I asked DynCorp if its guidelines had become more stringent since 2001 and was sent its code of ethics. It states that ‘engaging in or supporting any trafficking in persons […] is prohibited. Any person who violates this standard or fails to report violations of this standard shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.’ So nothing has changed.
By the way, from a strictly observational viewpoint, given other problems DynCorp has had over the years since that took place, from dancing boys in Afghanistan to the recent settling of an EEOC suit regarding sexual harassment of one of its workers in Iraq, DynCorp is the Energizer Bunny of sexual harassment; it just keeps giving and giving and giving; doubtlessly reporters around the world are grateful.
China Digital Times January 29, 2012
Sudanese rebels claimed on Sunday that they abducted 29 Chinese road workers after a battle between the rebels and the Sudanese army, though the army claims the rebels attacked the workers’ compound. From Reuters:
The army has been fighting rebels of the SPLM-N in South Kordofan bordering newly independent South Sudan since June. Fighting spread to the northern Blue Nile state in September.
“We are holding 29 Chinese workers after a battle with the army yesterday,” a spokesman for the SPLM-N said. “They are in good health. We are holding them for their own safety because the army was trying to strike again.”
The army said rebels had attacked the compound of a Chinese construction company operating in the area between the towns of Abbasiya and Rashad in the north of the state and captured 70 civilians.
“Most of them are Chinese. They (the rebels) are targeting civilians,” said army spokesman Sawarmi Khalid Saad.
Chinese state media reported on Monday that all contact had been lost with the workers, while Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party condemned the attack and a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry confirmed that the two sides had begun emergency procedures. Power Construction Corp of China, the employer of the abducted Chinese nationals, told Xinhua News that it had launched its own emergency response:
Human Rights First January 27, 2011
Today, the U.S. government exercised moral leadership when it argued before a full panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that private military contractors who commit torture should not be immune from civil suits.
The companion cases—Al Shimari v.CACI and Al-Quraishi v. Nakhla—were brought by 76 Iraqis who allege they were tortured and abused by U.S. private military contractors at Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run prisons in Iraq. Among the alleged heinous acts: electric shocks, repeated brutal beatings, sleep and sensory deprivation, forced nudity, stress positions, sexual assault, mock executions, humiliation, hooding, isolated detention, and prolonged hanging by the limbs.
CACI International, Inc. and L-3 Services, Inc.—contracted to provide interrogation and interpretation services at Abu Ghraib—argued that they should be immune from civil suit. They relied on a “battlefield preemption” theory created by the D.C. Circuit in Saleh v. Titan, which held that where a civilian contractor engages in combat activities under the command of the military, a tort claim arising out of the contractor’s engagement is preempted.
On September 21, 2011, a 2-1 majority of the Fourth Circuit panel adopted that position, but in November the ruling was vacated so that a full panel could hear the case. Today, the full panel heard oral arguments from both parties as well as the U.S. government, which was invited by the Court to express its views.
In its brief, the United States says it has “significant federal interests at stake: ensuring that state-law tort litigation does not lead to second-guessing military judgments, protecting the primacy of existing tools for the government to regulate the conduct of contractors working on behalf of the United States (especially where civilian contractors work alongside service members in the military’s conduct of combat-related activities), and ensuring that military detention operations are conducted in a manner consistent with humane treatment obligations and the laws of war, and ensuring that contractors are held accountable for their conduct by appropriate means.” (emphasis added).
Taking all its interests into account, the U.S. government concludes that in circumstances where contractors have committed torture, they should not be immune from civil suits. By taking this position, not only does the United States meet its international human rights and law of war obligations but also advances its own interests. Specifically, it protects U.S. troops and civilians accompanying them abroad and bolsters national security.
Dina Rasor TruthOut January 26, 2012
The Department of Defense (DoD) came in the lowest in the government on competing their procurement contracts. According to the Center for Public Integrity:
While the Pentagon says its level of competition has remained steady over the past 10 years, data available through the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation, which provides competition data on federal agencies, show that the dollars flowing into single-bid contracts have almost tripled since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Nor has that trend been reversed since the 2009 Obama administration memo on competition;Defense Department dollars flowing into noncompetitive procurements continue to grow.
Over the past 10 years, the Pentagon has competed only about 60 percent of its total contract dollars, which stands in stark contrast to other large federal agencies. The State Department, for example, competed 75 percent of its contract dollars in fiscal year 2010, while the Energy Department competed almost 94 percent of its contract dollars. The U.S. Agency for International Development, which faced heavy criticism in the early days of the Afghanistan conflict for handing out sole-source contracts, competed almost 80 percent of its total contract dollars in fiscal year 2010. Even the Department of Homeland Security, which was blasted for a series of disastrous contracts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, outstripped the Pentagon on competed contracts: it competed almost 77 percent of its contract dollars in 2010.
There are several reasons that these numbers may be low. If the DoD competes an original contract, the winning contractor usually gets all the follow-on contracts, often with no new competition, and those service contracts or weapons procurement are then seen as being a competitive contract for years after the initial competition.
By NICK SCHWELLENBACH at POGO January 26, 2012
It appears that Fiscal Year 2011 saw more Defense Department criminal investigations of alleged human trafficking by its contractor supply chain than in any one of the last five years, according to a Pentagon inspector general report publicly released today (it is dated January 17).
All three investigations involved or allegedly involved U.S. government contractors or subcontractors in Southwest Asia: Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.
“While not criminal prosecutions, there have been some civil and administrative actions recently. Earlier this year, the Justice Department joined a whistleblower qui tam lawsuit that alleged that ArmorGroup North America had not reported trafficking-in-persons violations by its personnel as required by its contract. ArmorGroup North America, which had a contract to defend the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, settled the lawsuit for $7.5 million. ArmorGroup North America’s parent company said in a statement that the settlement was made “to avoid costly and disruptive litigation—and that there has been no finding or admission of liability.”
Evaluation of DOD Contracts Regarding Combating Trafficking in Persons:
U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command
(Report No. DODlG-20l2-041)
Washington Post January 26, 2012
MEXICO CITY — With the Iraq war over and the American presence waning in Afghanistan, U.S. security contractors are looking for new prospects in Mexico, where spreading criminal violence has created a growing demand for battle-ready professionals.
After years of lucrative work in the Middle East and Central Asia, where their presence has been occasionally marred by incidents of excessive force and misconduct, contractors and private security firms of varying sizes and specialties are being drawn into a battle closer to home. But Mexico’s restrictive gun laws mean that foreign contractors must enter the bloody drug war unarmed as they take jobs ranging from consulting and technical training for the Mexican military to guarding business executives from kidnapping gangs and extortionists
Virginia-based DynCorp International has job openings in Mexico for aviation instructors and mechanics. The Manhattan consulting firm Kroll hires anti-kidnapping specialists to protect Mexican business executives. MPRI, a company based in Alexandria, is training Mexican soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques.
MinnPost.com January 26, 2012
A kidnapped American aid contractor is alive and in good health, being held by a Pakistani Al Qaeda affiliate that’s likely to use him as a bargaining chip, according to militants, security officials, and analysts.
Warren Weinstein, who was kidnapped in August from his home in Lahore, Pakistan, is in the custody of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants in North Waziristan, a ranking Pakistani militant told McClatchy. The militant said he’d seen Mr. Weinstein last month and at that point “his health was fine.”
“He is being provided all available medical treatment, including regular checkups by a doctor and the medicines prescribed for him before he was plucked,” the militant, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said last week in an interview.
Weinstein, who’s from Rockville, Md., spent several years as the Pakistan country manager for J.E. Austin Associates, a contractor for the US Agency for International Development. Reportedly in ill health, he’d packed his bags and was within hours of leaving Pakistan for good on Aug. 13 when militants kidnapped him from his home in the affluent suburb of Model Town.
Officials says some 31 others were wounded, including three foreigners — two men and a woman
Britain’s International Development ministry in London confirmed that three civilian members of the international aid team were among those injured in the blast
Three foreign civilians who were traveling in the vehicles – which belonged to a British-led provincial reconstruction team – were injured. The teams are made up of diplomats, civilian specialists and military personnel who work on development projects
AP Update Three civilian international members of the aid team – two men and one woman – were among the wounded, said Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial governor. He said their injuries were not life threatening and did not know their nationalities.
Voice of America January 26, 2012
Afghan officials say a suicide car bomber has killed four civilians in an attack on a NATO-affiliated provincial reconstruction team in southern Afghanistan.
A spokesman for the governor of Helmand province said Thursday’s attack took place in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.
Officials say the bomber hit a convoy of armored vehicles passing near the education department building.
A child was among those killed in the attack. Officials says some 31 others were wounded, including three foreigners — two men and a woman.
At least 17 civilian cars were damaged, some bursting into flames. NATO has declined to comment on the attack.