Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who watches the watchmen?

G4S Driver Steals GBN 1.5 million  June 23, 2012

Plovdiv. 33-year-old driver of armoured cash transport car in Plovdiv stole BGN 1.5 million.

The man was declared for a nationwide search. Yesterday at 14.25 in the First Regional Police Department was received a signal that there was an abandoned security van on Petrova Niva Str. During the investigative activities has been established that there were about BGN 1,5 million in a different currency missing from the car owned by a private security firm. Driver of the cash transport car George Enev (33) from the town of Plovdiv is suspected of committing the offense. In connection with the search police presence in Plovdiv is stepped up. Police stop vehicles and check IDs.
The inspection of the vehicle found that it is owned by a private security firm G4S. Clients of the security firm headquartered in England, are Governments, banks, insurance companies, industrial companies, commercial companies, public institutions and private individuals.

Last year, Danny Fitzsimons, a G4S ArmorGroup security guard in Iraq was convicted of shooting and killing two G4S colleagues, after a Baghdad bar fight. His family insisted he suffered from post-traumatic stress from an earlier stint in Iraq as a British paratrooper, and was so unstable, G4S ArmorGroup should never have hired him.

The Edmonton Journal  June 22, 2012

After last week’s triple homicide at the University of Alberta’s HUB Mall, that ancient question has haunting relevance.

Armoured car guards Michelle Shegelski, Brian Ilesic, Eddie Rejano, and their wounded colleague, Matthew Schuman, were employees of G4S Secure Solutions, the world’s largest private security company.

So was Travis Baumgartner, 21, now charged with shooting them. Over the last few days, G4S has repeatedly asked Edmontonians to donate to a trust fund the firm established for the victims’ families. G4S won’t say how much, if anything, it is contributing.

It’s a lovely gesture to create a trust to accommodate a spontaneous outpouring of community generosity. But for the world’s second-largest employer, a firm with 657,200 staff in more than 125 countries, to launch a corporate fundraising campaign, without leading by example, is little short of offensive.

According to G4S’s 2011 annual report, last year it had revenues of about $12 billion, and profits of about $317 million. It’s part of the security-industrial complex that ballooned after 9/11. The Anglo-Danish multinational doesn’t just guard bank deliveries. Cash security is just 17 per cent of its global business.

In Australia, G4S was hired to provide detention services for refugee claimants and prisoners, with disturbing results. In 2007, the Western Australia Human Rights Commission concluded G4S drivers locked detainees in a scorching van without food or drink, leaving one man so dehydrated one drank his own urine. G4S was ordered to pay a $500,000 fine. In 2008, an aboriginal man in G4S custody of died of heat stroke after being driven through the desert in a metal pod behind a prisoner van. It was so hot inside, the man was severely burned, where his skin touched the metal floor. G4S was fined $285,000.

Are such controversies relevant to the HUB tragedy? A transnational conglomerate can’t be held responsible for the alleged actions of one employee among 657,000. And no psychological screening process in the world can infallibly predict human behaviour. Yet this tragedy, fundamentally, is about one G4S employee accused of shooting four others. In a world where governments increasingly contract out police, prison and quasi-military services to for-profit companies, it’s worth asking how we ensure these guns-for-hire are fit to carry them and how we hold a corporation accountable when things go wrong.

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June 23, 2012 Posted by | ArmorGroup, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Contractors Arrested, G4S, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, Vetting Employees | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Libya military court jails accused foreign mercenaries

Reuters Tripoli  June 4, 2012

A Libyan military court on Monday handed down long prison terms to a group of men from the former Soviet Union accused of serving as mercenaries for ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi in last year’s war.

One Russian man, deemed the group’s coordinator, was sentenced to life in prison, the court heard. Another Russian, three Belarussians and 19 Ukrainians were handed sentences of 10 years with hard labor. They had denied the charges.

The military trial was the first of its kind in Libya since a popular revolt ousted Gaddafi last year. The new government is trying to prove its judicial process is robust enough to try high-profile Gaddafi loyalists including his son Saif al-Islam.

“This is the worst kind of sentence,” said Belarussian ambassador Anatoly Stepus who was present at the hearing. “We thought that even if they were sentenced it would not be so strict. They have suffered a lot.”

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June 4, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Civilian Contractors, Contractors Arrested, Legal Jurisdictions, Libya, Mercenaries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Following U.S. Withdrawal from Iraq, Government Contractors Facing Tough Challenges from New Immigration Requirements

by Carson Burnham and Bonnie Puckett at Martindale  May 29, 2012

The United States’ presence in transitional Iraq resulted in many opportunities for U.S. government contractors. Since the early 2000s, a significant number of U.S. government contractors have engaged individuals to perform work in Iraq, and sponsored visas for those individuals. In recent years, the legality of these arrangements largely was governed by an agreement between the United States and the Iraqi transitional government, called the “Status of Forces Agreement” (SOFA). Corresponding with the timing of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, SOFA expired at midnight on December 31, 2011. With this expiration came significant rule changes. In particular, any foreign company wishing to sponsor visas or work permits for foreign nationals working in Iraq must establish an entity in Iraq with a physical presence in the country. The implications of noncompliance are significant. The Iraqi government has even detained individuals without proper visas upon attempting to exit the country.

Background

The January 1, 2009 SOFA—concluded as a U.S. executive agreement and approved by the Iraqi Council of Ministers—allowed government contractors to enter and leave Iraq easily, without risk of violating immigration rules. Specifically, SOFA’s Article 14 enabled members of the Armed Forces and civilian employees working for the U.S. military to enter and leave Iraq through specified official entry/exit points merely by displaying identification cards and U.S.-issued travel orders. While not directly addressing immigration for government contractor employees, SOFA’s permissive treatment of Armed Forces members and employees led to similarly permissive application of the requirements for U.S. government contractor employees.

Almost immediately after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the corresponding expiration of SOFA, Iraqi authorities began detaining foreign contractors at various checkpoints and at the airport, citing improper paperwork such as invalid or expired visas, weapons permits, work permits, and route authorizations, many of which the government refused to renew. With little warning, the lax immigration requirements under SOFA were replaced by the more common requirement in the global arena that foreign nationals must have current work permits tied to a locally-registered business entity that is sponsoring the employees.

Sources estimate that hundreds of individuals have been detained for periods of 24 to 96 hours or more, sometimes including severe interrogation. Some contractors have been ordered to leave Iraq within 10 days due to new limitations on visas. Many government contractors were utterly unprepared for this sudden crackdown, as immigration requirements in a post-SOFA world were not clear at the time of SOFA’s expiration. Some commentators also have surmised that Iraqi government authorities felt compelled to assert their newfound sovereignty against mistrusted contractors, some of whom reportedly mistreated the Iraqi population during the occupation.

The result? U.S. government contractors are now on notice that Federal Iraq will strictly monitor the immigration status of their employees. The penalties for noncompliance include detention of employees working in and attempting to exit Iraq.

Recommendations

As a first step, all U.S. government contractors should promptly review their staff’s travel documentation to ensure that it has not expired or is otherwise invalid. To comply with the new state of the law, it is also recommended that U.S. government contractors that do not already have a subsidiary based in Iraq for the purpose of sponsoring employees for business permits take immediate steps to create one. Requirements for an LLC include, but are not limited to:

  • A business name, which must be in Arabic and have an Arabic meaning;
  • A designated managing director, and a copy of his or her passport (if foreign) or identification (if Iraqi);
  • Initial capital of one million Iraqi Dinar (approximately $850) in an Iraqi bank;
  • Lease agreement for the company’s location in Federal Iraq, which the authorities likely will inspect;
  • A designated agent for service of process and filings with the Registrar of Companies; and
  • A resolution of the Board of Directors of the parent company establishing the Iraqi subsidiary, which meets the requirements of the Registrar of Companies.

Additional requirements exist for commercial agents and retailers. The entire process takes approximately four months to complete. Once the Iraqi entity is established, it must comply with all relevant laws in securing work permits and visas, which may vary by region. An individual authorized to work in one region of Iraq may not be permitted to work in another region.

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May 30, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractors Arrested, Contractors Held, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SA man’s hell in Afghan jail

Daily News  May 18, 2012

The threat of execution, al-Qaeda and Taliban members baying for his blood and a Guantanamo Bay-style lockdown. That’s what a Cape Town man endured in an Afghanistan jail for two-and-a-half years.

On arriving at Cape Town International Airport on Thursday, Philip Young spoke of the hardships he went through while held captive by authorities in Afghanistan.

Young was speaking moments after an emotional reunion with his children: David, 22, Dylan, 18, and Caitlin, 13. They hadn’t seen their father for almost three years. When she saw him Caitlin burst into tears.

 

“It feels great to be home. It was a long ordeal, but now it’s time to get on with my life,” said Young.

Before Young stepped off the plane David said: “It’s been very difficult to be without our dad for so long. I’ve missed the ordinary things – having a beer with him, going cycling, going camping. I can’t wait to do those things again.”

 

In 2010 Young was found guilty of murder in an Afghan court and sentenced to five years in prison. The sentence was increased to 16 years after the prosecutor tried to secure the death sentence through an appeal. Later it was reduced to seven years.

The investigation and trial were described by Thinus Coetzee, a human rights activist working for Amnesty International, as deeply flawed.

“The very section of the Afghan Criminal Code under which he was found guilty should have exonerated him on the grounds of self-defence. It was bizarre. None of the paperwork made any sense, so to this day we don’t really know what crime he was convicted of,” said Coetzee on Thursday.

In 2009 Young was working as a deputy project manager in Afghanistan for Anham, a US logistics supply company, which had been contracted by the US government’s Counter Narcotics Advisory team.

On October 1, 2009, while returning to the Anham compound in Helmund Province, an Afghan security guard approached Young’s vehicle, threatened him and started firing at the vehicle. Young returned fire, killing the guard, Abdul Ghafar.

Young said Ghafar had enlisted a group of armed men to forcibly take control of the compound after being dismissed as the site’s deputy security leader.

“None of the courts contested that my only motive for firing at Ghafar was the fact that he was firing at me. None of the courts contested the fact that the killing of Ghafar was not premeditated. And yet, inexplicably, I was found guilty of murder. A conviction for which I could potentially have received the death penalty. There is no justice in Afghanistan.”

Young said he felt helpless during the court proceedings.

 

Awaiting trial in a communal cell with 14 other prisoners, Young said he had to develop “eyes in the back of his head”. He was housed with Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives, and on at least one occasion had to fight for his life.

 

After his conviction he was moved to the Counter Narcotics Justice Centre, and then transferred to Pul-e-Charkhi, a maximum security facility east of Kabul where he had minimal contact with other prisoners.

“We had beds, enough food and the guards treated me with decency. Having said that, the restrictiveness of the set-up was terrible. On my birthday my colleagues bought me a cake, but I was not allowed to have a single piece.”

The remission of Young’s sentence and his early release was made possible by a decree issued by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

“I qualified in general terms, like many other prisoners in Afghanistan. Karzai is impervious to international pressure on such issues, so I don’t believe that the campaign for my freedom swayed him,” said Young.

 

Coetzee said he had “the highest praise” for the SA government’s roles in engaging with Afghan authorities.

Spokesman

Clayson Monyela said the Department of International Relations and Co-operation was delighted at the news of Young’s release.

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May 18, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractors Arrested, Private Security Contractor | , , , , | Leave a comment

UN, Norwegian Peoples Aid and Mechem South African Demining Workers abducted/arrested in South Sudan

Sudan arrests foreigners in disputed border region  April 29, 2012

John Sorbo, mine clearing expert working for the Norwegian People's Aid organization, one of the three foreigners arrested in the disputed Heglig border area, exits a plane in Khartoum. (REUTERS)

Sudan said it had arrested a Briton, a Norwegian and a South African on Saturday, accusing them of illegally entering a disputed oil-producing border area to spy for its enemy South Sudan.

South Sudanese officials denied the allegations and said the men were working with the United Nations and aid groups clearing mines and had got lost in the remote territory close to the boundary between the two countries.

Sudanese army spokesman al-Sawarmi Khaled said the three were arrested in Heglig – the scene of recent fighting between Sudan and South Sudan – travelling with a South Sudanese soldier in vehicles carrying military equipment.

“It is now confirmed without any doubt that South Sudan used the help of foreigners in their attack on Heglig. These foreigners were doing military work such as spying out the areas … They had military equipment … They have a military background,” Sawarmi said.

The group had been flown to Khartoum, he added.

A Reuters witness saw four men arriving on a civilian plane at Khartoum’s military airport.

One of the men, a Westerner, was wearing a t-shirt marked with the slogan “Norwegian People’s Aid. Mine Action South Africa”. Reporters were not allowed to talk to the men who were swiftly driven away in an unmarked white van.

Agency France Presse Canada  April 29, 2012

KHARTOUM – A South African demining company on Sunday said two of its workers were abducted by the Sudanese military while on a UN landmine clearance contract in South Sudan.

Ashley Williams, CEO of state-owned Mechem, said its employees, a South African and a local South Sudanese, were abducted with a British UN employee and a Norwegian.

Williams rejected suggestions by the Sudanese army spokesman that the men were working in support of South Sudan in its “aggression” against the north.

“It’s humanitarian work so the story of them being military advisers and this type of thing is completely and utterly nonsense and not true,” said Williams.

“We are doing humanitarian landmine clearance on a UN contract and our members have full UN immunity. The abduction took place well within South Sudan territory,” he told AFP, saying the group were travelling south between two UN bases.

“Then they grabbed them and drove back to Heglig with them where they then said they’ve arrested them in this disputed area while they weren’t there at all.”

A team remained in the area, which the United Nations would bring out with protection over fears of similar action, Williams said.

Sudanese army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad on Saturday said the group were captured within Sudan’s borders in the tense Heglig oil area.

“This confirms what we said before, that South Sudan in its aggression against Heglig was supported by foreign experts,” he told reporters after the four were flown to the capital Khartoum.

“We captured them inside Sudan’s borders, in the Heglig area, and they were collecting war debris for investigation,” Saad said.

He added that all four had military backgrounds, and were accompanied by military equipment and a military vehicle. He did not elaborate.

In the most serious fighting since the South’s independence, Juba’s troops occupied Sudan’s main oil region of Heglig for 10 days, a move which coincided with Sudanese air strikes against the South.

Sudan declared on April 20 that its troops had forced the Southern soldiers out of Heglig, but the South said it withdrew of its own accord.

Jan Ledang, country director for the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) mission in South Sudan, identified one of the captives as its employee John Sorbo.

“It’s impossible that they were in Heglig – they were in Pariang” about a 90-minute drive from Heglig in the South’s Unity state, Ledang said.

They were doing follow-up demining work in the area, he added.

The four were on a de-mining mission “and one of them was from the UN”, said Josephine Guerrero, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan

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April 29, 2012 Posted by | Africa, Bomb Disposal, Civilian Contractors, Contractors Arrested, Contractors Held, Contractors Kidnapped, Demining, Explosive Remnants of War, Landmines, Legal Jurisdictions, Mine Clearance, Safety and Security Issues, Sudan, United Nations | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Britons freed in Afghanistan after weapons arrest

BBC News  March 20, 2012

Two Britons arrested in Afghanistan in early January for carrying unlicensed guns have been released without charge

The unidentified men were in a vehicle with a local interpreter and driver when they were stopped east of Kabul.

The private security contractors, among thousands of guards operating in the country, had been held in Kabul prison.

Officials reportedly found a number of AK-47 assault rifles – one of the most commonly used weapons in Afghanistan – which did not have serial numbers.

Kabul police had called on the men’s employers to explain why they were transporting the guns without proper documentation.

All private security companies must buy weapons with serial numbers through the interior ministry, but, according to local police and intelligence officials at the time of the arrests, the weapons the men were carrying had been purchased on the black market.

Afghan sources confirmed the release of the men to the BBC. The Foreign Office has not commented on the case.

The BBC’s Lyse Doucet in Kabul says President Karzai has accused foreign guards of undermining security in the country and controversial moves are now under way to replace them with Afghan forces

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March 20, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractors Arrested, Contractors Held, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Security Contractor | , , , , | Leave a comment

USAID contractor work in Cuba detailed

AP IMPACT by Desmond Butler Associated Press  February 12, 2012

Piece by piece, in backpacks and carry-on bags, American aid contractor Alan Gross made sure laptops, smartphones, hard drives and networking equipment were secreted into Cuba. The most sensitive item, according to official trip reports, was the last one: a specialized mobile phone chip that experts say is often used by the Pentagon and the CIA to make satellite signals virtually impossible to track.

The purpose, according to an Associated Press review of Gross’ reports, was to set up uncensored satellite Internet service for Cuba’s small Jewish community.

The operation was funded as democracy promotion for the U.S. Agency for International Development, established in 1961 to provide economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of U.S. foreign policy goals. Gross, however, identified himself as a member of a Jewish humanitarian group, not a representative of the U.S. government.

Cuban President Raul Castro called him a spy, and Gross was sentenced last March to 15 years in prison for seeking to “undermine the integrity and independence” of Cuba. U.S. officials say he did nothing wrong and was just carrying out the normal mission of USAID.

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February 12, 2012 Posted by | Central America, CIA, Civilian Contractors, Contractors Arrested, Contractors Held, Safety and Security Issues, State Department, USAID | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SIGIR Reports: Hey, Anybody Know What Happened to the $2 Billion?

David Isenberg at The Huffington Post  February 6, 2012

See also at Davids Blog The PMC Observer

The latest Quarterly and Semiannual Report of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) was released January 30, 2012. What follows are relevant excerpts of some of the more noteworthy contractor related activities.

On December 21, a U.S. contractor was sentenced to 3 months confinement followed by 2 years of supervised release for lying to federal agents during the course of an investigation. The agents were investigating a fraud scheme involving the theft and resale of generators in Iraq to various entities, including the U.S. government. When he was initially interviewed in Iraq, he denied any involvement in the fraud scheme. The investigation demonstrated that he had in fact signed fraudulent U.S. documents and received money on several occasions for his part in the scheme.

As of December 31, 2011, the Defense and State departments and the US Agency for International Development had reported 88,380 contracting actions, projects, and grants, totaling $40.31 billion in cumulative obligation.

As of January 23, 2012, 15,154 employees of U.S.-funded contractors and grantees supported DoD, DoS, USAID, and other U.S. agencies in Iraq. The number of contractor employees declined by 72% since the end of last quarter, dropping from the 53,447 registered as of September 30, 2011.

As you would expect, now that the U.S. mission has been handed off to the State Department, the largest number of contractors, 9,228, are working for State, with 3,823 of those being American.

The second largest share is working for the U.S. Army, which has a total of 5,118 under contract, with 2,737 of the American.

One very interesting point comes towards the end, in the section on oversight. To appreciate this a little trip down memory lane is in order.

The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) — anyone remember Paul Bremer? — was established in May 2003 to provide for the temporary governance of Iraq. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483 created the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and assigned the CPA full responsibility for managing it. The DFI comprised revenues from Iraqi oil and gas sales, certain remaining Oil for Food deposits, and repatriated national assets. It was used, in part, for Iraq relief and reconstruction efforts.

During its almost 14-month governance, the CPA had access to $20.7 billion in DFI funds and directed expenditures of about $14.1 billion. The CPA had $6.6 billion under its control when its mission ended on June 28, 2004. The Government of Iraq OI gave DoD access to about $3 billion of these funds to pay bills for contracts the CPA awarded prior to its dissolution.

Most of these funds were deposited into a DFI sub-account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY) established for this purpose.

SIGIR initiated an audit to determine whether DoD properly accounted for its use of the $2.8 billion deposited into the DFI sub-account at the FRBNY after the CPA dissolved, and $217.7 million in cash that remained in the presidential palace vault when the CPA dissolved. Here is what it found:

DoD cannot account for about two-thirds of the approximately $3 billion in DFI funds made available to it by the GOI for making payments on contracts the CPA awarded prior to its dissolution.Most of these funds ($2.8 billion) were held in the DFI sub-account at the FRBNY; the remainder ($217.7 million) was held in the presidential palace vault in Baghdad. FRBNY records show that DoD made about $2.7 billion in payments from the DFI sub-account. However, the FRBNY does not have specifics about the payments or financial documents, such as vendor invoices, to support them. It required only written approval from the GOI to issue payment.

Although DoD had responsibility for maintaining documentation to support the full $2.7 billion in expenditures made from the FRBNY subaccount, it could provide SIGIR documentation to support only about $1 billion. Although DoD established internal processes and controls to report sub-account payments to the GOI, the bulk of the records are missing. As a result, SIGIR’s review was limited to the $1 billion in available records. SIGIR examined 15 payments from this group and found most of the key supporting financial documents.

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

February 6, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Contractors Arrested, Department of Defense, Follow the Money, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, SIGIR | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Britons in Afghanistan face gun charges

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.

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January 31, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractors Arrested, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iraq Contractors Face Difficulties

January 25, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractors Arrested, Contractors Held, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Politics, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, State Department | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Embassy Baghdad: Strict Enforcement of Immigration Procedures and Other Authorizations

The U.S. Embassy wishes to inform U.S. citizens living and working in Iraq that the Government of Iraq is strictly enforcing immigration and customs procedures, to include visas and stamps for entry and exit, vehicle registration, and authorizations for weapons, convoys, logistics, and other matters.
Rules and procedures may be subject to frequent revisions, and previous permissions may be deemed invalid.
The Embassy highly recommends that all U.S. citizens living and working in Iraq carefully review their immigration status and other permits to operate in Iraq and not attempt movements about the country in the absence of valid, current permits and paperwork.
The U.S. Embassy is aware of cases where discrepancies in permits or paperwork have resulted in legal action, including detention, by Iraqi police and other entities.
Detentions often last 24-96 hours or more.The Embassy’s ability to respond to situations in which U.S. citizens are arrested or otherwise detained throughout Iraq is limited, including in and around Baghdad.Please refer to the current Travel Warning for further information about limitations, as well as information about the security situation.

U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad should enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). U.S. citizens without internet access may enroll directly at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate at their destination. By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.

U.S. citizens may contact the U.S. Embassy, located in the International Zone, via e-mail to BaghdadACS@state.gov. In the event of a U.S. citizen emergency please contact: 0770-443-1286 (from Iraq) or 011-964-770-443-1286 (from the United States).

U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the U.S. Department of State’s, Bureau of Consular Affairs website, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Country Specific Information can be found. The U.S. Embassy also encourages U.S. citizens to review “A Safe Trip Abroad,” which includes valuable security information for those living and traveling abroad.

Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well.

You can also download our free Smart Traveler iPhone App to have travel information at your fingertips. In addition to information on the internet, travelers may obtain the latest information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or outside the United States and Canada on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

January 16, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractors Arrested, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Safety and Security Issues, State Department | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flexing Muscle, Baghdad Detains U.S. Contractors

“While private organizations are often able to resolve low-level disputes and irregularities, this issue is beyond our ability to resolve,” the International Stability Operations Association, a Washington-based group that represents more than 50 companies and aid organizations that work in conflict, post-conflict and disaster relief zones, said in a letter on Sunday to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Doug Brooks, president of the organization, said in a telephone interview that the number of civilian contractors who have been detained was in the “low hundreds.” He added in an e-mail on Sunday, “Everyone is impacted, but the roots have more to do with political infighting than any hostility to the U.S.”

The New York Times  January 15, 2012

BAGHDAD — Iraqi authorities have detained a few hundred foreign contractors in recent weeks, industry officials say, including many Americans who work for the United States Embassy, in one of the first major signs of the Iraqi government’s asserting its sovereignty as a result of the American troop withdrawal last month

The detentions have occurred largely at the airport in Baghdad and at checkpoints around the capital after the Iraqi authorities raised questions about the contractors’ documents, including visas, weapons permits, and authorizations to drive certain routes. Although no formal charges have been filed, the detentions have lasted from a few hours to nearly three weeks.

The crackdown comes amid other moves by the Iraqi government to take over functions that had been performed by the United States military and to claim areas of the country it had controlled. In the final weeks of the military withdrawal, the son of Iraq’s prime minister began evicting Western companies and contractors from the heavily fortified Green Zone, which had been the heart of the United States military operation for much of the war.

Just after the last American troops left in December, the Iraqis stopped issuing and renewing many badges, weapons licenses and other authorizations. The restrictions created a curious sequence of events in which contractors were being detained for having expired documents that the government would not renew.

The Iraqi authorities have also imposed new limitations on visas, a new twist on a longstanding issue for foreigners in Iraq in which the rules for gaining approval appear to change every few months. In some recent cases, contractors have been told they have 10 days to leave Iraq or face arrest in what some industry officials call a form of controlled harassment.

Earlier this month, Iraqi authorities kept scores of contractors penned up at Baghdad’s international airport for nearly a week until their visa disputes were resolved. Industry officials said more than 100 foreigners were detained; American officials acknowledged the detainments but would not put a number on them.

Latif Rashid, a senior adviser to the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, and a former minister of water, said in an interview that the Iraqis’ deep mistrust of security contractors had led the government to strictly monitor them. “We have to apply our own rules now,” he said.

Private contractors are integral to postwar Iraq’s economic development and security, foreign businessmen and American officials say, but they remain a powerful symbol of American might, with some Iraqis accusing them of running roughshod over the country.

An image of contractors as trigger-happy mercenaries who were above the law was seared into the minds of Iraqis after several violent episodes involving private sector workers, chief among them the 2007 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisour Square when military contractors for Blackwater killed 17 civilians.

Iraq’s oil sector alone, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the government’s budget, relies heavily on tens of thousands of foreign employees. The United States Embassy employs 5,000 contractors to protect its 11,000 employees and to train the Iraqi military to operate tanks, helicopters and weapons systems that the United States has sold them.

The United States had been providing much of the accreditation for contractors to work in Iraq, but after the military withdrawal, that role shifted to the Iraqi bureaucracy around the time when the government was engulfed in a political crisis and when Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, fearing a coup, was moving tanks into the Green Zone.

The delays for visa approvals have disrupted the daily movement of supplies and personnel around Iraq, prompting formal protests from dozens of companies operating in Iraq. And they have raised deeper questions about how the Maliki government intends to treat foreign workers and how willing foreign companies will be to invest here.

“While private organizations are often able to resolve low-level disputes and irregularities, this issue is beyond our ability to resolve,” the International Stability Operations Association, a Washington-based group that represents more than 50 companies and aid organizations that work in conflict, post-conflict and disaster relief zones, said in a letter on Sunday to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

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January 15, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractors Arrested, Contractors Held, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The curious case of the four armed Americans in Baghdad

Baghdad Governor: Four armed Americans arrested in Iraq

“Security forces could have shot them for penetrating the area without the consent or knowledge of authorities,” he said, a source told Alsumaria.

“There are strict orders to shoot any person that penetrates the area without the consent of operations’ command,” Baghdad Governor declared stressing that killing these Americans would have aggravated the situation

Foreign Policy The Mid East Channel  January 13, 2012

Iraqi authorities arrested four armed Americans in civilian clothes in Baghdad who claimed they were there to protect Shiites heading toward Karbala. The two men and two women were reportedly carrying automatic weapons and driving a silver BMW with unregistered diplomatic plates. The Iraqis said that they found this all suspicious, since there had been no prior coordination and the law forbids such American activities without notifying the responsible authorities.

The U.S. Embassy reportedly stepped in within 15 minutes of the arrest, and the four were released without charge. It isn’t obvious exactly what was going on, but we can all probably guess.

Baghdad governor Salah Abd al-Razzaq told reporters that even if the group were U.S. intelligence operatives, their activities had nothing to do with Iraqi security and were a clear violation of Iraqi sovereignty. He demanded an explanation from the U.S. Embassy and a promise that it not be repeated. A diplomatic crisis seems to have been averted, but the curious episode should be a cautionary tale. Whatever really happened, this could have easily escalated into a major diplomatic showdown and a legal nightmare for the Embassy.

Expect a lot of more of these kinds of incidents in the coming days. While there hasn’t been much coverage of the incident in English, it’s being heavily covered in the Arab and Iraqi media. Arresting and exposing American operatives in Iraq is going to be politically popular andthe local media will eat it up. A lot of ambitious political forces might find it useful to be seen on TV arresting an armed American. Armed Americans traveling around Iraq, whether security contractors or intelligence operatives, are going to be an endless source of potential crisis. And people wonder why the Pentagon staunchly opposed maintaining any U.S. military presence in Iraq without a SOFA which guaranteed immunity from prosecution for American soldiers?

January 13, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractors Arrested, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, State Department | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Army Bribery Ring Rolled Up

Courthouse News January 10, 2012

(CN) – A former Army major was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for bribery and money laundering in war contracts in Iraq.
Eddie Pressley, 41, was also ordered to forfeit $21 million, real estate and several automobiles. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins in Birmingham, Ala.
Pressley and his wife Eurica were convicted in March 2011 of conspiracy to commit bribery, eight counts of honest services fraud, one count of money laundering conspiracy and 11 counts of engaging in monetary transactions with criminal proceeds. No date has been set for his wife’s sentencing.
“Mr. Pressley participated in a wide-ranging scheme to steer U.S. Army contracts to particular providers in exchange for personal, illegal profit,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
“Taking in nearly $3 million, he enlisted his wife to help him conceal the nature of his bribes and created phony paperwork to keep the scheme going.”

Please read the story in detail here

January 10, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Contractors Arrested, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Former Marine, Civilian Contractor, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati hires US Attorney

CNN’s Security Clearance  January 10, 2012

The family of an American ex-Marine sentenced to death on charges of espionage has hired a high-profile attorney with success in negotiating with Tehran to seek his release, CNN has learned.

An Iranian court convicted Amir Mirzaei Hekmati of “working for an enemy country,” as well as membership in the CIA and “efforts to accuse Iran of involvement in terrorism,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported Monday. Hekmati’s family and the U.S. government deny the allegations.


The family has hired Pierre Prosper, a former ambassador-at-large for war crimes under the Bush administration and a prosecutor for the Rwanda tribunal at The Hague, to work for his release, Prosper told CNN.

Prosper, currently a senior adviser to the presidential campaign of GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, successfully negotiated with the Iranian government for last year’s release of Reza Taghavi, an Iranian-American businessman detained for more than two years in Iran.

Please see the original and read the entire story here

January 10, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractors Arrested, Iran, Legal Jurisdictions, State Department | , , , , , | Leave a comment