Oregon Live November 2, 1012
A Portland jury found defense contractor KBR Inc. was negligent, but did not commit fraud against a dozen Oregon Army National Guard soldiers who sued the company for its conduct in Iraq nine years ago. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak announced the decision about 3:35 p.m. the U.S. Courthouse in Portland. Each soldier was awarded $850,000 in non-economic damages and $6.25 million in punitive damages.
“It’s a little bit of justice,” said Guard veteran Jason Arnold, moments after the verdict was announced Friday afternoon. Arnold was one of four of the soldier-plaintiffs in the courtroom was the verdict was read.
The verdict should send an important message to those who rely on military troops, he said.
“We’re not disposable,” said another soldier, Aaron St. Clair. “People are not going to make money from our blood.”
KBR’s lead attorney, Geoffrey Harrison, said the company will appeal.
“We will appeal the jury’s incorrect verdict,” he said. “We believe the trial court should have dismissed the case before the trial.”
Harrison said the soldiers’ lawyers produced a medical expert, Dr. Arch Carson, who offered “unsupported, untested medical opinions” that each soldier had suffered invisible, cellular-level injuries as a result of their exposure to hexavalent chromium.
The verdict means the jury did not hear clear and convincing evidence that KBR intended to deceive the soldiers in the way it operated at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant, near Basra, Iraq. But they did find that the company failed to meet its obligations in managing the work at the plant.
Friday’s verdict closes the first phase of a web of litigation between National Guard and British troops against KBR Inc., the defense contractor they accuse of knowingly exposing them in 2003 to a carcinogen at Qarmat Ali. KBR has denied the accusations.
In Oregon another set of Oregon soldiers are waiting in the wings for their day in court. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak and the attorneys agreed earlier to hold an initial trial with the first 12 soldiers, in order to keep the proceedings from becoming too unwieldy. A second trial, featuring all or some of the remaining 21 plaintiffs, could begin in federal court in Portland this winter.
Another lawsuit brought by Indiana soldiers against KBR is on hold in federal court in Texas, while an appeals court considers a jurisdictional issue.
The cases stem from the chaotic aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The Army Corps of Engineers hired KBR Inc. to run a massive program called Restore Iraqi Oil. The program involved dozens of sites throughout Iraq — sites that neither the Army nor KBR had visited before the invasion. The project was intended to quickly restore the flow of Iraq’s oil, partly to fund the war. The Pentagon remembered the way Saddam Hussein had lit the fields on fire during the first Gulf War, and feared a repeat in 2003.
Qarmat Ali was a compound where water was pumped underground to drive oil to the surface elsewhere. For decades, Iraqis had treated the water with sodium dichromate, an anticorrosion agent that contains hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen. (Sodium dichromate is banned in the United States.)
Iraq’s Southern Oil Co. took delivery of sodium dichromate, an orange-yellow crystalline powder, in bags that were stored on site. Soldiers and others testified that the material was loose and drifting around the site, and had contaminated areas even outside the chemical injection building where it was added to the water.
How contaminated was it? Accounts differ. Even one of the plaintiffs in this case said he didn’t notice any soil discoloration. One of the British soldiers whose testimony was prerecorded said it was everywhere. Another Oregon soldier said it settled heavily on the clothing of the soldiers, who unwittingly carried it back to their camps over the border in Kuwait.
Much of KBR’s defense in the first Oregon trial focused on just how unlikely it was that any soldier — who visited the plant at durations from one day to 21 days — could have been exposed to dangerously high levels of sodium dichromate. But one of the most gripping portions of the testimony was when Oregon veteran Larry Roberta described eating a chicken patty that had been coated with the orange crystals, which he said immediately burned in his esophagus, causing him to vomit.
Roberta now is confined to a wheelchair and takes oxygen from a tank in his backpack. He had a history of gastrointestinal issues, but attributes much of his poor health to his time at Qarmat Ali.
Harrison, KBR’s lawyer, said the company “believes in the judicial process and respects the efforts and time of the jurors,” but believes the process that brought the case to conclusion Friday shouldn’t have been allowed to come so far.
“KBR did safe and exceptional work in Iraq under difficult circumstances,” he said in a brief, prepared statement. “We believe the facts and law ultimately will provide vindication.”
Soldier-plaintiff Arnold said the message of the verdict is unmistakable. He said service members are being exploited “to this day.”
Now, he said, “the voice will be out. There will be a lot more scrutiny.”
October 25, 2012
Voluntary Today, Involuntary Tomorrow
Another Successful Flush by Wackenhut G4S
Will the last Ronco Consulting Corporation Employee out please close the lid ?
BEST KEPT SECRET OF THE WARS
The Majority of ExPat Civilian Contractor Casualties first served their country in the military.
Many of them gave twenty and more years of service before deploying in a civilian capacity.
Many of them were buried with military honors.
Yet we are not supposed to know their names or even that they died in our wars.
Defense Base Act War Profiteers are encouraged to abuse the families they leave behind
You can see some of these nameless hero’s at
Please keep them and their families in your thoughts today and everyday
For years, U.S. government agencies have told the public, veterans and Congress that they couldn’t draw any connections between the so-called “burn pits” disposing of trash at the military’s biggest bases and veterans’ respiratory or cardiopulmonary problems. But a 2011 Army memo obtained by Danger Room flat-out stated that the burn pit at one of Afghanistan’s largest bases poses “long-term adverse health conditions” to troops breathing the air there.
The unclassified memo (.jpg), dated April 15, 2011, stated that high concentrations of dust and burned waste present at Bagram Airfield for most of the war are likely to impact veterans’ health for the rest of their lives. “The long term health risk” from breathing in Bagram’s particulate-rich air include “reduced lung function or exacerbated chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, atherosclerosis, or other cardiopulmonary diseases.” Service members may not necessarily “acquire adverse long term pulmonary or heart conditions,” but “the risk for such is increased.”
The cause of the health hazards are given the anodyne names Particulate Matter 10 and Particulate Matter 2.5, a reference to the size in micrometers of the particles’ diameter. Service personnel deployed to Bagram know them by more colloquial names: dust, trash and even feces — all of which are incinerated in “a burn pit” on the base, the memo says, as has been standard practice in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade.
Accordingly, the health risks were not limited to troops serving at Bagram in 2011, the memo states. The health hazards are an assessment of “air samples taken over approximately the last eight years” at the base.
Associated Press March 18, 2012
WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps has disclosed another case of Afghan troops turning their guns on an American.
They say an Afghan soldier shot and killeda 22-year-old Marine at an outpost in southwestern Afghanistan last month.
This is a previously undisclosed case of apparent Afghan treachery, and marks at least the seventh killing of an American military member by his supposed ally in the past six weeks.
Lance Cpl. Edward J. Dycus of Greenville, Miss., was shot in the head Feb. 1 while standing guard at an Afghan-U.S. base.
The exact circumstances have not been disclosed, but the Dycus family has been told that he was killed by an Afghan soldier. Marine officials discussed the matter on condition of anonymity because it is under investigation.
CBS News September 29, 2009
CBS News first reported this month on the hazing and humiliating of local employees and other serious breaches of ethics and policy by civilian security guards during wild parties at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Turns out, the State Department was warned that things weren’t right at the embassy, but nothing was done. Now there are troubling questions for the man once in charge of investigating those problems, reports CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.
As inspector general for the State Department, Howard Krongard was supposed to be an independent watchdog.
It was his job to investigate the very type of misconduct alleged at the U.S. embassy in Kabul: forced sexual hazing of guards, contract fraud and waste of tax dollars.
CBS News has learned that serious allegations about the embassy reached Krongard’s office two years ago – where they apparently vanished into thin air.
How that could’ve happened is even harder to explain when you consider who made the complaint: Sen. Joe Lieberman, head of the Homeland Security Committee. His staffers say they notified Krongard’s office about security and fraud allegations made by high-level whistleblowers from inside ArmorGroup, the company that provides embassy security.
Asked if he remembers that, Krongard said, “No. I Have no knowledge of that whatsoever.”
But CBS News has learned Krongard had a special and controversial link to the company he should have been policing. His brother Buzzy, former executive director of the CIA, was on ArmorGroup’s board of directors.
Bloomberg February 1, 2012
Afghan army and police forces or civilian contractors have attacked U.S.-led coalition forces at least 46 times since May 2007, including an attack today in which an Afghan soldier shot and killed a U.S. Marine in the southern province of Helmand.
The Afghan army soldier opened fire at close range as he and the Marine guarded a joint operating base at about 12:30 a.m. today, General Sayed Malook, a corps commander based in Helmand, said by phone. The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, confirmed that one of its soldiers was shot dead by an individual wearing an Afghan uniform.
Malook said the Afghan soldier had been taken into custody and told investigators that the killing wasn’t deliberate.
While the Taliban have claimed in the past to have infiltrated Afghan forces to carry out attacks on international troops or government officials, U.S. Defense Department data indicate that the majority, or 58 percent, of the attacks were motivated by personal matters and weren’t the result of insurgent activity.
In testimony prepared for a hearing today before the House Armed Services Committee, the department said 42 insider attacks from May 2007 through last year involved personnel of the Afghan National Security Forces, and three were carried out by Afghan contract employees of private security companies.
The attacks resulted in deaths of about 70 coalition personnel and the wounding of about 110, according to the testimony prepared by Pentagon officials including David Sedney, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan,Pakistan and Central Asia
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.
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.
Steve Silberman. “The invisible enemy.” Wired magazine, February 2007.
Reuters Health. “Field hospitals source of soldier infections.” June 18, 2007.
WASHINGTON — A U.S. Marine reservist and a Navy corpsman were killed in a drone airstrike in Afghanistan last week in an apparent case of friendly fire, U.S. military officials tell NBC News.
Marine Staff Sgt. Jeremy Smith and Navy Corpsman Benjamin Rast were reportedly killed Wednesday by a Hellfire missile fired from a U.S. Air Force Predator in what appears to be a case of mistaken identity, NBC reported. Smith and Rast were part of a Marine unit moving in to reinforce fellow Marines under heavy fire from enemy forces outside Sangin in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.
The Marines under fire were watching streaming video of the battlefield being fed to them by an armed Predator overhead. They saw a number of “hot spots,” or infrared images, moving in their direction. Apparently believing that those “hot spots” were the enemy, they called in a Hellfire missile strike from the Predator.