by David Rohde at Rueters November 16, 2012
Amid the politicking, there’s an overlooked cause of the Benghazi tragedy
For conservatives, the Benghazi scandal is a Watergate-like presidential cover-up. For liberals, it a fabricated Republican witch-hunt. For me, Benghazi is a call to act on an enduring problem that both parties ignore.
One major overlooked cause of the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans is we have underfunded the State Department and other civilian agencies that play a vital role in our national security.
Instead of building up cadres of skilled diplomatic security guards, we have bought them from the lowest bidder, trying to acquire capacity and expertise on the cheap. Benghazi showed how vulnerable that makes us.
Now, I’m not arguing that this use of contractors was the sole cause of the Benghazi tragedy, but I believe it was a primary one. Let me explain.
The slapdash security that killed Stevens, technician Sean Smith and CIA guards Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty started with a seemingly inconsequential decision by Libya’s new government. After the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, Libya’s interim government barred armed private security firms – foreign and domestic – from operating anywhere in the country.
Memories of the abuses by foreign mercenaries, acting for the brutal Qaddafi regime, prompted the decision, according to State Department officials.
Once the Libyans took away the private security guard option, it put enormous strain on a little-known State Department arm, the Diplomatic Security Service. This obscure agency has been responsible for protecting American diplomatic posts around the world since 1916.
Though embassies have contingents of Marines, consulates and other offices do not. And the missions of Marines, in fact, are to destroy documents and protect American government secrets. It is the Diplomatic Security agents who are charged with safeguarding the lives of American diplomats.
Today, roughly 900 Diplomatic Security agents guard 275 American embassies and consulates around the globe. That works out to a whopping four agents per facility.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the State Department relied on hundreds of security contractors to guard American diplomats. At times, they even hired private security guards to protect foreign leaders.
After Afghan President Hamid Karzai narrowly survived a 2002 assassination attempt, the State Department hired security guards from DynCorp, a military contractor, to guard him. Their aggressiveness in and around the presidential palace, however, angered Afghan, American and European officials. As soon as Afghan guards were trained to protect Karzai, DynCorp was let go.
But the State Department’s dependence on contractors for security remained. And Benghazi epitomized this Achilles’ heel.
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 ?
Defense firm links with Va.-based Sterling
An East Tennessee defense contractor has joined forces with a Virginia firm.
EOD Technology announced Wednesday that it has merged with Reston, Va.-based Sterling International to form Sterling Global Operations.
The new company will be based in Lenoir City, and EODT CEO Matt Kaye will serve as president and CEO of the new venture.
Kaye said Wednesday that the combined companies form “the world’s preeminent conventional munitions disposal organization.”
Asked about the benefits of the deal for EODT, Kaye said: “It really diversifies our customer base. It strengthens our footprint around the world and provides us greater breadth and depth of resources.”
EODT got its start in 1987 as a company specializing in explosive ordnance disposal, and for years specialized in cleaning up contamination at former U.S. military sites. During the George W. Bush administration, EODT branched out into security operations and eventually became a major player in that market.
The company has also received some unwelcome scrutiny in connection with that work, however. In 2010, a U.S. Senate committee criticized EODT for its hiring practices in Afghanistan, and the following year it was revealed that the U.S. State Department had fired the company from a contract to guard the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
EODT was raided by federal agents in 2010, although no charges have been filed in connection with the raid.
According to a news release, EODT’s employee stock ownership plan acquired Sterling International. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The release said Sterling manages a $175 million weapons removal and abatement program for the State Department, and Kaye said that in comparison to EODT, the Virginia firm is more involved in the work of nonproliferation.
“While the activities that (EODT does) are nonproliferation, they’re much more in a mass-quantity stockpile reduction,” he said. “Sterling is on the forefront of … assisting countries with treaty compliance (and) establishing mine action centers.”
Kaye said Sterling has approximately 150 employees, and the new company will have about 3,500 employees.
After a round of layoffs earlier this year, EODT said it had 250 American employees and 3,000 foreign nationals.
Kaye said Sterling International’s program manager for conventional weapons destruction will remain in that position with the new company.
Sterling’s website does not identify the company’s top executives, and Kaye declined to identify the founder or CEO of the company. “He’s asked not to be named,” Kaye said, adding that the individual would stay on as an executive adviser.
The release said the combined companies will continue to serve existing customers, but will also expand into markets including energy exploration and development, and judicial and criminal justice support.
The new company will have annual revenues of $150 million.
There are more contractors than troops in Afghanistan
Time’s Battleland October 9, 2012 by David Isenberg
U.S. military forces may be out of Iraq, but the unsung and unrecognized part of America’s modern military establishment is still serving and sacrificing — the role played by private military and security contractors.
That their work is dangerous can be seen by looking at the headlines. Just last Thursday a car bomb hit a private security convoy in Baghdad, killing four people and wounding at least nine others.
That is hardly an isolated incident. According to the most recent Department of Labor statistics there were at least 121 civilian contractor deaths filed on in the third quarter of 2012. Of course, these included countries besides Iraq.
As the Defense Base Act Compensation blog notes, “these numbers are not an accurate accounting of Contractor Casualties as many injuries and deaths are not reported as Defense Base Act Claims. Also, many of these injuries will become deaths due to the Defense Base Act Insurance Companies denial of medical benefits.” To date, a total of 90,680 claims have been filed since September 1, 2001.
How many contractors are now serving on behalf of the U.S. government?
According to the most recent quarterly contractor census report issued by the U.S. Central Command, which includes both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as 18 other countries stretching from Egypt to Kazakhstan, there were approximately 137,000 contractors working for the Pentagon in its region. There were 113,376 in Afghanistan and 7,336 in Iraq. Of that total, 40,110 were U.S. citizens, 50,560 were local hires, and 46,231 were from neither the U.S. not the country in which they were working.
Put simply, there are more contractors than U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
These numbers, however, do not reflect the totality of contractors. For example, they do not include contractors working for the U.S. State Department. The CENTCOM report says that “of FY 2012, the USG contractor population in Iraq will be approximately 13.5K. Roughly half of these contractors are employed under Department of State contracts.”
While most of the public now understands that contractors perform a lot of missions once done by troops – peeling potatoes, pulling security — they may not realize just how dependent on them the Pentagon has become.
Will ArmorGroup, AGNA, G4S, finally be held accountable for the deaths of Paul McGuigan and Darren Hoare??
The programme-makers heard stories of contractors being forced to work on dangerous missions with inadequate equipment, incident reports sanitised to protect company reputations and numerous deaths of former soldiers.
One security contractor, Bob Shepherd, said: “We know when a soldier dies it’s all over the newspapers, it’s on the TV. But we never know when security contractors die.
“For the companies it’s bad for business, for the government it’s hiding the true cost of these conflicts.
“If the British taxpayers knew the total numbers of people that have died on behalf of British security companies in places like Iraq and Afghanistan they would be shocked.”
BBC News Oct 1, 2012
Security firm G4S was sent warnings not to employ an armed guard in Iraq just days before he murdered two colleagues, a BBC investigation has found.
Private security guard Paul McGuigan, from the Scottish Borders, was shot dead by Danny Fitzsimons in 2009 in Baghdad while on a protection contract.
Another man, Australian Darren Hoare, was also killed.
All were working for UK contractor G4S, which was operating under the name ArmorGroup in the region.
In a BBC documentary, it is revealed that a G4S worker sent a series of emails to the company in London, warning them about Fitzsimons’s previous convictions and unstable behaviour.
The anonymous whistleblower signed one email “a concerned member of the public and father”.
The worker warned G4S: “I am alarmed that he will shortly be allowed to handle a weapon and be exposed to members of the public.
“I am speaking out because I feel that people should not be put at risk.”
Another email, sent as Fitzsimons was due to start work in Baghdad, said: “Having made you aware of the issues regarding the violent criminal Danny Fitzsimons, it has been noted that you have not taken my advice and still choose to employ him in a position of trust.
“I have told you that he remains a threat and you have done nothing.”
Within 36 hours of arriving in Iraq in August 2009, Fitzsimons – a former paratrooper – had shot and killed the two men after what he claimed was a drunken brawl.
An Iraqi colleague was also wounded as Fitzsimons tried to flee the scene.
Fitzsimons had worked as a private security contractor before in Iraq, but he had been sacked for punching a client.
At the time he was taken on by G4S, Fitzsimons also had a criminal record, was facing outstanding charges of assault and a firearms offence, and had been diagnosed by doctors as having PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
In the documentary, the parents of Paul McGuigan call for the company to face criminal charges over the killing.
His mother Corinne Boyd-Russell, from Innerleithen in the Borders, said: “[Fitzsimons] fired the bullets. But the gun was put in his hand by G4S ArmorGroup. They put the gun in that man’s hand.
“I want G4S to be charged with corporate manslaughter and be held accountable for what they did.”
The parents of Danny Fitzsimons, who is serving 20 years in a Baghdad prison after being sentenced for the murders in February 2011, were also shocked to hear about the existence of the emails.
Liz Fitzsimons, from Manchester, said: “And they still took him out there? They [G4S] need to be taken to task for that.
“The people who we feel are responsible, who we hold responsible for putting that gun in Danny’s hand, are without a shadow of a doubt G4S.”
A G4S spokesman admitted that its screening of Danny Fitzsimons “was not completed in line with the company’s procedures”.
It said vetting had been tightened since the incident.
Regarding the email warnings, the spokesman G4S told the BBC it was aware of the allegations but that an internal investigation showed “no such emails were received by any member of our HR department”.
He did not say whether anyone else in the company had seen them.
An inquest into the death of Paul McGuigan, a former Royal Marine, is due to begin in December.
The revelations in the Fitzsimons case come just weeks after G4S found itself at the centre of a crisis over its inability to meet its commitment to recruit security staff for the Olympics in London.
It is the biggest security company in the world in an industry that is worth about £400bn globally
WARNINGS ABOUT KILLER OF SCOT WENT UNHEEDED October 1, 2012
CONTROVERSIAL security firm G4S ignored warnings not to employ an armed guard in Iraq who went on to murder two of his colleagues, it has been claimed.
It emerged that a whistleblower sent two e-mails to the London-based company, which operates as Armorgroup in Iraq, expressing concerns that Fitzsimons’ unstable behaviour made him unsuitable to be handling weapons in a war zone.
The parents of Fitzsimons were also shocked to hear about the existence of the e-mails.
Mother Liz Fitzsimons, from Manchester, said: “The people who we feel are responsible, who we hold responsible for putting that gun in Danny’s hand, are without a shadow of a doubt G4S.”
The news comes just months after the UK Government was forced to call in 1,200 troops to police the Olympic Games venues after G4S failed to provide enough staff.
The firm recently won a £20million contract to manage the electronic tagging of Scottish offenders.
A spokesman for G4S said: “Although there was evidence that Mr Fitzsimons falsified and apparently withheld material information during the recruitment process, his screening was not completed in line with the company’s procedures.
“Our screening processes should have been better implemented in this situation, but it is a matter of speculation what, if any, role this may have played in the incident.”
Two separate suicide attacks in Afghanistan – both aimed at foreign workers or military forces, left at least 14 civilians dead and three U.S. troops wounded on Tuesday, according to Afghan officials.
The U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan, ISAF, confirmed only that a suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest attacked in the Kunar province’s Watahpur district, wounding three foreign troops.
A senior Afghan security official tells CBS News that the bomber walked into a group of American soldiers and local residents who had gathered for a ceremony launching work on a new bridge. He said the ISAF troops wounded were Americans, and an Afghan civilian was also killed in the blast.
Earlier Tuesday, a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a mini-bus carrying foreign aviation workers to the airport in the Afghan capital, killing at least 13 people in an attack that a militant group said was revenge for an anti-Islam film that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad.
A senior Kabul police official tells CBS News the dead include eight South Africans, four Afghan nationals and one person from Kyrgyzstan. Many of the victims were employees of an aviation company, including pilots. Two sources have told CBS News separately that the victims of the attack worked for a company contracted to fly U.S. State Department staff within Afghanistan, Aviation Charter Solutions (ACS),
Reuters September 12, 2012
BENGHAZI, Libya – The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other embassy staff (Shaun Smith) were killed in a rocket attack on their car, a Libyan official said, as they were rushed from a consular building stormed by militants denouncing a U.S.-made film insulting the Prophet Mohammad.
Gunmen had attacked and burned the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, a center of last year’s uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, late on Tuesday evening, killing one U.S. consular official. The building was evacuated.
The Libyan official said the ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was being driven from the consulate building to a safer location when gunmen opened fire.
“The American ambassador and three staff members were killed when gunmen fired rockets at them,” the official in Benghazi told Reuters.
There was no immediate comment from the State Department in Washington. U.S. ambassadors in such volatile countries are accompanied by tight security, usually travelling in well-protected convoys. Security officials will be considering whether the two attacks were coordinated
International Herald Tribune September 4, 2012
Two Americans and two Pakistani employees of the consulate were among the injured, and a charred U.S. passport was found inside the vehicle.
The Peshawar consulate has at least 11 American staffers, according to State Department records, along with a number of local employees.
The New York Times September 3, 2012
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into a sport utility vehicle belonging to the United States Consulate in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Monday morning, Pakistani and American officials said, in one of the most brazen attacks against Americans in the country in recent years.
There were conflicting reports about the number and nationality of the casualties. Pakistani officials said that at least two people were killed by the blast and at least 13 were injured, including two police officers. The United States Embassy in Islamabad confirmed the attack and said in a statement that two Americans and two Pakistani employees of the consulate were injured. It denied early reports that an American had been killed.
A senior Pakistani government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that an American backup vehicle immediately retrieved the four who were wounded inside the S.U.V. and took them to the consulate. The official said two Pakistanis were killed outside the vehicle.
Information about the slain interpreter was not available.
WASHINGTON — A U.S. government aid worker killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan was a former master planner for Prince George’s County.
Forty-three-year-old Ragaei Abdelfattah was killed Wednesday in the eastern Kunar province along with three coalition service members and an Afghan civilian.
The Washington Post (http://tinyurl.com/8ow2c7k ) reports that Abdelfattah was a native of Egypt and a naturalized American citizen who came to love the United States. He was married and had two teenage sons from a previous marriage.
In addition to his work for Prince George’s County, Abdelfattah spent five years with the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission.
His wife, Angela Ruppe, says Abdelfattah was fulfilled by the development work he was doing in Afghanistan.
Huffington Post August 10, 2012
A suicide bomber in eastern Afghanistan killed three troops, a U.S. aid worker and an Afghan interpreter on Wednesday, CNN reported.
According to the Department of Defense, the attack occurred when an insurgent detonated a suicide vest in Sarkowi, Kunar Province.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffith, 45, the senior enlisted soldier of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division from Fort Carson, Colo., died in the explosion. Also killed were Army Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35, of West Point, N.Y., Air Force Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38, of Conyers, Ga., and USAID Foreign Service Officer Ragaei Abdelfattah.
Several troops were also injured in the attack, but details were not released.
A 24-year Army veteran, Griffith had been deployed to Afghanistan in March after serving three tours in Iraq. He was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, the Casper Star Tribune reported.
Kennedy joined the Army in 2000 and also received the Bronze Star. At the time of his death, he was serving on his third deployment, including two tours in Iraq.
Gray was an Air Liaison Officer and flight commander attached to Fort Carson through the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing at Moody Air Force Base, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported. Although commissioned as an officer in 1997, he was previously an enlisted Airman and one of the Air Force’s first career Air Liaison Officers.
Abdelfattah recently began his second voluntary tour in Afghanistan to continue supporting the country’s stability and long-term development.
“With the work of people such as Ragaei, the civilian surge we launched in Afghanistan in 2009 has made a tremendous impact, strengthening the capacity of the Afghan Government and laying a foundation for long-term sustainable development. Though we are shocked and saddened by this loss and will miss Ragaei, our efforts will continue,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
Information about the slain interpreter was not available.
Associated Press at Sacbee August 9, 2012
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration says a U.S. government aid worker was killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned Wednesday’s attack by two men wearing suicide vests in the eastern Kunar province.
Clinton’s statement said USAID foreign service officer Ragaei Abdelfattah, three coalition service members and an Afghan civilian were killed. A State Department diplomat was injured.
The Turkish Weekly Tuesday, 7 August 2012
From its sprawling, $750 million embassy in Baghdad – the largest, most expensive American diplomatic mission in the world – Washington had hoped for a cozy relationship with the Iraqi government, forged after a U.S.-led military coalition ousted former president Saddam Hussein.
But in the seven months since the United States withdrew its combat forces from Iraq, U.S. relations with Baghdad have deteriorated as Iraqi insurgents have carried out a major attack at least once a month.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the ongoing violence that included coordinated bombings and gunbattles on July 23 unleashed by Iraq’s al-Qaida affiliate.
As American influence in Iraq has ebbed to its lowest point in years, and with Iraq in political turmoil, the Obama administration recently announced large reductions to the size and scope of its mission in a country less willing to accept a significant American footprint.
These include plans to slash the huge diplomatic presence it had envisioned for Iraq by one-third, drastically pare down a highly-touted but deeply unpopular police training program and close its consulate in Kirkuk.
Clements Worldwide, leading provider of international insurance solutions, reports the U.S. State Department’s pre-negotiated agreement with insurer CNA for the provision of Defense Base Act (DBA) coverage has been suspended. As a result, all DBA policies with renewal dates of July 22, 2012 or later must be placed on an open market basis. Consequently, contractors may be subject to:
• Higher rates: o Minimum premiums now apply, which could be significantly more expensive for
contractors with operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.
• More complex procurement: o Brokers must now present risk in order to obtain quotes.
o Insurers will now require claims experience information in order to rate individual
• Varying limits: o Although basic coverage will remain the same, certain extensions (such as evacuation)
may have varying limits depending on the insurer.
“Failure to obtain DBA insurance for all covered employees not only subjects an organization to the risk of potential lawsuits by its employees, it also exposes the company and its officers individually to possible Labor Department fines and criminal actions,” says Smita Malik, assistant vice president at Clements. “DBA cover is therefore not only an important requirement of any robust compliance program, but also an important step in mitigating potential liability arising from covered employee activities.”
Malik urges all U .S. government contractors and subcontractors to promptly consult with an authorized DBA insurance expert to ensure proper compliance with the State Department’s new requirements.
Kidron engineer killed in Afghanistan July 26, 2012
WOOSTER — A Kidron man taken hostage in Afghanistan in 2008 and held captive for 56 days before being released was shot and killed Monday in a rural part of that country.
Al Geiser, 65, of Kidron, was with two Afghans, one a business partner and close friend and the other a co-worker, and returning from a job that was part of a hydroelectric project when they were killed, according to a press release issued by Carl Wiebe, pastor of Kidron Mennonite Church.
The Associated Press reported gunmen killed three people in an ambush on a van in northern Afghanistan, and one of the victims was an electrical engineer who lived in the country for decades. However, the AP story did not contain the information of the American killed.
(AP) CNN News KABUL, Afghanistan – July 24, 2012
The U.S. embassy and Afghan officials say an American civilian who reportedly worked as an electrical engineer in northern Afghanistan has been killed by gunmen.
The U.S. Embassy on Tuesday could not provide further details because of privacy laws, but three Afghan security officials say the man, an electrical engineer working in Afghanistan for about 30 years, was shot Monday by gunmen as he rode in a mini-bus in northern Parwan province. The gunmen, two or three in number, also killed two Afghans, the driver and one of the man’s colleagues, they said.
Shirin Agha, the police chief in Parwan’s Siahgerd district, said on Tuesday that the American had been dressed in Afghan clothes and had a long beard
WASHINGTON Inter Press Service July 10, 2012
Disarmament activists and former U.S. ambassadors are urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to increase U.S. aid to Laos to clear millions of tonnes of unexploded ordinance (UXO) left by U.S. bombers on its territory during the Indochina War during her brief visit to the country Wednesday.
The visit, scheduled to last only a few hours on a hectic eight-nation tour by Clinton designed in part to underline the Barack Obama administration’s “pivot” from the Middle East to Asia, will nonetheless be historic. No sitting U.S. secretary of state has visited Laos since 1955.
Sources here said Clinton is considering a 100-million-dollar aid commitment to support bomb-clearing efforts over a 10-year period. Such a commitment would more than double the nearly 47 million dollars Washington has provided in UXO assistance since 1997 when it first began funding UXO programmes in Laos.
By BRADLEY KLAPPER, Associated Press July 2, 2012
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration said Tuesday that Pakistan was reopening its supply lines into Afghanistan, after the U.S. belatedly issued an apology for the November killing of 24 Pakistani troops in a NATO airstrike.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed her condolences for the deaths in a telephone conversation with Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. The incident badly damaged already strained relations between the two countries and forced the U.S. and its allies to send supplies via costlier northern routes into Afghanistan.
“We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military,” Clinton said in a statement, recounting her discussion with Khar. “I offered our sincere condolences to the families of the Pakistani soldiers who lost their lives. Foreign Minister Khar and I acknowledged the mistakes that resulted in the loss of Pakistani military lives.”
It is the first time any U.S. official has formally apologized for the deaths, a step hotly debated within the Obama administration and one demanded by Pakistan while its supply routes remained closed for seven months. It came as key Pakistani civilian and military leaders were meeting Tuesday evening in Islamabad to discuss whether to reopen NATO supply routes.
Clinton said a decision had been reached.
“This is a tangible demonstration of Pakistan’s support for a secure, peaceful, and prosperous Afghanistan and our shared objectives in the region,” Clinton said, calling the agreement “critically important to the men and women who are fighting terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan.