The private contractor guard force is owned by a foreign company with a long record of botched security operations from Afghanistan to London to Oak Ridge, Tennessee
The company is now wholly-owned by foreign security firm G4S, the same company that won notoriety on 9/11 when its Argenbright Security division ran passenger checkpoints at Dulles and Newark airports where hijackers boarded planes. Its performance on 9/11 was the major political impetus Congress used to federalize all airline security and create the Transportation Security Administration.
G4S was involved in a major scandal when its employees took part in bizarre hazing rituals when supposedly guarding State Department employees in Afghanistan. More recently, the company so botched security preparations for the London Olympics, the British government was forced to call in the army at the last minute.
by Joseph Trento at The DC Bureau November 14, 2012
Aiken, S.C. – Tons of weapons grade plutonium and other nuclear materials, a target for terrorists, are not being properly protected by the National Nuclear Security Administration at the Department of Energy’s sprawling Savannah River Site, according to security consultants and U.S. counterintelligence officials.
A secret security review underway at DOE and other government agencies after an elderly nun last summer breached a NNSA bomb-grade-uranium facility at the Oak Ridge Tennessee Y12 area reveals “harrowing problems in site management and control at other DOE sites,” said a Homeland Security official who requested anonymity. The official said that the Savannah River Site was of concern because “SRS does not have the staffing or the facilities to protect the huge amounts of plutonium that have been brought to SRS in recent years.”
SRS has one of the greatest concentrations in the world of radioactive material. In one old reactor building – the K Area Material Storage (KAMS) facility – protected by the same contractors that botched security at Oakridge, there is enough weapons grade plutonium to destroy the world multiple times. Here plutonium in its purest form can be found by the ton.
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 ?
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.”
30 Aug 2012 — javier at War Resistors International
G4S plc (formerly Group 4 Securicor) is a British multinational security services company headquartered in Crawley, United Kingdom. It is the world’s largest security company measured by revenues and has operations in around 125 countries. G4S was founded in 2004 by the merger of the UK-based Securicor plc with the Denmark-based Group 4 Falck.
In 2004 G4S bought private military and security company (PMSC) ArmorGroup and in doing so joined the shadowy world of privatised war. PMSCs have been accused of profiting from war, conflict, and political instability at the expense of security and human rights.
The British government has already played a large role in the growth of this industry by endorsing its widespread use in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the three years 2007-2009 the industry earned £62.8 million in contracts from the UK government. Almost all of the Foreign Office’s contracts have gone to ArmorGroup, now part of G4S. In June this year, defence secretary Philip Hammond, announced 30,000 Army jobs would go amid spending cuts, citing the need to use “more systematically the skills available in the reserve and from our contractors”.
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.
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.”
By JAKE WIENS POGO September 14, 2011
Armed with rockets and machine guns, a group of militants yesterday launched a sophisticated attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul from a partially constructed building about half a mile away, reports the New York Times.
The attack comes just months after two separate attacks rocked Afghanistan’s capital. The first was a June attack on the famed Inter-Continental Hotel, which reportedly claimed the lives of at least 10 people. Following that attack, at least nine people were killed and dozens more were injured when Taliban militants, dressed as Afghan women, detonated car bombs at the British Council on Afghanistan’s Independence Day in late August.
Although no embassy personnel were harmed during today’s attack on the Embassy, the brazen midday assault, coupled with the previous attacks, is a reminder that security of the Embassy remains paramount.
Back in 2009, POGO wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to raise concerns about the State Department’s management of Armor Group North America (AGNA), the contractor responsible for guarding the Embassy in Kabul.
The letter garnered international attention largely because of the “Lord of the Flies” environment depicted in photographs and videos released by POGO. But lost in much of the coverage was the threat to the Embassy’s security posed by State’s ineffectual oversight of AGNA.
Among the security vulnerabilities documented by POGO in 2009:
• Chronic guard turnover which, according to POGO sources, may have been as “high as 100 percent annually”;
• Nearly two-thirds of the guard force could not “adequately speak English,” which raised concerns that the guards could not communicate effectively if under attack; and
• Guard shortages resulted in “14-hour-day work cycles extending for as many as eight weeks in a row”
A subsequent report by the State Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) verified and expanded upon many of POGO’s findings. The report, published in September 2010, found that “AGNA has been unable to maintain the number of guards or the quality level required by the contract.” The OIG also found that “To manage staffing shortfalls, AGNA hired and put on duty Nepalese guards without verifiable experience, training, or background investi¬gations, which violates its contract” and that AGNA “firearms instructors qualified guards who did not actually meet the minimum qualification score on the firing range.”
This July, AGNA paid $7.5 million to the U.S. government to settle a qui tam lawsuit by a former employee who alleged AGNA’s performance in 2007 and 2008 put the security of the U.S. Embassy at risk.
AGNA’s parent company said the settlement was made solely “to avoid costly and disruptive litigation—and that there has been no finding or admission of liability.” The parent company, WSI, also stated, “At all times, the Embassy was secure.”
In an attempt to replace AGNA, the State Department last September selected EOD Technology (EODT) to take over security of the Embassy. But shortly following that announcement, a report by the Senate Armed Service Committee (SASC) documented both EODT and AGNA’s use of warlords with possible ties to the Taliban to staff their respective guard forces. A couple months later, EODT’s offices were raided by federal agents in connection with a separate investigation into “potential export violations.”
Following news of that raid, POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian argued that security of the Embassy should be an inherently governmental function, carried out by government employees rather than contractors. “If there’s a better argument for making this mission an inherently governmental function, this situation is it,” she said. “We’ve got one discredited company to be replaced by another discredited company,” she added.
Following a delay, EODT was scheduled to take over from AGNA this May, a State Department spokesperson told Mother Jones magazine. But in response to a POGO query, an AGNA spokesperson confirmed that AGNA is still responsible for Embassy security and also that the Embassy was “part of the insurgent citywide attack in Kabul today.”
There is no indication, at this point, that inadequate security contributed to yesterday’s attack. But as the Commission on Wartime Contracting (CWC) recommended in its final report, the government should evaluate the risk of using private security contractors at each static-security site. And if it’s determined that the risk is too high, the security contractors should be phased out. Yesterday’s attack presents an unwelcome reminder that it may be time to reevaluate the security situation at the Embassy in Kabul
Give yourself credit if you guessed “ArmorGroup North America Inc.” (AGNA) and the “Lord of the Flies” environment they oversaw in the housing camp for U.S embassy guards in Kabul, Afghanistan, which our friends over at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) exposed back in 2009.
Earlier this month, AGNA, the private security company and subsidiary of the British security services conglomerate G4S, settled a whistleblower’s lawsuit associated with the scandal, agreeing to pay a $7.5 million fine. Importantly, though, the contractor settled the suit without an admission of fault or liability, effectively sweeping the incident under the rug with regard to future considerations of government contracts
Any future contracting officials seeking to determine ArmorGroup’s integrity and trustworthiness will not see the incident listed in the government’s top contracting performance database, the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System (FAPIIS).
Currently, FAPIIS only displays lawsuits or administrative actions taken by federal, state, or local governments where there is an admission of fault or liability by the contractor. And guess what contractors always demand whenever they settle something out of court; yup, immunity from any finding of fault, keeping many of the worst contracting abuses out of the government’s databases and away from the eyes of contracting officials.
In AGNA’s case, that includes allegations of the company blatantly disregarding “its obligations to ensure the safety and security of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul” – according to the whistleblower who sued – and various other nefarious wrongdoings – according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Offenses include:
- “AGNA submitted false claims for payment on a State Department contract to provide armed guard services at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan”;
- “[I]n 2007 and 2008, AGNA guards violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) by visiting brothels in Kabul, and that AGNA’s management knew about the guards’ activities”;
- “AGNA misrepresented the prior work experience of 38 third country national guards it had hired to guard the Embassy”; and
- “AGNA failed to comply with certain Foreign Ownership, Control and Influence mitigation requirements on the embassy contract, and on a separate contract to provide guard services at a Naval Support Facility in Bahrain.”
Those seem like some important pieces of information that a contracting official might want to take into consideration if choosing between ArmorGroup and one of its modestly more responsible competitors when determining the award of a future federal contract.
Of course, contracting officials – and the public for that matter – could see this information if Congress simply passed some common sense contracting transparency reforms. Last spring, then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) introduced a bi-partisan bill including just such reforms.
Included in the legislation was language to pull into FAPIIS “records of any administrative proceeding entered into by a contractor at any level of government” no matter the finding of fault or liability. There was also a provision “increasing the length of time from five years to 10 that a contractor’s past performance record on a government contract” would stay in the database.
The legislation ingloriously died in committee, however, and with Sen. Feingold now out of the Senate, the transparency community needs a new champion to step up in Congress and push for these basic contracting reforms.
Armor Group North America and Its Affiliates Pay $7.5 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations
WASHINGTON – Armor Group North America Inc. (AGNA) and its affiliates have paid the United States $7.5 million to resolve allegations that AGNA submitted false claims for payment on a State Department contract to provide armed guard services at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Justice Department announced today.
The settlement resolves U.S. claims that in 2007 and 2008, AGNA guards violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) by visiting brothels in Kabul, and that AGNA’s management knew about the guards’ activities.
The settlement also resolves allegations that AGNA misrepresented the prior work experience of 38 third country national guards it had hired to guard the Embassy, and that AGNA failed to comply with certain Foreign Ownership, Control and Influence mitigation requirements on the embassy contract, and on a separate contract to provide guard services at a Naval Support Facility in Bahrain.
The settlement resolves a whistleblower suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The lawsuit was initially filed under seal by James Gordon against AGNA, ArmorGroup International plc, G4S plc and Wackenhut Services Inc. under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private individuals, called “relators”, to bring lawsuits on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of the proceeds of a settlement or judgment awarded against a defendant. Mr. Gordon will receive $1.35 million of the settlement proceeds. During 2007 and early 2008, Mr. Gordon was employed by AGNA, as its director of operations.
The case remained under seal to permit the United States to investigate the allegations and determine whether it would join the lawsuit. Under the False Claims Act, the United States may recover three times the amount of its losses, plus civil penalties. On April 29, 2011, the
United States joined the suit.
“These contracts are put in place to provide essential support to personnel who are serving in our missions overseas,” said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will actively pursue its legal remedies where contractors falsely claim taxpayer dollars for services that fall short of material requirements in their government contracts.”
“Americans deserve to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely and consistent with our values,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. “Our office has targeted government contractors who fail to meet their obligations to the American people. With this settlement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has now recovered more than $140 million in False Claims Act cases so far this year.”
“The Department of State appreciates the work done by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Inspector General in bringing this case to resolution. The Department of State takes any allegation of contractor misconduct seriously and works as part of the inter-agency community to ensure it is adjudicated properly,” said Ambassador Eric J. Boswell, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security.
The Deputy Inspector General for the Department of State, Harold Geisel, said, “We’re pleased with the successful resolution of this case, and I commend the dedication of our OIG investigators. Our efforts should reinforce to American taxpayers that oversight of their tax dollars is taken seriously.”
Assistant Attorney General West and U.S. Attorney Machen thanked the joint investigation team, which includes Special Agents with the Department of State Office of Inspector General, and representatives from the Department of State and the Department of the Navy, for their efforts in the investigation of this matter.
Murderer was facing race attack charges in UK before killing in Iraq
Daily Gazette April 25, 2011
A DOUBLE murderer who served with the Army in Colchester was due to stand trial for racially aggravated assault in the UK before he killed two contractors in Iraq.
Former paratrooper Danny Fitzsimons, 31, was sentenced to at least 20 years in an Iraqi prison earlier this year.
But his violent tendencies had already surfaced with Fitzsimons facing an assault charge at Bolton Crown Court, according to the Manchester Evening News.
See Tuesday’s Gazette for the full story. See original at The Daily Gazette
WASHINGTON — The State Department has fired a contractor hired to provide security at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, less than six months after the company won the $274 million job.
The department ended its agreement for embassy security with EOD Technology of Lenoir City, Tenn., because the company was not going to be able to start work on May 1, as the contract required, the State Department said Thursday in a statement.
ArmorGroup North America will continue to guard the embassy for at least the next four months until a replacement for EOD Technology is found.
The State Department said in 2009 that it would not renew its contract with ArmorGroup after its guards were caught engaging in lewd behavior and drinking excessively at their living quarters.
“The failure of a competitor to take on security at the US Embassy in Kabul will see G4S stay on at the expense of the failed incumbent, at an improved rate.
(“improved” over that 1 million a month they were losing due to allegedly underbidding the contract)
Gordon’s lawsuit alleges that Michael O’Connell, ArmorGroup North America’s vice president of operations, emailed Sauer on March 11, 2007, “AGNA bid this at a very low price and a very low margin,” adding the next day that the timelines and resources given to State in its proposal “don’t match up,” but it wasn’t “a big deal unless” the State Department contracting officer’s representative “calls us on it”.
The contract rollover has been won in spite of controversy over the recruitment and behaviour of staff by ArmorGroup, a subsidiary acquired by G4S in 2008, which led to a critical report by the US State Department over the running of the contract.
ArmorGroup caused an international scandal and lost its State Department contract. Why’s the company still protecting one of America’s most dangerous diplomatic outposts?
“If there’s a better argument for making this mission an inherently governmental function, this situation is it,” she says. “We’ve got one discredited company to be replaced by another discredited company.”
More than a year has passed since the State Department decided to drop its contract with the security firm protecting the US embassy in Kabul, following an international scandal featuring drunken debauchery fit for a Van Wilder flick. But the company that introduced the world to vodka butt-shots is still on the job—and it doesn’t seem to have plans to stand down anytime soon. Long after the expiration of its initial contract, in fact, ArmorGroup North America is currently hiring more guards to protect the Kabul embassy.
The firm sparked controversy in September 2009, when a Washington-based watchdog group sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighting a list of violations by the company, from a chronic guard shortage to the hiring of personnel who couldn’t speak English and would be unable to communicate with their colleagues in an emergency. But the most shocking charges concerned what the Project on Government Oversight called a “Lord of the Flies environment”—hazing and wild partying depicted in a series of graphic photographs showing members of the Kabul embassy security force drunk, half-naked, and engaged in an array of NSFW behavior.
Embassygate tainted not just ArmorGroup North America (AGNA) and its parent company, the security conglomerate G4S, but the State Department, too, leading to investigations by Congress and State’s inspector general. In the years leading up to the scandal, it turned out, the State Department had repeatedly found fault with the company’s performance—at one point stating in an internal memo that “the security of the US Embassy in Kabul is in jeopardy” as a result—but failed to fire AGNA. A former high-level AGNA employee also came forward to say that he’d warned the State Department about “lewd, aberrant, and sexually deviant behavior” by the company’s recruits more than two years before this conduct made global headlines. Again, no action was taken.
In December 2009, deeply embarrassed by the controversy, the State Department said it planned to axe AGNA once its contract came up for renewal that summer. But when that time came, the agency ended up extending the firm’s contract for another six months while it brought in another security provider. “Because the current KESF [Kabul Embassy Security Force] contract can only be extended through December 30th, we must have the company on the ground and operating by then,” a spokesman for the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security told Mother Jones last summer.
In late September, the agency selected the Tennessee-based firm EOD Technology to take over the contract. But December 30 came and went with no changing of the guards. And AGNA apparently believed it was staying put, at least for a while. In mid-January, the company posted a job ad on Careerbuilder noting that it was “recruiting Protective Security Specialists to provide security to the U.S. Embassy in, Kabul, Afghanistan.”
A spokeswoman for AGNA, Susan Pitcher, confirmed that the firm is still protecting the embassy, but declined to comment further, citing a State Department policy about contractors speaking to reporters. EODT also declined to comment. But a Diplomatic Security spokesman told Mother Jones that the transition has been delayed. Now, he said, the handover won’t happen until May. “In order to provide EODT with adequate time to make an orderly transition, it has been given 120 days from the end of AGNA’s contract,” the spokesman said.
Sources familiar with the security force contract questioned whether the delay has anything to do with the transition process; one suggested that the State Department may merely be stalling after unwittingly selecting a replacement for AGNA that also has a controversial background.
In October, a week after the agency chose EODT for the job, the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has conducted a years-long investigation into private security firms in Afghanistan, released a report leveling serious allegations at both EODT and AGNA. It accused the companies of relying on local warlords to staff their guard forces—strongmen with unclear allegiances and possible Taliban ties. In one case, according to the report, EODT hired a group of Afghans who had recently been fired by ArmorGroup for “providing sensitive security information to…a Taliban-affiliated warlord.” (In response, EODT claimed that “all leaders which EODT utilized were made known to the US military at every stage of mobilization.” AGNA countered that it only relied on Afghans who had been recommended by special operations troops.)
Making matters worse for EODT, federal agents raided its offices in early December in connection with an investigation into potential export violations involving the transit of weapons or other military-grade materials. The company has said it is cooperating with the investigation and has denied any wrongdoing. “We obviously would not have been selected for some of the sensitive and important projects we handle for our country around the world had we not been thoroughly investigated before and found to be trustworthy,” the firm said in a statement. A State Department official said the agency was unaware the company was the subject of a federal investigation until stories about the raid appeared in the press, and insisted the probe “has not held up the transition.”
For Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, the fact that the State Department handed the embassy job to a company saddled with its own serious baggage illustrates the flawed logic of placing contractors in roles that she believes should be performed by US government personnel. “If there’s a better argument for making this mission an inherently governmental function, this situation is it,” she says. “We’ve got one discredited company to be replaced by another discredited company.”
Senate panel: U.S. money was funneled to Afghan warlords with links to violence
The leading Senate panel on military affairs has found that several private security contractors in Afghanistan funneled money from their Pentagon contracts to warlords and strongmen linked to murder, kidnapping and bribery.
The private security contractors at the center of the yearlong Senate Armed Services Committee investigation also used U.S. taxpayers’ money to pay off individuals who supported the Taliban or took action against NATO-coalition forces in Afghanistan, according to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the panel’s chairman.
One of the companies investigated, ArmorGroup, a subsidiary of the British company G4S, relied on Afghan warlords — some of whom were Taliban supporters — to provide manpower for the company’s guard force at an Afghan air base, the report said.
During the contract period with the U.S. Air Force, one of the warlords who provided security forces for ArmorGroup killed another warlord in a shootout at a bazaar, according to the report. A third warlord working with ArmorGroup was killed in a U.S.-Afghan military raid on a Taliban meeting at his home.
A second company, EOD Technology (EODT), relied on local powerbrokers to supply personnel for its guard force, including one individual said to have raised money for the Taliban. EODT also hired personnel that had previously been fired by ArmorGroup for passing sensitive information to a Taliban-linked warlord, according to Levin.
EODT is registered as a foreign corporation in Tennessee.
The investigation also looked into more than 125 Pentagon security contracts in Afghanistan that were in place from 2007 to 2009. The panel found that contractors did not properly vet their personnel or ensure they received adequate training. The investigation revealed wasted resources and “wide gaps in government” oversight that allowed “dangerous” failures to take place, Levin said.
The State Department Office of the Inspector General (OIG) today released a damning performance evaluation of ArmorGroup North America (AGNA), the contractor responsible for guarding the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Among the revelations from today’s OIG report:
- AGNA employed, and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security failed to scrutinize, “Nepalese guards without verifiable experience, training, or background investigations in violation of its contract.”
- “AGNA cannot account for 101 U.S. Government-furnished weapons that have been missing since 2007. AGNA used U.S. Government-furnished weapons for training rather than required contractor-furnished weapons.”
- “AGNA regularly allows individuals who are not vetted by Embassy Kabul’s regional security office unescorted access to Camp Sullivan, a U.S. Government-owned camp containing sensitive materials.”
The report confirms and expands on the findings of our investigation last year, which pulled back the curtain on a “Lord of the Flies environment” that had taken hold of the Embassy security guard force.
Lewd and obscene photos of AGNA security guards helped our investigation garner considerable attention—but the key revelation, as detailed in our letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was that the State Department was failing to conduct oversight of a contractor performing an incredibly important service. Today’s OIG report is just one more piece of evidence demonstrating that the State Department continues to struggle in its oversight of private security contractors.
Find statements by POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian and POGO investigator Jake Wiens here.
ArmorGroup’s contract expired on June 30, 2010, but the company will continue to guard the Embassy through the end of 2010. The State Department has selected EOD Technology, Inc. (EODT) to take over security at the Embassy.
— Bryan Rahija
- Testimony of Danielle Brian before the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan Regarding Private Security Contractors
- Senate Report Says ArmorGroup Funded Warlords In Bed With the Taliban
- Did Triple Canopy Instruct Its Guards to Lie to State Department Investigators?
- Kabul Embassy Deja Vu
- Kabul Embassy Guards Back in the Spotlight
- POGO Letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding U.S. Embassy in Kabul
Federal Judge Denies Defendants ArmorGroup’s and Wackenhut’s Motions to Dismiss False Claims Act Whistleblower Lawsuit Involving Fraudulent Practices at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul
ALEXANDRIA, Va., Aug. 27/ — Judge James Cacheris of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has denied Defendants ArmorGroup North America (“AGNA”), ArmorGroup International, Wackenhut Services, Inc., and Cornelius Medley’s motions to dismiss whistleblower James Gordon’s lawsuit brought under the False Claims Act.
On September 9, 2009, Mr. Gordon, former Director of Operations of AGNA, filed a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit under the False Claims Act in United States District Court for the District of Columbia, charging that ArmorGroup management retaliated against him for whistleblowing, internally and to the United States Department of State (“DoS”), about illegalities committed by ArmorGroup in the performance of AGNA’s contracts with the United States to provide security services at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan and at the U.S. Naval base in Bahrain.
The Complaint charges that during Mr. Gordon’s seven-month tenure as Director of Operations, he investigated, attempted to stop, and reported to DoS a myriad of serious violations committed by ArmorGroup, including:
- Severely understaffing the guard force necessary to protect the U.S. Embassy;
- Allowing AGNA managers and employees to frequent brothels notorious for housing trafficked women in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act;
- Endangering the safety of the guard force during transport to and from the Embassy by attempting to substitute company-owned subpar, refurbished vehicles from Iraq rather than purchasing armored escort vehicles as promised to DoS;
- Knowingly using funds to procure cheap counterfeit goods from a company in Lebanon owned by the wife of AGNA’s Logistics Manager; and
- Engaging in practices to maximize profit from the contract with reckless disregard for the safety and security of the guard force, the U.S. Embassy, and its personnel
In his Memorandum Opinion (August 27, 2010), Judge Cacheris noted that “Plaintiff alleges and Defendants offer no facts to dispute that Defendants … began to try to constructively discharge [Mr. Gordon] by ‘making [his] working conditions intolerable.'” Judge Cacheris further noted that “Plaintiff alleges, and Defendants have not offered any evidence refuting the fact, that [Defendant] Medley excluded Plaintiff from management meetings, shunned him, and relegated him to a position of persona non grata in the office” and that “Medley made clear to Plaintiff by his behavior, and to other staff members by his direct boasts, that his priority was to force Gordon to quit.” In denying Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, Judge Cacheris concluded that “there is a genuine issue of material fact regarding the continued nature and duration of the allegedly illegal acts Plaintiff was requested and required to participate in.” The parties will now proceed into the discovery phase of the litigation.
According to Debra S. Katz, counsel for Mr. Gordon, “this is an important victory for conscientious employees, like Mr. Gordon, who blow the whistle on fraudulent practices by defense contractors and wind up then paying the ultimate price. The court’s decision today makes clear that such employees can bring federal claims under the False Claims Act to obtain redress.”
Debra S. Katz and Lisa Banks, attorneys at Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP, along with Janet Goldstein and Robert Vogel at Vogel, Slade & Goldstein, LLP, represent James Gordon.
Judge Cacheris’ opinion is available at http://www.kmblegal.com/2010/08/27/court-denies-summary-judgment-in-false-claims-act-whistleblower-retaliation-suit-by-kmb-client-james-gordon-against-afghanistan-defense-contractor-armorgroup/.