Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

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.

Please read the entire story here

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

Cuba upholds US contractor Alan Gross sentence

Cuba’s Supreme Court has upheld a 15-year prison sentence imposed on a US contractor accused of crimes against the state.

BBC August 5, 2011

The contractor, 62-year-old Alan Gross, was convicted in March of distributing illegal communications equipment in Havana.

He says he was just trying to help Cuba’s small Jewish community.

The rejection of his appeal is likely to further sour relations between the US and Cuba.

In his appeal hearing last month Gross admitted bringing satellite equipment into the country, but said he never intended to harm the Cuban government.

The Supreme Court rejected his argument, saying he was part of a US government programme aimed at “destabilising” and “subverting” Cuba’s communist system.

Gross’s US lawyer, Peter Kahn, said in a statement that his family was “heartbroken” by the decision, but remained hopeful that there could be a diplomatic solution.

Please read more at the BBC

August 7, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Legal Jurisdictions, State Department | , , , | Leave a comment

Aid worker death ‘lessons learnt’

“I pay tribute to the courage of the US forces who risked their own lives to try and rescue Linda Norgrove.”

The Press Association March 14, 2011

The “appropriate tactical lessons” have been shared and learnt from the botched mission to rescue kidnapped aid worker Linda Norgrove from insurgents in Afghanistan, the Foreign Secretary has said.

William Hague also paid tribute to the US Special Forces who tried to free the 36-year-old, seized during an ambush in the Dewagal valley in Kunar province on September 26.

Last month, coroner David Ridley concluded that Ms Norgrove, from the Western Isles, was killed by a grenade thrown by a US soldier during the failed rescue mission but cleared him and his colleagues of any blame.

In a written ministerial statement, Mr Hague said he could now comment on Ms Norgrove’s death as the military report into her death had been published.

He said: “It is our long-standing policy not to comment on the tactics of British or our allies’ Special Forces but I am confident that appropriate tactical lessons have been shared and learnt

Please read the entire report here

March 14, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Casualties, Civilian Contractors, Safety and Security Issues, State Department, USAID | , , , , | Leave a comment

Trial of US contractor enters 2nd day in Cuba

By PAUL HAVEN  Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) – The trial of a U.S. government contractor detained more than a year on charges he sought to undermine Cuba’s government enters its second day Saturday in a case that has worsened relations between the longtime enemies.

Alan Gross, who was arrested in December 2009, stands accused of illegally bringing communications equipment into Cuba for Development Associates International as part of a USAID-backed democracy program.

Cuba says the programs are aimed at overthrowing the government of President Raul Castro. U.S. officials and Gross’ family insist he has done nothing wrong, and say he should be freed on humanitarian grounds in any case. Gross faces 20 years in jail if convicted.

The trial began Friday with about nine hours of testimony in a courtroom in a converted mansion in a once-prosperous neighborhood of Havana. The proceedings were closed to journalists.

March 5, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Government Contractor, Legal Jurisdictions, State Department, USAID | , , , , | Leave a comment

Detained U.S. contractor goes on trial today in Cuba

Havana via TampaBay.com

Detained U.S. contractor goes on trial

More than a man’s fate will be at stake when U.S. contractor Alan Gross goes on trial today on charges he sought to undermine Cuba’s government by bringing communications equipment onto the island illegally. U.S. officials have made clear that no meaningful rapprochement between the two Cold War enemies is possible while the 61-year-old Maryland native remains in jail.

Gross, who was working for Bethesda-based Development Associates International on a USAID program that promotes democracy when he was arrested in December 2009, faces a possible 20-year sentence for “acts against the integrity and independence” of Cuba. His family, and U.S. and company officials say he was bringing communications equipment to Cuba’s 1,500-strong Jewish community. Cuban Jewish groups deny having anything to do with him, and there is even speculation that leaders of the Jewish community might testify against him.  Please see the original here

March 4, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Government Contractor, Legal Jurisdictions, State Department, USAID | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Aid worker, Linda Norgrove, inquest to open

The Independent Sunday UK

An inquest into the death of kidnapped aid worker Linda Norgrove will take place this week.

Ms Norgrove, from the Western Isles, was helping the Afghan people rebuild their war-torn country when she was taken hostage and then killed during a rescue attempt.

The 36-year-old was seized during an ambush in the Dewagal valley in Kunar province, Afghanistan, on September 26 last year.

She was killed by a grenade thrown by US special forces attempting to free her on October 8.

The inquest takes place at Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner’s Court in Trowbridge on Tuesday.

Her parents John and Lorna, who live on Lewis in the Western Isles, are expected to attend. They have previously said that they do not hold anyone responsible for her death.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live last month, Mr Norgrove said: “We don’t hold anybody responsible. I don’t think it’s a question of responsibility.

“Nobody deliberately intended to kill Linda. It was brave soldiers going in there in very difficult circumstances trying to mount a rescue and, unfortunately, it went wrong.”

Asked how they try to rationalise what happened, Mr Norgrove said: “I don’t think it’s rationalisable.  Please read the entire article here

February 13, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Safety and Security Issues, State Department, USAID | , , , , , | Leave a comment

British aid worker Linda Norgrove killed accidentally by U.S. soldier, inquiry finds

By Anthony Faiola Washington Post Foreign Service

LONDON – U.S. soldiers have been disciplined for not disclosing details of an explosion that killed a British aid worker in Afghanistan in October, British and U.S. officials said Thursday, after the release of the results of a joint investigation into the woman’s death.

According to the report, Linda Norgrove was accidentally killed by a U.S. soldier during an attempt to rescue her. The 36-year-old aid worker, who had been taken hostage Sept. 26 while traveling through a remote area of eastern Afghanistan, was initially thought to have died at the hands of her captors during the Oct. 8 rescue mission. But U.S. officials, upon reviewing a videotape of the incident, concluded days later that a grenade thrown by one of her American rescuers may have been responsible and launched an investigation.

On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that investigators had concluded that Norgrove had died of injuries caused by a grenade. Speaking in Parliament, he said U.S. soldiers had been disciplined for not reporting details of the grenade explosion immediately after the failed mission.

“Members of the rescue team have been disciplined for failing to provide a complete and full account of their actions in accordance with U.S. military procedure,” Hague said.

He described the team as coming under heavy fire soon after their helicopters landed on a dark mountainside to conduct the operation. In the heat of the fighting, Hague said, “a grenade was thrown by a member of the rescue team who feared for his own life and those of the team towards a gully from which some of the insurgents had emerged.”

Hague said the rescue team did not realize Norgrove had been killed until the area was searched later.

U.S. Central Command, the military command with responsibilities that include the Afghanistan war, released a statement saying it “sincerely regrets the loss of life that resulted from this terrible incident, and we extend our deepest condolences to the Norgrove family for their tragic loss.”

“Although Ms. Norgrove’s death is a terrible tragedy, the insurgents who kidnapped her bear the ultimate responsibility for her death,” the statement said.

Lt. Cmdr. William H. Speaks, a Centcom spokesman, said in an e-mail: “Non-judicial punishment was given to three service members for failing to fully disclose information related to actions in the rescue operation. Neither these actions or the information related to them were responsible for Ms. Norgrove’s death, but instead [the punishment] is related to the failure to properly and fully disclose information to the chain of command after the fact.”

Norgrove, who had spent several years in Afghanistan, worked with DAI, a Bethesda-based contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Working out of the eastern city of Jalalabad with a staff of about 200 Afghans, Norgrove was regional director of a $150 million development project to build roads and bridges and improve agriculture.

She was kidnapped while traveling throughKonar province with three Afghan colleagues to visit an irrigation project. She was driving in an unarmored car without a security guard and was accosted on the road by men in Afghan army uniforms.

Hague had said earlier that the men were Salafists, who subscribe to a strict interpretation of Islam and are allied with Taliban groups in Konar. Worried that Norgrove would be passed to other and possibly even more militant insurgent factions in more inaccessible locations in Pakistan, Hague said he authorized a rescue attempt, if the circumstances were right.

Hague reiterated Thursday that a rescue attempt was the right thing to do.

Please see the original article here

December 2, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, USAID | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bodies of 2 aid workers discovered in Afghanistan

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) The bodies of two female aid workers were discovered Sunday morning in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, a spokesman for Helmand’s governor told CNN on Tuesday.

Daud Ahmadi said one of the women was the founder of the organization Mahjoba Herawi, an Afghan non-governmental organization. Ahmadi said both were working on women-oriented projects such as jam and pasta making.

The women’s driver disappeared, and it was unclear whether robbers or the Taliban killed the women, Ahmadi said.

The deaths come after a British aid worker held hostage in eastern Afghanistan was killed by her captors during an October rescue attempt.

Linda Norgrove, 36, worked for DAI, an international humanitarian group. U.S. military officials have said investigations were underway to determine whether Norgrove was killed by a grenade thrown by American forces trying to free her.

Also in southern Afghanistan, a NATO-led service member died after an insurgent attack, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said. The force did not identify the nationality of the service member or precisely where the incident occurred.

November 2, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, NGO's | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Linda Norgrove, An aid worker’s courageous success

By Trudy Rubin at the Philadelphia Inquirer

Inquirer Opinion Columnist

Linda Norgrove’s approach was risky – and effective.
n April, I traveled around eastern Afghanistan with an extraordinary British aid worker, Linda Norgrove. I have a photo of her dressed in a long, black skirt and loose tunic, her hair under an enveloping shawl, as she stood beside several Afghan elders. I recall the respect those grizzled men showed her as she discussed their new crops, which had replaced opium poppy fields.But hard-line militants, who couldn’t care less about Afghan farmers, kidnapped Norgrove two weeks ago as she drove to the site of an irrigation project in Kunar province. She was killed during an attempted rescue by U.S. special forces last week. She was 36 years old. 

There’s an ongoing investigation into whether Linda was accidentally killed by her American rescuers, and the debate over whether she could have been freed through negotiations rather than military action. I may have more to say about this later, but that’s not what I want to write about now.

I think it’s more important that people know about Linda’s commitment and courage, and why the project she directed produced results while so many Western aid projects fail.

I traveled to Jalalabad to visit Linda’s program, which was run by the U.S.-based contractor DAI and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, because I’d heard it was totally focused on Afghans. At the time, Linda was deputy director, preparing to take the reins of the $150 million program to improve Afghan agriculture.

There were only two expatriates on the project (and only one after Linda took over) directing 200 Afghan staff, including engineers, architects, and agronomists. Linda lived in a rented Afghan villa, a two-story home with a walled garden, as is common in Afghan cities. Dressed like an ordinary Afghan woman, she traveled in a car without extensive security or a military escort.

Yes, this was risky. But living outside protected compounds and military bases allowed Linda to establish relationships with village elders, who in turn protected the projects. As her colleague Jonathan Greenham noted, “Arriving with several Humvees is not the best way to drink tea with folks.”

I saw the results of these relationships. As we stood by the Shamshapoor bridge outside Jalalabad, Afghan elders explained that a previous bridge had been washed away because a foreign contractor didn’t know the river could rise five feet in a few hours.  Read more here

October 14, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, NATO, USAID | , , , | Leave a comment

British Woman, Linda Norgrove, USAID Worker, DIA, Missing Captured Kidnapped in Afghanistan

BBC Update

Linda Norgrove, 36, from Lewis in the Western Isles of Scotland, was employed by US aid group DAI. She was seized with three local staff on 26 September.

Their two-car convoy was ambushed in the eastern province of Kunar.

Ms Norgrove was killed by her captors on Friday during a rescue mission by US forces.

Her colleagues were released unharmed last week

The Briton is believed to have been taken by her captors from village to village as British, Afghan and other intelligence agencies worked in the remote and mountainous area of Kunar province to locate her.

Both the prime minister and Foreign Secretary William Hague were kept fully informed and British approval was given for a rescue mission to be mounted on Friday night, involving US forces with British officials offering advice.

In a statement, Mr Hague said the aid worker was “killed at the hands of her captors in the course of a rescue attempt”.

He said: “Working with our allies we received information about where Linda was being held and we decided that, given the danger she was facing, her best chance of safe release was to act on that information.

9 October 2010 Last updated at 09:06 ET BBC News

A British aid worker who was abducted in Afghanistan last month has been killed by her captors.

Linda Norgrove died during an attempt by US special forces to rescue her. She was 36 and from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland and was working in Afghanistan for the American aid group, DAI.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said everything possible was done to rescue to Ms Norgrove.

The following are excerpts from a variety of reports that are available as of 10 am est

Will update with details as reports are confirmed.

Linda Norgrove from May

Ten Aid Workers DIA from August

The Foreign Office is investigating the disappearance of a British national in Afghanistan.

A spokeswoman said: “We are working with other international agencies to urgently investigate these reports.”

She is said to have been travelling in a convoy of two vehicles, with others working for the US civilian contractors, when they were attacked by insurgents

She was working for an American contractor when the convoy she was travelling in was intercepted by militants.

LONDON — Britain’s Foreign Office says it is investigating reports that a U.K. citizen has disappeared in Afghanistan.

The ministry confirmed that a Briton is missing, but declined to provide further details or specify the region where the person had disappeared.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said it was “working with other international partners to urgently investigate these reports.”

Britain’s Sky News television reported the person involved was a British woman working for a U.S. company.

The channel claimed the woman may have been kidnapped after a convoy of two vehicles was ambushed in the eastern Kunar province.

The Foreign Office said it could not confirm reports about the nature of the incident.

Afghan media reported that the Briton was employed by Development Alternatives Inc (DAI) an American aid contracting firm.

The attack happened on Sunday morning in eastern Kunar province as the aid workers were travelling in two vehicles from Asadabadm the provincial capital, to Jalalabad.

Suspected insurgents stopped them in the Spin Jumaat area of Sawakai district at 11am local time, said Gen Abdus Saboor Allahyar, the provincial police chief.

He said DAI workers had not informed police of their journey.

September 26, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, Private Security Contractor, Safety and Security Issues, State Department | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NATO strike has killed a Taliban commander involved in the suicide attack on a USAID contractor

NATO Strike Kills Taliban Commander in Northern Afghanistan

Police say a NATO strike has killed a Taliban commander involved in the suicide attack on a USAID contractor in northern Afghanistan earlier this month.

NATO says the Taliban commander, who was targeted Thursday in Kunduz province, openly claimed responsibility for the July 2 attack on the U.S. contractor’s compound in Kunduz city that killed five people.

In western Farah province, NATO says a joint Afghan-international force killed a Taliban commander and a “number of” insurgents during a raid on a militant training camp on Thursday.

The alliance says the commander, Mullah Akhtar, was responsible for brining foreign fighters from Iran into Afghanistan.

NATO and Afghan forces are increasingly targeting Taliban leadership during operations throughout Afghanistan.

NATO said Friday that at least 12 Taliban commanders have been killed or captured in the southern province of Helmand since May

July 16, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, CIA, State Department | , , , , | Leave a comment

UK guard Shaun Sexton, killed in Afghanistan, was former soldier

A UK private security guard killed in a suicide attack in northern Afghanistan on Friday was a former British soldier.

Shaun Sexton, 29, from Ashington, Northumberland, died in an attack on offices of US consultancy Development Alternatives Inc (DAI) in Kunduz.

Mr Sexton’s employer, Edinburgh International (EI), said Mr Sexton had served as a platoon sergeant in 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment.

Three other security guards were killed in the assault.

All four men – Mr Sexton, two Afghans and a German – worked for DAI’s security sub-contractor EI.

A second Briton was seriously injured in the attack.

‘Heroes’

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the pre-dawn raid, which began at about 0330 local time on Friday when a suicide bomber blew up a car outside DAI’s compound in Kunduz.

At least five other militants wearing explosives vests ran inside the building and started a fierce gun battle that lasted several hours before they were killed.

The men who died were hailed as heroes for their attempts to defend the compound.

Washington DC-based DAI is contracted by the US Agency for International Development to improve governance and community development in Kunduz, which is largely patrolled by German troops.  Original story here

July 5, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, CIA, Civilian Contractors, Private Security Contractor, State Department | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Bombers Storm U.S. Aid Compound in Afghanistan

The USAID compound in Kunduz after an attack by six suicide bombers.

By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. and SHARIFULLAH SAHAK at The New York Times
Published: July 2, 2010

ABUL, Afghanistan — A half-dozen suicide bombers stormed the compound of a American contractor working for the United States Agency for International Development in the northern city of Kunduz on Friday, killing at least four people before the militants were themselves killed during a six-hour-long firefight, according to Afghan officials. No Americans were said to have died, according to initial reports.

But as many as three of the dead were foreigners, including a German and a Filipino, according to accounts from the local authorities. British officials were also investigating reports that one of its citizens was killed. One Afghan police officer died, and 23 other people were wounded, including police, security guards, and civilians, said the governor of Kunduz Province, Mohammed Omar.

The Taliban took credit for the attack on the compound of DAI, which is also known as Development Alternatives Inc., a United States-based global consultant which contracts with Usaid to help bolster governance, development and economic growth in other countries.

The attack began around 3 a.m. when the first bomber exploded his car at the gate of the compound. Five other suicide bombers raced inside the building, where they began firing rifles, Mr. Omar said.

The five other attackers all eventually died inside the building, according to the governor, but he did not make it clear whether they had been shot by Afghan forces or had blown themselves up.

“The building has been destroyed,” Mr. Omar said. He also said six American employees trapped inside along with four security guards had been rescued by Afghan forces. There were unconfirmed reports that some employees fled to the roof of the building during the battle.

The assault was the latest in a string of Taliban attacks on foreign workers and compounds, especially those doing development work, in what has seemed to be a response to American and NATO forces increasing the pace of their military operations throughout the country.

Many of these attacks have come in Kandahar, the hub of southern Afghanistan, were militants have been killing political leaders, foreign workers and their Afghan colleagues, including a young Afghan woman who worked for DAI who was gunned down in April as she drive home in a motorized rickshaw just a few hundred yards from her office.

Kunduz, one the country’s major northern cities, is less volatile than Kandahar. But the province has become increasingly contested over the past year as Taliban leaders have tried to consolidate their control of areas that until recently has been considered relatively safe. German troops have been the major western military force in the region, but new American troops have been arriving in northern Afghanistan to bolster the NATO presence in Kunduz and other northern provinces.

A NATO statement said the Kunduz attack “was an attempt to intimidate Afghans and members of the international community trying to improve the lives of all Afghans.” It said NATO troops were helping Afghan forces at the site and treating injured civilians at a nearby military base.  Original Story here

July 2, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, CIA, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Casualties, State Department | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DAI Afghanistan Terminates Several Afghan Employees for Allegedly Soliciting Kickbacks

Note:  This is just a CYA Press Release from USAID not a statement from DAI, Development Alternatives Inc.

WASHINGTON, June 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — This week in Kabul, Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI) terminated 10 employees including several engineers and other staff members after months of investigation.  DAI Afghanistan is a contractor with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

USAID Inspector General Donald Gambatesa stated that the investigation involves Afghan staff members who allegedly approached owners of various companies bidding for subcontracts with DAI Afghanistan.  The individuals reportedly offered to help the companies win awards in exchange for a percentage of the total dollar value of the project.

Read the full press release here

June 16, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, State Department | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. counting on Wesa to succeed at reforming Kandahar

Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, May 25, 2010; 1:47 PM

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Before he became America’s best hope for reforming Kandahar’s cutthroat political system, provincial governor Tooryalai Wesa was fired from his job with a U.S.-government contractor over mismanagement and allegations of corruption.

Wesa’s 10-month tenure with Bethesda-based contractor DAI ended in July 2007 with accusations that he had used his position as a field coordinator to benefit his tribe and family, according to officials familiar with his tenure. In the context of Afghan corruption, which is pervasive and often involves government officials siphoning off massive sums of money, the allegations were minor. But the questions about his integrity and management abilities were serious enough that they cost him his job, the officials said.  Read the full story here

May 25, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption | , , , , | Leave a comment