United States Sues Virginia-based Contractor Triple Canopy for False Claims Under Contract for Security in Iraq
Allegedly Billed US for Security Guards Who Did Not Meet Contract Requirements
Contractor Faked Guard Weapon Tests In Iraq, US Says
Department of Justice October 31, 2012
The United States has filed a complaint against a Virginia-based contractor alleging that the company submitted false claims for unqualified security guards under a contract to provide security in Iraq, the Justice Department announced today. The company, Triple Canopy Inc. is headquartered in Reston, Va.
In June 2009, the Joint Contracting Command in Iraq/Afghanistan (JCC-I/A) awarded Triple Canopy a one-year, $10 million contract to perform a variety of security services at Al Asad Airbase – the second largest air base in Iraq. The multi-national JCC-I/A was established by U.S. Central Command in November 2004, to provide contracting support related to the government’s relief and reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
The government’s complaint alleges that Triple Canopy knowingly billed the United States for hundreds of foreign nationals it hired as security guards who could not meet firearms proficiency tests established by the Army and required under the contract. The tests ensure that security guards hired to protect U.S. and allied personnel are capable of firing their AK-47 assault rifles and other weapons safely and accurately. The government also alleges that Triple Canopy’s managers in Iraq falsified test scorecards as a cover up to induce the government to pay for the unqualified guards, and that Triple Canopy continued to bill the government even after high-level officials at the company’s headquarters had been alerted to the misconduct. The complaint further alleges that Triple Canopy used the false qualification records in an attempt to persuade the JCC-I/A to award the company a second year of security work at the Al Asad Airbase.
“For a government contractor to knowingly provide deficient security services, as is alleged in this case, is unthinkable, especially in war time,” said Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. “The department will do everything it can to ensure that contractors comply with critical contract requirements and that contractors who don’t comply aren’t permitted to profit at the expense of our men and women in uniform and the taxpayers at home who support them.”
“We will not tolerate government contractors anywhere in the world who seek to defraud the United States through deliberate or reckless conduct that violates contractual requirements and risks the security of government personnel,” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The government’s claims are based on a whistleblower suit initially filed by a former employee of Triple Canopy in 2011. The suit was filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provision of the False Claims Act, which allows private persons to file suit on behalf of the United States. Under the act, the government has a period of time to investigate the allegations and decide whether to intervene in the action or to decline intervention and allow the whistleblower to go forward alone.
This matter was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia; the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division; and the Army Criminal Investigative Command (CID) and Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) of the Department of Defense.
The claims asserted against Triple Canopy are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability. The government is not aware of any injuries that occurred as a result of the alleged misconduct.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, and is captioned United States ex rel. Badr v. Triple Canopy, Inc.
Private security firms won lucrative contracts to supply support staff and security guards to back up US forces in Iraq. They recruited Ugandans and pushed them to the limit, on low pay and no benefits
Like all foreign nationals working for PMCs under contract to the Pentagon, sick or wounded Ugandans repatriated from Iraq are, in principle, covered by the Defense Base Act, which guarantees that their employer’s insurer will reimburse their medical expenses. It also provides for disability pay for the most unfortunate. “But, all too often, the Ugandans do not receive the medical care and disability that they are supposed to,” American lawyer Tara K Coughlin told me.
by Alain Vicky LeMonde Diplomatique May 6, 2012
“I realised immediately that I’d just made the worst mistake in my life. But it was too late. I’d signed up for a year. I had to take it like a man,” said Bernard (1), a young Ugandan who worked for an American private military company (PMC) operating in Iraq. He was part of the “invisible army” (2) recruited by the US to support its war effort. Bernard returned to Uganda last year. He is ill, but has been denied the welfare and healthcare benefits promised in his contract.
White recruits — from the US, Israel, South Africa, the UK, France and Serbia — hired by PMCs that have won contracts with the Pentagon (worth $120bn since 2003) have received substantial pay, often more than $10,000 a month; “third country nationals” (TCNs) like Bernard have been treated badly and their rights as employees have been abused. Some, sent home after being wounded, get no help from their former employers.
In June 2008, when the US began its withdrawal from Iraq, there were 70,167 TCNs to 153,300 regular US military personnel; in late 2010 there were still 40,776 TCNs to 47,305 regulars. TCNs (men and women) were recruited in the countries of the South to work on the 25 US military bases in Iraq, including Camp Liberty, an “American small town” built near Baghdad, which at its peak had a population of over 100,000. They made up 59% of the “basic needs” workforce, handling catering, cleaning, electrical and building maintenance, fast food, and even beauty services for female military personnel.
Some, especially African recruits, were assigned to security duties, paired up with regular troops: 15% of the static security personnel (guarding base entrances and perimeters) hired by the PMCs on behalf of the Pentagon were Sub-Saharans. Among these low-cost guards, Ugandans were a majority, numbering maybe 20,000. They were sometimes used to keep their colleagues in line: in May 2010 they quelled a riot at Camp Liberty by a thousand TCNs from the Indian subcontinent.
The high ratio of Ugandans was due to the political situation in central Africa in the early 2000s. In western Uganda the war in the Great Lakes region was officially over. In northern Uganda the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels had been brought under control. In neighbouring Sudan the civil war was over, opening up the way to independence for the south (3). More than 60,000 Ugandan troops were demobilised; Iraq seemed like an opportunity. The Ugandan government, a key ally of the US in central Africa, was one of the few to support the Bush administration when the Iraq war began in 2003. US and Ugandan armed forces have collaborated since the mid-1980s. Ugandan journalist and blogger Angelo Izama (4) told me that in 2005 the US needed more paramilitary security — “They were looking for reliable labour from English-speaking countries, veteran labour” — and turned to Uganda.
The Fiji Times January 1, 2012
FORMER soldier and current employee of United States security contractor Triple Canopy Incorporated (TCI), Mark Fisher, who was detained by the Iraqi military for 18 days is warning locals of the dangers associated with employment in the trouble-stricken country.
Mr Fisher said anyone seeking work as a security contractor needed to understand the real dangers of the job and the fact that he and his team were practically abandoned by TCI during their detainment.
“I am never going back there and I urge anyone considering a job as a security contractor to think twice because no amount of money is worth what me and my men went through.
“TCI did not contact my wife to inform her of what had happened.
“It was only after she threatened to go to the media that they formulated a response that basically said TCI officials were in constant contact and visiting us daily, we were being given proper meals and kept in warm and comfortable cells.”
“However, the reality was that we were fed food thrown on the floor and despite it being winter, there were no mattresses, pillows or blankets and at no time were we visited by anyone from the company,” he shared.
Mr Fisher said the sense of abandonment and a real threat of imminent death at any time played havoc with his mind.
“The situation was such that we did not know what was going to happen at any given time and we all had trouble sleeping,” recalled Mr Fisher.
“Luckily one of my team members was a medic and he had a supply of sleeping pills, which we all took at 9pm every night to help us sleep.”
The former Republic of Fiji Military Forces sergeant was heading a team of seven men, which included Americans and Iraqi nationals ù clearing equipment from forward operating bases (FOB) in Iraq when they were detained by Iraqi military forces.
Abandoned by their employer, the team’s release was finally secured on December 27 by US Congressman Peter King.
During their 18 day ordeal at the hands of the Iraqi military, Mr Fisher and his team were ordered to kneel facing a wall with their hands behind their heads by heavily armed soldiers.
“At that point I thought this was it. God, prayers and thoughts of my wife and kids kept me going,” he said.
TCI is contracted by the US State Department to remove sensitive equipment from FOBs after the US military pull out from Iraq.
No comments could be obtained from the company
MARK Fisher is never going back to Iraq. Eighteen days of mental torture at the hands of the Iraqi military and the real threat of being executed at any time still replays through his mind.
Mr Fisher, who was freed by the Iraqi military after US intervention and flew home on Thursday, said he thought his life was over when soldiers ordered him and his team to kneel facing a wall and to put their hands behind their heads.
“I thought, ‘this is it’. The only thoughts going through my head were non-stop prayers. No amount of money is worth going through what happened to me and my team and no amount of training can ever prepare a person for what we experienced,” he said in the safety of his Votualevu home in Nadi yesterday.
Despite being set free on December 27, after spending Christmas in an Iraqi military cell, Mr Fisher has trouble sleeping.
The former Republic of Fiji Military Forces sergeant began working in 2009 as a contractor with Triple Canopy Incorporated ù a private company contracted by the US State Department to remove military equipment from forward operating bases (FOB) in Iraq after the US military pullout.
“That’s what we were doing when we got detained. We had just cleared a FOB when we were stopped five minutes down the road and taken to a military camp. Our captors said they had to make sure that we had the authority to remove the equipment we had with us,” the 41-year old explained.
“As far as we were concerned, we had the green light and the appropriate clearance to do so but the Iraqis thought otherwise.”
During the ordeal, Mr Fisher and his team of seven men, which included Americans and Iraqi nationals, were ordered to eat food that was thrown on the floor.
“We refused to eat it because the cell was filthy. Instead we ate fruits and bribed some of the soldiers to give us chocolates,” he said.
Although their phones were confiscated, Mr Fisher said a colonel, who was sympathetic towards them after experiencing being detained by Saddam Hussein’s regime, allowed them the use of his telephone to contact friends and relatives.
“The Americans called their embassy but I called my wife, Mariah and informed her of what had happened,” said Mr Fisher.
Mrs Fisher said she grew concerned after not hearing from her husband for a few days.
“We normally communicate via texting and when I hadn’t received anything from him for a few days, I knew something was up. When he called and told me he was detained and no one from Triple Canopy had come to see him and his men, I got really angry,” she said.
When she was finally contacted by Triple Canopy, an official said Mr Fisher and his men had been detained but they were being well looked after and housed in warm quarters.
“We were in a cold cell with no mattresses on the floor and it was winter,” Mr Fisher said.
“There was no heating and no blankets and we had to huddle to keep warm.”
When asked what got him through the 18-day ordeal and mental torture, the father of five said it was God and his family.
“The prayers and my faith plus the thoughts of my wife and five children kept me going, hoping for freedom,” he said.
The Triple Canopy team was released after US Congressman Peter King took up the case.
“If it wasn’t for him, I think we would still be there or worse still, who knows what could have happened to us.”
Jay Christy to Lead Operations at Security and Mission Support Company
RESTON, Va., Dec. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Triple Canopy, Inc., a leading provider of security and mission support services, announced today the appointment of Harold “Jay” Arthur Christy, Jr. as Chief Operating Officer (COO), effective Dec. 27.
Christy will be responsible for directing global operations and overseeing daily activities at Triple Canopy. He is taking over the position from Kelvin Kai, who has made the decision to step down in order to spend more time with his family.
“I would like to thank Kelvin for his leadership and appreciate everything he has done for the company during his time as COO,” said Triple Canopy CEO Ignacio “Iggy” Balderas. “I anticipate a smooth transition of responsibilities over the course of the next few weeks, and look forward to working closely with Jay as we continue to grow and diversify Triple Canopy.”
A certified security professional, Christy brings a combination of program management, business development and military experience to the position. “Having worked at both corporate headquarters and in the field for Triple Canopy, I now look forward to leading operations and working with the fine men and women whose individual contributions have made this company what it is today,” said Christy
29-year-old Sean Ferguson received two Purple Hearts while serving our country. He joined the U.S. Army in August 2001 and retired eight years later as a Staff Sergeant after he was hurt in combat.
He returned to Baghdad to work for Triple Canopy, a private contractor that provides security and mission support services to government agencies and other organizations.
In 2005, he got a visit from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a combat surgical hospital in northern Iraq after he was hit by a sniper the day before.
Sean was born in San Diego on July 7, 1982. He was a 2001 graduate of Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia.
The Ferguson family was notified by the U.S. Consul of Sean’s death. According to a statement obtained by KMPH News, Sean died of natural causes.
A memorial service will be held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel located at the corner of Caldwell Ave. and Chinowth St. in Visalia on Saturday, November 19, at 10 a.m.
Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Danger Room October 21, 2011
President Obama announced on Friday that all 41,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq will return home by December 31. “That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end,” he said. Don’t believe him.
Now: it’s a big deal that all U.S. troops are coming home. For much of the year, the military, fearful of Iranian influence, has sought a residual presence in Iraq of several thousand troops. But arduous negotiations with the Iraqi government about keeping a residual force stalled over the Iraqis’ reluctance to provide them with legal immunity.
But the fact is America’s military efforts in Iraq aren’t coming to an end. They are instead entering a new phase. On January 1, 2012, the State Department will command a hired army of about 5,500 security contractors, all to protect the largest U.S. diplomatic presence anywhere overseas.
The State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security does not have a promising record when it comes to managing its mercenaries. The 2007 Nisour Square shootings by State’s security contractors, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed, marked one of the low points of the war. Now, State will be commanding a much larger security presence, the equivalent of a heavy combat brigade. In July, Danger Room exclusively reported that the Department blocked the Congressionally-appointed watchdog for Iraq from acquiring basic information about contractor security operations, such as the contractors’ rules of engagement.
That means no one outside the State Department knows how its contractors will behave as they ferry over 10,000 U.S. State Department employees throughout Iraq — which, in case anyone has forgotten, is still a war zone. Since Iraq wouldn’t grant legal immunity to U.S. troops, it is unlikely to grant it to U.S. contractors, particularly in the heat and anger of an accident resulting in the loss of Iraqi life.
It’s a situation with the potential for diplomatic disaster. And it’s being managed by an organization with no experience running the tight command structure that makes armies cohesive and effective.
You can also expect that there will be a shadow presence by the CIA, and possibly the Joint Special Operations Command, to hunt persons affiliated with al-Qaida. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has conspicuously stated that al-Qaida still has 1,000 Iraqi adherents, which would make it the largest al-Qaida affiliate in the world.
So far, there are three big security firms with lucrative contracts to protect U.S. diplomats. Triple Canopy, a longtime State guard company, has a contract worth up to $1.53 billion to keep diplos safe as they travel throughout Iraq. Global Strategies Group will guard the consulate at Basra for up to $401 million. SOC Incorporated will protect the mega-embassy in Baghdad for up to $974 million. State has yet to award contracts to guard consulates in multiethnic flashpoint cities Mosul and Kirkuk, as well as the outpost in placid Irbil.
“We can have the kind of protection our diplomats need,” Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough told reporters after Obama’s announcement. Whether the Iraqi people will have protection from the contractors that the State Department commands is a different question. And whatever you call their operations, the Obama administration hopes that you won’t be so rude as to call it “war.”
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
- 5,500 Mercs to Protect U.S. Fortresses in Iraq
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- Two More Merc Firms Get Big Iraq Contracts
- Military to Iraq: Are You Really Gonna Kick Us Out?
- Iraqis Want Mercs, Not U.S. Troops, To Stick Around
- Exclusive: Blackwater Wins Piece of $10 Billion Mercenary Deal
Courthouse News October 19, 2011
TULSA (CN) – A former Marine who worked for “a private security firm” in Iraq claims Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Steve Fainaru defamed him in the book, “Big Boy Rules: America’s Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq,” depicting him as “a sadistic killing machine,” who drank heavily on duty and “turned his military grade automatic weapon on and fired shots at an innocent person for amusement.”
Jacob Washbourne sued Fainaru, Da Capo Press and The Perseus Books Group, claiming the book “Big Boy Rules: America’s Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq,” defamed him, invaded his privacy, depicted him in false light, and caused emotional distress.
Washbourne says Fainaru interviewed him and his co-workers at Triple Canopy, “a private security firm who contracted to provide security in Iraq.”
The complaint states: “In the book, Fainaru depicts the plaintiff as violent and cruel, and a drunk, setting forth, for example:
“a. That Washbourne arbitrarily discharged firearms at Iraqi civilians without adequately assessing whether such individuals posed an actual safety threat;
“b. That Washbourne had a callous and indifferent attitude toward killing people;
“c. That Washbourne actually enjoyed killing people – Fainaru wrote that Washbourne stated to his colleagues ‘I want to kill somebody today’ and that became a title chapter in ‘Big Boy Rules’;
“d. That Washbourne drank a lot of alcohol while on assignment and it routinely affected his work – Fainaru wrote that Washbourne was often absent from the briefings he was supposed to conduct because he was ‘sleeping off the previous night’s binge;’
“e. That Washbourne got to keep his job with Triple Canopy despite his abhorrent behavior only because he was best friends with his immediate supervisor, Ryan Thomason;
Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) October 11, 2011
The 2011 Annual Summit of the Stability Operations Industry takes place in two weeks and ISOA is pleased to highlight featured speakers for the event.
Jack Straw, UK Foreign Secretary under Prime Minister Tony Blair from 2001 – 2006, will be addressing the Summit dinner on 25 October. Straw was instrumental in crafting and coordinating international missions in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq. He currently serves as an MP in the UK Parliament.
Chris Shays and Michael Thibault, Co-Chairs of the Commission on Wartime Contracting, will offer valuable insight in to the recent CWC Final Report and its implications for the industry on the morning of 25 October.
Lieutenant General Robert Van Antwerp, Former Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, will address participants on the following day and discuss the role and value of the private sector in supporting vital U.S. policies abroad.
“This year’s speaker line-up is the most impressive collection of expertise and influence in the history of our Summit,” stated Doug Brooks, ISOA President and Founder. “It is a must-see for companies looking toward their future bottom-line.”
The Summit kicks off on Monday 24 October, with opening remarks from Summit chair, Ambassador David Litt (ret.) and former, long-time Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton. Lunch speakers include Ambassador Eric Edelman (ret.), former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and David T. Johnson, current Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
The ISOA Annual Summit is the premier event of the stability operations industry, drawing a diverse group of speakers and attendees from government, military, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. A detailed agenda and further information about the Summit can be found online at http://www.stability-operations.org/summit2011.
The ISOA Summit is sponsored by Mission Essential Personnel, Dyncorp International, SOC, LLC, Triple Canopy, L-3 MPRI, PAE, Inc., Olive Group and EOD Technology.
Summit sponsorships, exhibitor spaces and advertising opportunities can be found on the event website, or requested from Melissa Sabin at msabin(at)stability-operations(dot)org.
ISOA is the international trade association of the stability operations industry, promoting ethics and standards worldwide and advocating for effective utilization of private sector services. ISOA members are leaders in the industry and are supported by ISOA’s outreach, education and government affairs initiatives.
RESTON, Va., Sept. 14, 2011 — /PRNewswire/ — Triple Canopy, Inc., a global provider of security and mission support services, announced today that Mark DeWitt, vice president of government and regulatory affairs, will speak at this year’s ASIS International 57th Annual Seminar and Exhibits, scheduled for Sept. 19 to 22 at the Orlando County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.
DeWitt will present a session on what the International Code of Conduct (ICoC) for Private Security Contractors signifies for security directors worldwide, along with the related management system standard underdevelopment by ASIS. Established in November 2010, the ICoC aims to set global standards for the private security industry and establish independent mechanisms for effective governance and oversight.
“We need to educate our clients on the strengths and benefits of the ICoC and what it can do and will do to improve the quality of service that private security companies provide,” DeWitt said. “Security directors, managers and others with a stake in securing their organizations should look to the ICoC and the ASIS-developed management standard as a new benchmark for quality.”
In his presentation, DeWitt will discuss how the ICoC and the ASIS-developed management standard will translate into greater confidence in the industry as a whole. “The Code allows security providers to deliver their services in a more transparent manner, and as a result, will help instill trust and create a better understanding of the way in which security services are provided,” explained DeWitt.
A founder signatory of the Code, Triple Canopy has focused on ways to improve the quality of service the security industry provides since the company was founded in 2003. The company also participated in efforts to establish an international code of conduct following the signing of the Montreux Document in 2006. According to DeWitt, who currently sits on the ICoC Temporary Steering Committee, “The ICoC has become an essential tool in our ongoing efforts to create a better and more transparent set of industry standards.”
Iraq Business News May 6, 2011
Two more security firms have won contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to build the State Department a private army in Iraq, according to a report from Wired’s ‘Danger Room’.
Contractors Triple Canopy and newcomer Global Strategies Group will contribute to the State Department’s planned protection force of 5,500 contractors.
In September, the State Department announced that eight security firms would share in a $10 billion contract to guard diplomats. Both Triple Canopy and Global were among those firms, which have the right to bid on so-called “task orders” for protecting specific department operations around the world.
One of the first task orders awarded was to SOC, to safeguard the Baghdad embassy, a deal that would net the company up to $973 million over five years.
At the time, that looked like a slap to Triple Canopy, which has provided security forces for the massive compound since 2005, earning itself $438 million in the process.
But while SOC will guard the embassy itself, in what’s called “static security,” Triple Canopy will perform “protective security services” for its residents; When diplomats travel around the Iraqi capital, it’ll be guards for Triple Canopy who’ll protect them.
Triple Canopy has been doing that work since Iraq kicked Blackwater out in 2009 and the State Department (briefly) ended its contract with the firm. It’s more lucrative than guarding a building. Triple Canopy will earn $1.53 billion if the contract runs for the full five-year span of the task order.
THE Afghan government has accused several prominent private security companies, including some that work with the US government, of committing ”major offences” – a move that US officials fear could hasten their departure.
A list compiled by Afghan officials cites 16 companies, including several US and British firms, for unspecified serious violations and seven others for having links to high-ranking Afghan officials.
A decision to ban the major violators would affect companies that provide about 800 guards for the US Agency for International Development and about 3000 who work on military construction projects.
”We’re wringing our hands over this,” said a senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity. ”We’re waiting to hear which companies will get disbandment notices and when they will have to disband.”
Among those listed as major offenders are Triple Canopy, based in Virginia, Washington-based Blue Hackle, and British company G4S, the parent company of ArmorGroup North America, which provides security for the US embassy in Kabul.
Also listed are British companies Global Strategies Group, which guards Kabul airport, as well as Control Risks and Aegis.
The list included nine companies deemed ”medium” offenders, 11 with ”minor” offences and nine, including Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater, with no offences detected.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has yet to approve the list or indicate whether these companies face expulsion. A senior Afghan official said no decision had been made, and suggested many companies were on the list for tax evasion.
A NATO official said G4S owed the Afghan government $US8 million in taxes. The company declined to comment.
For the past six months, Mr Karzai has sought to push out the companies and replace them with government guards. US officials believed they had reached a compromise in December that would protect key operations and give the companies more time before they would have to depart.
”We thought it was pretty much on ice. All of a sudden, it isn’t any more,” the senior US official said. USAID has put several new programs on hold while it waits for a resolution to the issue.
GENEVA — Officials said on Tuesday a landmark US and British-backed code of conduct signed by private security operators, including some operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, would stop the firms being used as mercenaries.
Britain announced at the signing that it intended to make the code, which is aimed at preventing abuse and reining in excess violence in lawless conflict zones, compulsory for security providers it contracts.
About 58 companies, including US firms Triple Canopy, Xe Services — formerly Blackwater — and Britain’s G4 Security signed up, while the code has the backing of 35 countries, said Swiss officials who brokered the deal.
“We are turning the page,” Swiss state secretary for foreign affairs Peter Maurer told journalists.
“You have to choose whether you are going to be a private security contractor or engaging in warfare,” he added, underlining that a pledge to restrict firearms to self defence only would rule out offensive operations or mercenaries.
“You are not allowed to be a mercenary and take part” in the international code, said Andrew Clapham, director of the Geneva academy of international humanitarian law, who helped draw it up.
The 15-page code, which took 14 months to negotiate, emerged amid concern about the “exponential growth” of contractors providing security in conflict areas and their role in guarding embassies, officials, company executives and aid agencies.
The UN working group on mercenaries this year pressed for stronger binding regulation of the private military security industry.
It warned that such firms, often run by ex-troops, were in a legal grey area that sometimes strayed from protection duty into “new forms of mercenary activities” with the “privatisation of war.”
Diplomats and company executives argued that the voluntary code would fill a gap by setting a minimum standard and marked a step towards greater accountability.
“This code has the potential to be a monumental step forward,” said Devon Chaffee of campaign group Human Rights First.
Maurer warned that it “will only be credible if it is followed by short, medium and long term change in behaviour.”
Michael Clarke, director of public affairs for G4S, which generates 11 billion dollars a year, acknowledged that security providers “didn’t always get it right” in highly insecure areas where staff worked under threat.
“Local institutions may not be strong enough to ensure that people operating there, including our people, are properly held to account. That is, as we see it, the rationale for this code,” he explained.
Blackwater became notorious in 2007 when its guards protecting a convoy opened fire in a busy Baghdad square, killing as many as 17 civilians.
Two former security guards also went on trial in the United States in September accused of the murder of two Afghan citizens in a 2009 shooting.
Afghanistan’s government has ordered private security firms to disband and leave the country amid anger among ordinary Afghans who regard them as private militias acting above the law.
Guy Pollard, a diplomat at the British mission in Geneva, acknowledged that the use of private security services on armed duty carried “significant risks.”
Pollard said the British government would incorporate the code “into each contract we have with a private security company.”
“We will only give contracts to companies that can show they meet the minimum standard we have set for this industry,” he added.
US State Department legal adviser Harold Koh welcomed the code as an opportunity to raise standards and “address gaps in oversight.”
The companies agreed to standards in recruitment, vetting personnel, training, control mechanisms, compliance with local and international laws and protection of human rights.
The code includes limits on the use of force and an assurance that staff cannot invoke contractual obligations or “superior orders” in a conflict zone to justify crimes, killings, torture, kidnappings, detentions.
The Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) program provides comprehensive protective security services to support U.S. Department of State operations around the world.
Office: Office of Logistics Management
Location: Acquisition Management
SEE DESCRIPTION, SEE DESCRI
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) made the following eight base contract awards for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security – Worldwide Protective Services (WPS) Program resulting from solicitation: SAQMMA10R0005 (-a) on September 29, 2010. The maximum program value is $10,000,000,000.00 USD. The maximum value is cumulative and includes all work performed by all contractors during the WPS program period of performance, including all option periods.
The base contracts include a one year base period of performance with four one year option periods. DOS included the minimum guarantee of $5,000.00 for each WPS contractor with each base contract award.
Please see section M of solicitation: SAQMMA10R0005 (-a) for more information on the evaluation criteria that DOS used to select the firms listed below for base contract awards.
SAQMMA10D0094 : Aegis Defense Services, LLC
SAQMMA10D0095 : DynCorp International, LLC
SAQMMA10D0096 : EOD Technology, Inc.
SAQMMA10D0097 : Global Strategies Group (Integrated Security), Inc.
SAQMMA10D0098 : International Development Solutions, LLC
SAQMMA10D0099 : SOC, LLC
SAQMMA10D0100 : Torres International Services, LLC
SAQMMA10D0104 : Triple Canopy, Inc.
Arlington, Virginia 22219
Debbie Crawford was playing with her grandson at her Battle Ground home two years ago when she heard a news report on a Green Beret who died in Baghdad. The water pump in his Army shower was not properly grounded, and when he turned the faucet, a jolt of electricity killed him.
Crawford cried, her worst professional fear realized. She went to her laptop and began to type:
“As a licensed electrician who worked for KBR in Iraq for two years, I find this UNACCEPTABLE!!!! How did this happen? Let me give you my opinion from first-hand experience….”
Five weeks later, after a Senate staffer saw her post, Crawford testified before Congress to poor management and poor workmanship by Kellogg, Brown & Root in Iraq, including subcontracting electrical work to locals not skilled to U.S. standards and failing to check electricians credentials.
Two years later, the blog she started that 2008 day —mssparky.com – is the largest online catalog of news articles, opinion, leaks and lawsuits regarding war contractors. The site has drawn more than 10.8 million page hits since Jan. 1.
When Oregon veterans of the Iraq war appear in federal court in Portland today in their chemical-exposure lawsuit against KBR, they join a wide group of plaintiffs suing KBR — over electrocutions, burn pits and sexual assault.
Much of what connects them all is Ms. Sparky.
“She’s allowed people to speak that otherwise would be too afraid to do so,” says Todd Kelly, a Houston attorney who represents six clients suing KBR alleging they were sexual assaulted while working in Iraq. “I would characterize her as pretty courageous in her own right, being willing to blog about the things she’s willing to blog about. She has the sense that someone has to speak out.”
Crawford says, “This just took on a life of its own. My blogging is the least interesting part about it .”
Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, the federal government has paid private companies $150 billion to do what the military once did — support daily life for the troops. KBR has been the single largest provider of meals, housing, recreation, mail delivery, laundry and fuel.
KBR maintains there is no evidence that its work caused or contributed to the Green Beret’s electrocution and that its military contract for his building was for on-call repairs, not preventative maintenance and inspections. KBR also denies responsibility for exposing troops or employees to carcinogens at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant, “There was no hazardous exposure and there has been no documented illness related to the facility.”
Today, Magistrate Judge Paul Papak will hear arguments on whether an Oregon Army National Guard veterans’ case against KBR should go forward in U.S. District Court in Oregon. Twenty-six Oregon vets — and soldiers in three other states — have sued, saying they were sickened by hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing chemical, as they guarded KBR employees working to restore Iraqi oil in 2003.
Crawford has assembled an online library about the suits.
“This wasn’t done so a child could drink safe water. This was done to pump water into wells to get oil flowing. All these soldiers and civilians exposed, for oil.”
To meet Ms. Sparky — the slang for female electrician — drive past Vancouver’s suburban blocks to the hobby farms beneath Mount St. Helen. The 49-year-old wife, grandmother and blogger answers the door in black jeans and a pink plaid cotton top. She homeschools her 7-year-old grandson and takes Tae Kwon Do lessons with him.
Crawford says she is not a disgruntled KBR employee. The journeyman electrician says she went to Iraq four years ago out of patriotism and the same spirit of adventure that took her to contract jobs in Antarctica and China. She did not realize until she returned that problems she saw in Iraq were systemic, including what she saw as poor management and a lack of government oversight.
Growing up near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, Crawford applied for an electrical apprenticeship after graduating Benton City High and became the first female journeyman out of IBEW Local 112 in Kennewick. She met her husband, Cal Crawford, at Hanford and talked him into moving to Seaside, then to Portland where she is a member of Local 48.
Crawford liked the math and technology in being an electrician and working with people who can visualize a problem and design solutions. She also liked that she could get a job anywhere. She spent 10 months in Antarctica, then traveled the country with her husband performing maintenance on nuclear plants.
They signed on in 2004 for Iraq. At $14.90 an hour, the salary was less than half what she made at home, but she felt she could contribute to the war effort.
“I thought I was doing the right thing,” Crawford says.
The couple were housed at different camps. Both threw themselves into their work, surviving rocket and mortar attacks, heat and family disapproval. (Both of Crawford’s parents died while she was overseas and her only daughter Tiffany went in prison for burglary.) Cal returned home after a year, but Crawford reupped for a second, with a raise and management opportunities. She returned to the Northwest July 28, 2008.
She was blogging about her travels and struggles with her daughter, when she heard the news report about Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth’s death. Since then, Crawford’s writing has almost exclusively focused on war contractors.
She rises every morning at 4:30 and logs on, often working well after her husband and grandson she is raising go to bed. Crawford posts anonymous tips, aggregates related news and videos, expresses her opinion, tips journalists and breaks news such as the death of State Department contractor who was electrocuted in his shower in Iraq in 2009. Categories on her website include “Chemical and other Exposures”; “Contractor Deaths”; “Electrocutions/”; “Indictments, Convictions and Arrests”; “Human Trafficking”; “Rape, Hazing, Discrimination and Harassment”; and “Rants.”
She works without pay but takes donations and advertisements on her website. She has had to bring on another person to handle the information flowing through the site. Still, she says the biggest payoff has been meeting all the special people affected by their service or work in the war zones.
Jill Wilkins was a young Florida widow desperate for information after her Air Force reservist husband, a registered nurse, died of a brain tumor in 2008. Wilkins found Ms. Sparky and within weeks of posting her questions about her husband’s exposure to burn pits in Iraq on mssparky.com, Wilkins was featured on CNN, found other plaintiffs suing over the use of burn pits and was awarded her husband’s veterans benefits.
“It was a lifeline,” says Wilkins, who was so inspired she started her own Facebook site on burn pits.
Crawford says what she wants most is for the federal government to police war contractors.
“I have a 7-year-old who is bound and determined to be a soldier and I have to get this fixed before he is in the Army.” Read the original story at Oregon Live here