"Geoff Harries didn't know his son Andrew was even in Iraq when the call came through saying the former British soldier had been killed in an ambush near the northern city of Mosul.
""It was a complete shock because I had no idea he was there," Harries told the BBC in May. "I am shattered. I want to wake up and find it's not right."
"Unfortunately, his is a nightmare all too familiar to the parents of many former soldiers lured to hot spots such as Iraq by the prospect of a fast fortune in return for their military and security expertise.
"With the official US body count over the past 18 months now topping 1000, and the Iraqi death toll in the unrecorded thousands, another tally is quietly creeping up.
"Since April 2003, at least 151 foreign contractors, ranging from Nepalese cooks to South African bodyguards, have died in Iraq, according to Iraq Coalition Casualties, a website that tracks the body count.
"Of these deaths, recorded via monitoring of international and local media, nearly a third are "security consultants" - essentially former soldiers hired to guard anything from oil installations to diplomats, politicians or foreign businessmen.
"Some of the deaths hit the headlines, such as that of Fabrizio Quattrocchi, an Italian security adviser executed by his kidnappers in April this year.
"Others, however, are reported only in the victim's local papers, their names and job descriptions withheld by families or employers often accused of moving in a shadowy, mercenary world.
"South Africans, many from the ranks of crack, but now out-of-work, apartheid-era troops, make frequent appearances in the incident reports.
"While the estimates of numbers are staggering, so too are the sums of cash involved. If you can stay alive long enough, you can get very rich. At the sharpest end of the industry - short-term protection contracts for political bigwigs or businessmen - a security guard may make as much as $US1500 ($A2150) a day, almost what a US private takes home in a month.
"Unfortunately for some of the security workers such as Herman "Harry" Pretorius, a South African who worked as a bodyguard for American security company DynCorp, theirs was a one-way ticket...." [more]
"David A. Passaro was a mercenary working for the United States. A former Special Forces soldier, he was on the job for the American government in Afghanistan on June 19, 2003, when he was told to get information from a detainee named Abdul Wali. When Wali insisted that he knew nothing, Passaro allegedly beat him to death with a heavy metal flashlight.
"Now on trial for murder, Passaro is described in a recent criminal indictment as "a contractor working on behalf of the United States Central Intelligence Agency … engaging in paramilitary activities."
""Contractor" is the term used by the Defense Department to avoid more pejorative terms like "mercenary" to describe Washington's growing shadow army.
"While Passaro awaits trial in North Carolina, another self- described "contractor," Jonathan K. Idema, was convicted Wednesday in Afghanistan and sentenced to 10 years in a case involving charges of torture and other crimes. And in Iraq, 16 of 44 incidents of abuse at Abu Ghraib have been tied to private contractors.
"In all, there are about 20,000 military contractors currently working in Iraq for the U.S. government, according to the Washington Post; that's the equivalent of three army divisions of contractors. Soldiers-for-hire like Passaro are often employed (for as much as $200,000 a year) by former generals, who retired to run clandestine operations for profit and who have, in many cases, become millionaires from the secret budgets of the CIA and Defense Department.
"One such company alone, MPRI, has dozens of former generals and 10,000 former soldiers in the field, including many former members of the Special Forces. But privatization of the military comes at a price. In recent years, contractors have been linked to abuses ranging from ethnic cleansing operations in Croatia to the trafficking of sex slaves in Bosnia. They have been used to circumvent federal restrictions on the military. (For example, when Congress imposed a cap of 20,000 soldiers in Bosnia, the military simply hired 2,000 more private military contractors.)
"In Iraq, they're dying just like regular soldiers. To date, roughly 120 contractors have been killed there (although some were not involved in paramilitary activities). They include Vincent Foster, a former Marine sniper who was engaged in "skirmishes" in Iraq, and Scott Helvenston, who died guarding a convoy.
"The growing use of contractors and freelancers for paramilitary work has fueled an industry of mercenaries that was long in decline. Consider the strange case of Idema. On July 5, 2004, Afghan police entered the private prison run by him in Kabul. They reportedly found three men hanging from the ceiling while five others were found beaten and tied in a dark small room. Idema, also a former Special Forces member, claimed to have been working with the CIA and offered to supply proof that high-ranking U.S. officials supported his operation.
"Idema's case highlights the increasingly fluid definitions of soldiers, contractors and freelancers. While officials denied any contact with Idema's operation, the Defense Department recently acknowledged it held an Afghan man in custody for two months after Idema delivered him to U.S. forces. Likewise, officials now admit that Idema sent messages and faxes to top Pentagon officials. Idema also reportedly arranged and participated in raids on homes with NATO forces in Kabul.
"It is not clear whether Idema was actually employed by the U.S., but clearly he is part of a radically expanded market for soldiers of fortune, a market fueled by U.S. dollars. Unlike Passaro, Idema was conveniently left to Afghanistan. Not only was he denied the right to cross- examine witnesses, but the presiding judge, Abdul Baset Bakhtyari, dismissed his efforts to show his connections to "high-ranking military officials."
"As for Passaro, the government secured a federal court order in Raleigh, N.C., barring the public disclosure of many of the facts of his case, including details of his work for the CIA...." [more]
NO COMPETITION Former Bechtel consultant portrays Halliburton bidding process as a “sham”
by David Phinney, Special to CorpWatch
"A former Bechtel consultant who wrote a competing proposal against Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, in 2003 for a sweeping oil reconstruction contract in Iraq calls the government’s competition a “sham” that was “rigged” from the start in Halliburton’s favor.
"Appearing before a special panel of congressional Democrats on Sept. 10, the consultant, Sheryl Elam Tappan, said that she finally advised Bechtel to pull out before the contract was awarded because she was convinced that the competition was a done deal for KBR.
"“Officials up and down the chain of command ignored our federal laws and regulations and the procedures that normally ensure fair play,” she told the panel of the Army Corps of Engineers, which awarded the controversial contract through its Fort Worth office. She said she'd never before seen "the arrogant and egregious ways in which the Corps treated Halliburton’s competitors.”
"After the competition, on Jan. 16, 2004, two contracts were awarded. Halliburton was assigned work in southern Iraq for a top value of $1.2 billion and a second, valued for as much as $800 million, went to Parsons Energy and Chemical Group and the Worley Group of Australia for similar work in northern Iraq. Both Parsons and KBR are headquartered in Houston.
"As the largest contractor in Iraq, Halliburton’s work with the Pentagon has been especially controversial.
"Critics have accused the Pentagon of backroom deals that handed Halliburton work valued at billions of dollars without first holding full and open competitions. Since the spring of 2003, Pentagon auditors and members of Congress also complained that the company uses shoddy accounting practices, has a cavalier approach to containing costs, and repeatedly overcharged the government by hundreds of millions of dollars without justification.
"The fact that Vice President Dick Cheney once headed Halliburton as CEO from 1995 to 2000, holds stock options presently worth an estimated $400,000 in the company and is receiving deferred compensation from Halliburton even while vice president, supplies additional cause for speculation about the firm and the Defense Department.
"Halliburton’s Washington lobbyist, Charles Dominy, is also a retired general who once served with the Army Corps of Engineers...." [more]
* Idema’s lawyer claims Americans accused of torturing Afghans were warmly greeted by Kabul government officials
"KABUL: Lawyers for two of three Americans on trial for kidnapping and torturing Afghans in a vigilante counter-terror operation said on Wednesday they had videos showing the trio met Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s brother.
"John Edwards Tiffany, lawyer for ringleader Jonathan Idema, said the videotapes, which had been among material temporarily confiscated by the FBI, showed “the three Americans being warmly greeted at the Kabul Airport by Afghan officials upon their arrival.” “The officials include Haji Timor, the director of the Kabul Airport; General Babajan who is the commander of the Kabul and Afghan National Police, and President Karzai’s brother,” Tiffany told a press conference in Kabul.
"He distributed the videotapes to several media representatives, but did not state whether they would be played in court.
"Idema, Brent Bennett and Edward Caraballo are on trial on charges of illegally kidnapping, jailing and torturing Afghans as well as entering Afghanistan without permission or proper documentation. Tiffany, who only arrived in Kabul late August, said the latter charge was disproved by other videotapes — already played in court — showing the three meeting high-level Afghan officials.
"Babajan subsequently arrested the three Americans and had been present in court on several occasions but had not come forward to acknowledge greeting the three on their arrival in Afghanistan, the lawyer added. Idema claims the group was working with the full knowledge of US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to hunt down terrorist suspects...." [more]
"KABUL (Reuters) - Three Americans on trial in Afghanistan for illegally imprisoning and torturing Afghans have appealed to the U.S. ambassador to request the charges be dropped, lawyers for two of them said Wednesday.
"One of the men, Jonathan "Jack" Idema, has said his actions were sanctioned by the Defense Department, the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency and that they had denied links with him due to embarrassment over the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq.
"Idema, a former Green Beret, is on trial with Brett Bennett and Ed Caraballo. Bennett is another ex-soldier and Caraballo an Emmy award-winning cameraman who was making a documentary. The men face up to 20 years in jail if convicted.
"Idema's lawyer, John Edwards Tiffany, and Caraballo's lawyer, Robert Fogelnest, criticized the Afghan justice system as inadequate to handle such a trial.
"They complained that evidence had been withheld from the defense and that the accused had never received proper translations of the charges against them.
"They told reporters they had met the prosecutors on Sept. 1, who said they would have no objection to the charges being dropped if the U.S. ambassador made such a request.
"The lawyers said they had written to ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad on Sept. 2 requesting his intervention. "We are awaiting his response," they said in a statement.
"A spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy said the letter had been forwarded to Washington for review but had no further comment.
"Asked whether the letter had suggested a deal in which allegations of official sanction for the men's activity would be dropped, Fogelnest replied: "We are not prepared at this time to discuss what the contents of our letter to the ambassador was...." [more]
"HOUSTON (Reuters) - Halliburton Co. may decide not to submit new bids for the logistics contracts it holds in Iraq if the U.S. military divides up the work too deeply, Chief Executive Officer Dave Lesar said on Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, the Wall Street Journal reported the U.S. Army plans to break up the multibillion-dollar logistics contract and seek competitive bids for the work it awarded to Halliburton to feed, house and operate services for U.S. troops.
""I'm not sure we're going to rebid if it's hacked into too many pieces in Iraq. If we do choose to rebid, we're going to jack the margins up significantly," said Lesar, whose comments to an analysts' conference in New York were broadcast on the Internet...." [more]
"The Pentagon plans to end a contract given to Halliburton to provide US troops in Iraq with logistical support, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The army will put the work out to bid, the newspaper says, quoting an army memorandum which estimates the contract to be worth $13bn (£7.3bn).
"Halliburton has been accused of overcharging since it was handed the no-bid contract last year.
"US Vice-President Dick Cheney headed the firm until he took office in 2001.
"He has, however, denied that this has led to preferential treatment for the firm.
"US defence officials say the intention to break up the contract with Halliburton was not intended to penalise its Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) unit which handles the Iraq operation, the Wall Street Journal reports.
"KBR provides troops in Kuwait and Iraq with housing, dining halls, transportation and laundry.
"Rather, the intention was to find greater efficiency by parcelling the work out to a greater number of firms...." [more]
"BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The Army general who once ran detention operations in Iraq said a "conspiracy" among top U.S. commanders has left her to blame for the abuses of Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib prison.
"Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who commanded the Army's 800th Military Police Brigade, said she fears more senior Army generals may escape punishment, even though they issued or approved guidelines on the interrogation of Iraqi prisoners.
"Karpinski said in an e-mail interview with The Associated Press that she was unfairly cited by a report issued last month by an independent panel of nongovernment experts headed by former defense secretary James Schlesinger.
"The Schlesinger report blamed Karpinski for leadership failures that "helped set the conditions at the prison which led to the abuses." She failed to ensure that Iraqi prisoners were protected by the Geneva Conventions and failed to deal with ineffective commanders below her. It recommended that she be relieved of command and given a letter of reprimand, which would essentially end her career.
"The panel also said disciplinary action "may be forthcoming" against Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the Army's 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, which was assigned to Abu Ghraib last year. That recommendation may allow top generals in Iraq to sidestep punishment, Karpinski said.
"Those she said might avoid sharing responsibility are Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former land forces commander in Iraq; his deputy, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski; Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, the former head of military intelligence here; and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, deputy commander for detention operations in Iraq.
""It was a conspiracy all along," Karpinski said. "Sanchez and Miller and likely Fast had fallback plans and people to blame if anything came unglued."..." [more]
A Nigerian report on allegations of bribery by consortium accuses the firm of playing games with parliamentary investigators.
By Ken Silverstein, Times Staff Writer
"WASHINGTON — A Nigerian parliamentary report on allegations that a consortium that includes Halliburton Co. made vast illegal payments to win multibillion-dollar deals accuses the company of playing "hide-and-seek games" with local investigators.
"The payments were reportedly made between 1995 and 2002, as the consortium, known as TSKJ, won three contracts worth a combined $7 billion to build a natural gas plant and related facilities.
"The report, which was released Wednesday, sharply criticizes Halliburton, the energy services firm, calling on Chief Executive Dave Lesar to come to Nigeria to "make necessary clarifications" before parliamentary investigators.
"It also recommends that Halliburton receive no further contracts in Nigeria until all international inquiries have been concluded. French authorities, the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also have ongoing investigations...." [more]
"The California State Teachers' Retirement System ratcheted up pressure Wednesday on military contractor CACI International Inc., urging the company's board to investigate the conduct of executives and interrogators in the Iraqi prison scandal.
At the same time, CalSTRS, the nation's third-largest public pension fund, took steps that could lead to divesting its holdings in the beleaguered company.
"The action comes after Army investigators last week said three private interrogators from CACI participated in some of the abuses or failed to report the wrongdoing and referred them to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution.
Some interrogators allegedly encouraged soldiers to abuse prisoners and used military dogs to threaten detainees, the Army noted in the report by Maj. Gen. George R. Fay and Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones.
"In one instance, the Jones-Fay report said, "The use of dogs in the manner directed by (a CACI interrogator) was clearly abusive and unauthorized."
"The latest military report prompted state Treasurer Phil Angelides, a CalSTRS trustee, to push for divestiture. He said the the $114 billion pension fund's relatively small investment in CACI isn't worth the "heartburn."
""We ought to get out of this small holding. The company is going to be in jeopardy for quite some time," Angelides told members of the CalSTRS corporate governance subcommittee Wednesday...." [more]
by Lisa Ashkenaz Croke
Brian Dominick contributed to this news article.
"Aug 30 - While the latest reports investigating the widely condemned events at Abu Ghraib prison attempt to close the book on the Pentagon’s culpability with a somber critique, new evidence gathered for a class action lawsuit filed against two US-based private contractors could prove that the scandal at Abu Ghraib was far from an isolated series of incidents perpetrated by a few rowdy "bad apples" working the night shift during Ramadan.
"An attorney representing former detainees says his recent fact-finding mission to Baghdad uncovered dozens of cases of physical and psychological abuse, sexual humiliation, religious desecration and rape in ten US-run prisons throughout occupied Iraq.
"The NewStandard spoke with Michigan-based attorney Shereef Akeel, who interviewed some 50 former detainees about their time and treatment in US custody. Part of the legal team behind a class action lawsuit against the firms for their employees’ involvement in prison abuse at US-run facilities in Iraq, the former immigration lawyer found himself traveling to meet face-to-face with the people he is representing in the American court system...." [more]
By Renae Merle and Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 26, 2004; Page A18
"The three generals investigating the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison determined that six civilian contract employees participated in or failed to report abuse of prisoners, and they referred those individuals to the Justice Department for prosecution.
"The employees worked for CACI International Inc., of Arlington, which provided interrogators at the prison, and Titan Corp., which provided translators. The report, which also said the Army failed to properly monitor contractors, provided the clearest view yet of the role contractors played in the prison abuses...." [more]
By Hamida Ghafour and Jube Shiver Jr.
Special to The Times
"KABUL, Afghanistan — A truck bomb ripped through the headquarters of a U.S. security firm in the Afghan capital Sunday, killing at least seven people, including two Americans, in the first major attack in the city in more than a year.
"The blast, which injured dozens, targeted the offices of DynCorp Inc., a security and information technology company based in Reston, Va., that provides bodyguards for President Hamid Karzai. The attack comes less than six weeks before Afghanistan is scheduled to hold its first direct presidential election.
"Remnants of the former Taliban regime have promised to disrupt the balloting and have been staging increasingly frequent attacks on U.S. forces, election workers and potential voters. Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi claimed responsibility for Sunday's blast and said it was detonated by a Taliban fighter using a remote control.
""A few minutes ago he phoned our chief … to say that he finished his mission and is alive," he told Reuters news agency.
"The explosion in the affluent Shar-i-Naw area, home to a number of international charities and embassies, blew out the windows of neighboring houses. It ignited a fire that engulfed DynCorp's residential compound and police training facility. Witnesses said the explosion created a crater outside DynCorp's front door and left the streets covered with shards of glass and droplets of blood....
"DynCorp has provided bodyguards for Karzai since November 2002 under a contract with the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security Service. In April 2003, the company won a separate State Department contract to train the Afghan police force...." [more]
"LIKE that other "oldest profession in the world", there is no shortage of people prepared to pay for the services of mercenaries. But times have changed, and the so-called Dogs of War are learning new tricks.
"The latest escapade in Equatorial Guinea, in which Mark Thatcher is alleged to have become embroiled, has a decidedly old-fashioned ring to it. It has all the hallmarks of the sort of operation that modern mercenary companies would regard with disdain.
"The appearance of private military companies which offer their services to governments and to commercial businesses has been a major development in recent years.
"Despite the distaste which many people feel towards the idea of men hiring themselves out for fighting, recent history shows that these mercenary companies can be instrumental in preventing conflict.
"In a forward to a Foreign Office report on private military companies in February, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw differentiated between "mercenaries of the rather unsavoury kind" and reputable private military companies.
"He said it was worth considering licensing private military companies to encourage reputable ones and eliminate disreputable operators.
"It is a distinction that has not always existed...." [more]
"WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 - A Central Intelligence Agency review that grew out of the furor over abuses at Abu Ghraib prison now includes scrutiny of the agency's interrogation and detention practices at military-run facilities and other sites across Iraq, government officials say.
"The reassessment, which is more far-reaching than previously known, could have implications for the agency's conduct elsewhere, including interrogations of high-level Al Qaeda suspects like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed who are being held by the C.I.A. in secret facilities around the world.
"Former intelligence officials say that lawyers from the C.I.A. and the Justice Department have been involved in intensive discussions in recent months to review the legal basis for some extreme tactics used at those secret centers, including "waterboarding," in which a detainee is strapped down, dunked under water and made to believe that he might be drowned.
""Policies and procedures on detention interrogation in Iraq and elsewhere have been the focus of intense oversight and scrutiny, and very close attention has been paid to making them lawful," a senior intelligence official said Friday.
"Over all, the review by the intelligence agency, along with the investigations and corrective steps already undertaken by the military, reflect how the government has retreated from an aggressive posture adopted in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks on how far interrogators could go in questioning detainees.
"Within the military in particular, some of the harsh procedures authorized until this spring were quickly suspended or abandoned after the extent of the abuses at Abu Ghraib surfaced in April. This week, reviews completed by two investigative panels have called for even clearer rules to be drafted for the military and intelligence agencies to require humane treatment during interrogation.
"Among the questions raised by the Pentagon reviews is whether intelligence agencies should be required to heed the same guidelines for interrogation as the military, or whether they should be permitted more latitude. A report by Maj. Gen. George R. Fay about the abuses at Abu Ghraib said the conduct of C.I.A. personnel at the prison was perceived by military officials there as more aggressive than that allowed by the military. The report said the C.I.A.'s conduct had a corrupting influence on military interrogators and contributed to a view among them that it was permissible to exceed strict guidelines for interrogations...." [more]
"BERLIN (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier expected to plead guilty to charges of abusing Iraqi prisoners told a German magazine he deeply regretted his actions but said the abuses were encouraged by military intelligence services.
"Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick told the weekly Der Spiegel conditions in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib jail were a "nightmare" with no clear line of command and conflicting demands placed on junior soldiers with insufficient training.
""I didn't know at all who was actually in charge," he said, according to a German translation of his remarks.
""The battalion wanted one thing from you, the company wanted something else and the secret service had their own ideas. It was just chaos," he said.
"The abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib caused worldwide outrage when photographs of the incidents emerged earlier this year.
"A special army investigation acknowledged last week that torture had occurred and more soldiers may face trial, although so far only Frederick and six other military police reservists serving at Abu Ghraib have been charged.
"Frederick said after a pretrial hearing in Germany last week he would plead guilty to some charges including assault, cruelty and indecent acts at a court martial on October 20...." [more]
"ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — The attorney for a Telford area man said Thursday that his client is one of six civilian interrogators named in a new Army report that details abuses against Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
"The report refers to a civilian interrogator who used dogs to intimidate Iraqis held at the prison, bragged about shaving a detainee's head and forcing him to wear women's underwear, and lied to investigators.
"Though the interrogator is not named, Philadelphia attorney Henry Hockeimer said Thursday he is certain the person referred to as Civilian 21 is his client, Steven Stefanowicz of Telford.
"Hockeimer said Stefanowicz denies any misconduct.
"The attorney said he believes Stefanowicz is Civilian 21 because the report refers to a witness who said he saw two soldiers parade a prisoner stripped down to his underwear from an interrogation room to a jail cell on Nov. 16.
""Stefanowicz reported that (incident) to the military chain of command," Hockeimer told The Morning Call of Allentown for Friday editions. "That's one way that we concluded that it's him."
"The report, released Wednesday, accuses Civilian 21 of inappropriately using dogs during interrogations, abusing and humiliating detainees, making false statements and failing to report prisoner abuse...." [more]
* * *
By Ellen McCarthy and Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writers
"Details of the role civilian contractors played in the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq sparked fresh debate yesterday about the effectiveness of laws and rules meant to govern workers hired to support the military.
"Coming under particular scrutiny was the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act passed in November 2000 that allows for the prosecution of criminal acts committed by defense contractors accompanying the military to foreign lands.
"Three generals investigating abuses at Abu Ghraib referred the cases of six contractors employed by Arlington-based CACI International Inc. and Titan Corp. of San Diego to the Justice Department, recommending that they be prosecuted for participating in or failing to report prisoner abuse. But the report itself raised questions about the potential success of such an effort, saying contract employees "under non-DOD contractors may not be subject" to the act. CACI's contract to provide interrogators at Abu Ghraib was managed by the Interior Department.
"Some legal experts said it's unclear whether CACI is covered. "I guess the question is, who is a Department of Defense contactor?" said Steven L. Schooner, a professor of government contracting at George Washington University Law School. He said he would argue that because CACI is receiving Defense Department money and performing work for the department, it should be included. But he said that the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, as written, may not technically cover CACI's interrogators.
"An amendment broadening the act to cover contractors employed by other federal agencies is part of the defense authorization bill approved by the Senate in July. But the House version of the bill does not include the amendment.
"Legal experts also point to another provision of the law, which says that individuals who commit assault overseas in areas administered by the United States are subject to criminal prosecution here.
"Attorney General John D. Ashcroft said yesterday that the Justice Department has received a letter with a copy of the Army report and is reviewing the material on the civilian contract employees. Federal officials declined to comment on the CACI case...." [more]
Former US soldier on trial for torturing prisoners in Afghanistan insists he worked for US.
by Tom Regan
"Mr. Idema was arrested in July and is currently on trial with two other American co-defendants for torture, kidnapping, and running a private jail in Kabul, Afghanistan. They face up to 20 years in jail if found guilty.
"Idema has repeatedly asserted that he was working for the US military, a charge the US has denied.
"Until now, writes the BBC, the Pentagon has refused to acknowledge any contacts at all between itself and Idema. A Pentagon official reportedly told the BBC that Idema spoke to Heather Anderson, the Pentagon's Acting Director of Security, by phone earlier this year. After checking Idema's background, Anderson called Idema back to refuse his offer to work for the Pentagon.
"BBC cites the Pentagon official as saying that Idema "continued to contact the Pentagon by phone, fax, and email, 'trying to establish a relationship.'"
"Jack Idema's US-based lawyer, John Tiffany, has rejected the Pentagon's version of events, describing them as completely false.
"If they had rebuffed him, he asked, why did they keep taking his phone calls?
"On the one hand, the Pentagon's admission could be seen as another concession to Mr Idema's story. On the other hand, it proves nothing more than that some telephone conversations took place.Military spokesman Maj. Scott Nelson said Wednesday Idema "was operating by himself [in Afghanistan] with the delusion that he was here to do great things for the world."
"As The Associated Press points out, the US military has acknowledged it accepted one detainee from Idema, but released the man after two months after it realized he was not the senior Taliban fighter Idema had claimed.
""Many observers have been troubled by the lack of clarity surrounding the military's acceptance of the suspect, and the fact it took two months for them to figure out the man was innocent and release him," AP reports.... [more]
"What began several months ago with the emergence of shocking photographs showing a handful of U.S. troops abusing detainees in Iraq has led this week to a broad indictment of U.S. military leadership and acknowledgement in two official reports that mistreatment of prisoners was more widespread than previously disclosed.
"The reports have served to undercut earlier portrayals of the abuse as largely the result of criminal misconduct by a small group of individuals. As recently as last month, an assessment by the Army's inspector general concluded the incidents could not be ascribed to systemic problems, describing them as "aberrations."
"But the findings yesterday of another Army investigation offered a more critical appraisal of what led to the mistreatment at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. It implicated 27 military intelligence soldiers in abuse, providing some support for assertions by some of the seven military guards previously charged that they were not acting alone. Counting other intelligence, medical and civilian contract personnel cited for failing to report the abuse, and three more military police officers alleged to have engaged in abuse, the report appeared to raise to nearly 50 the number of people who may face charges or disciplinary action for misconduct at Abu Ghraib.
"Further, the investigation found that senior officers in Iraq bore responsibility for what occurred by failing to exercise adequate oversight and neglecting to provide "clear, consistent guidance" for handling detainees.
"On Tuesday, an independent panel led by former defense secretary James R. Schlesinger went higher up the chain of command. It cited the Pentagon's most senior civilian and military authorities for setting the stage for the abuse by issuing confused guidance, planning poorly and responding too slowly when problems arose.
"Both groups said they could find no evidence of policy of abuse or instructions from senior U.S. authorities approving mistreatment of detainees. But taken together, their reports provide a more complete and searing critique than before -- one likely to reverberate as additional prosecutions are launched and more congressional hearings are held to examine the question of accountability...." [more]
"For anyone with the time to wade through 400-plus pages and the resources to decode them, the two reports issued this week on the Abu Ghraib prison are an indictment of the way the Bush administration set the stage for Iraqi prisoners to be brutalized by American prison guards, military intelligence officers and private contractors.
"The Army's internal investigation, released yesterday, showed that the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib went far beyond the actions of a few sadistic military police officers - the administration's chosen culprits. It said that 27 military intelligence soldiers and civilian contractors committed criminal offenses, and that military officials hid prisoners from the Red Cross. Another report, from a civilian panel picked by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, offers the dedicated reader a dotted line from President Bush's decision to declare Iraq a front in the war against terror, to government lawyers finding ways to circumvent the Geneva Conventions, to Mr. Rumsfeld's bungled planning of the occupation and understaffing of the ground forces in Iraq, to the hideous events at Abu Ghraib prison.
"That was a service to the public, but the civilian panel did an enormous disservice by not connecting those dots and walking away from any real exercise in accountability. Instead, Pentagon officials who are never named get muted criticism for issuing confusing memos and not monitoring things closely enough. This is all cast as "leadership failure" - the 21st-century version of the Nixonian "mistakes were made" evasion - that does not require even the mildest reprimand for Mr. Rumsfeld, who should have resigned over this disaster months ago. Direct condemnation is reserved for the men and women in the field, from the military police officers sent to guard prisoners without training to the three-star general in Iraq.
"Still, the dots are there, making it clear that the road to Abu Ghraib began well before the invasion of Iraq, when the administration created the category of "unlawful combatants" for suspected members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban who were captured in Afghanistan and imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Interrogators wanted to force these prisoners to talk in ways that are barred by American law and the Geneva Conventions, and on Aug. 1, 2002, Justice Department lawyers produced the infamous treatise on how to construe torture as being legal.
"In December 2002, Mr. Rumsfeld authorized things like hooding prisoners, using dogs to terrify them, forcing them into "stress positions" for long periods, stripping them, shaving them and isolating them. All this was prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, but President Bush had already declared on Feb. 7, 2002, that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to Al Qaeda...." [more]
"WASHINGTON — The abuse of detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison last year was widespread and went well beyond a small group of low-ranking U.S. military police, involving more than three dozen military intelligence officers, their commanders, CIA agents and private contractors, a Pentagon investigation concluded Wednesday.
"The Defense Department inquiry, which examined the role of military interrogators at the prison, identified 44 separate cases of abuse, some of which were even more brutal than many of the incidents documented in the now-infamous photographs taken on Tier 1A at the compound outside Baghdad. Gen. Paul Kern, who supervised the investigation, said at a news conference Wednesday that some of the practices amounted to "torture."
"The report was the second from the Pentagon in two days on the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal — and together they debunk the idea of a rogue operation by the prison's night shift and instead paint a picture of widespread abuses by many more individuals and institutions, with responsibility going all the way up the ladder to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
"The report released Wednesday cited 41 intelligence officers, CIA officials, contractors, medics and military police officers who either participated in the abuses or knew of them and did nothing to stop them. Seven other military police officers have been charged in the scandal...." [more]
"Susan L. Burke was irked two years ago after reading an article about the interrogation of suspected terrorists. The Philadelphia lawyer was particularly piqued by a comment attributed to an anonymous interrogator:
""If you don't violate someone's human rights some of the time, you probably aren't doing your job," the Washington Post quoted the U.S. official as saying.
"Concerned that the U.S. military was torturing detainees in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, Burke began researching legal means to force the government to toe the line. She enlisted the help of some associates, along with a team of University of Pennsylvania law students.
Burke now heads a seemingly unlikely alliance dedicated to righting the wrongs of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq.
""It sounds like an easy legal question, but it's legally difficult," said Burke, 42, a partner at the old-line firm of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads. The big hurdle was how to challenge the government, which is immune from most lawsuits.
"A crack appeared in the government's legal armor this spring when the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted. Reports implicated interrogators employed by private contractors, which have less legal protection from lawsuits than the government itself.
"Six weeks later, Burke led a group of lawyers from four states in filing a federal class-action suit against CACI International of Arlington, Va., and Titan Corp. of San Diego, contractors who supplied interrogators and translators at the Abu Ghraib prison.
""Our lawsuit really alleges a conspiracy," Burke said. "We're essentially focusing on the government acting in cahoots with these private parties."..." [more]
"While much of the media is focused on the pitched battle over the control of the holy shrine in Najaf, a bigger scandal is brewing in Iraq that may well have an equally important effect on the future of the U.S. occupation.
"A team of auditors was dispatched to Iraq in late January this year after a string of internal reports showed that the military was wasting billions of dollars of taxpayer money. They have issued eleven reports since June 25, almost all of which have pointed to the misuse of the money allocated for reconstruction, be it Iraqi or Congress-appropriated funds.
"According to two of these reports issued in late July by Stuart Bowen, the auditor-inspector general of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), not only have a full one-third of the items purchased by the Pentagon gone MIA (including the pricey generator), but a whopping. $1.9 billion or more of Iraqi oil revenue has also mysteriously disappeared.
"Embarrassed military authorities did eventually track down the missing generator and much of the money, both of which seemed to have ended up with none other than Halliburton. As it turns out they weren't missing after all; it's just that Dick Cheney's former employer had misplaced or conveniently forgotten to turn in the receipts to the correct people.
"But the Pentagon was not able to explain just how Halliburton gained possession of Iraqi funds when neither the United States Congress nor the Iraqi government authorized their transfer to Halliburton in the first place. Worse yet, the man who authorized the allocation – CPA chief Paul Bremer – had already quietly left Iraq just as the reports were being released.
"Yet days after the much-touted "transfer of sovereignty," the White House revealed an even more startling detail about the reconstruction effort: In over a year, the CPA had managed to spend just 2 percent of the $18.4 billion earmarked for the immediate reconstruction of Iraq. And not a penny was spent on the two areas where the Iraqi people were suffering the most: healthcare or water and sanitation.
"So what is really going on? Is the United States spending too much or too little money in Iraq?..." [more]
"WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Abuses photographed at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq represented "deviant behavior and a failure of military leadership and discipline" at the facility, but direct and indirect responsibility for those acts and others elsewhere went higher up the chain of command, an independent panel reported Tuesday.
"The prison's weaknesses were no secret and they should have been fixed, said James Schlesinger, chairman of the four-member advisory panel appointed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in early May to investigate abuse allegations.
""We believe that there is institutional and personal responsibility right up the chain of command as far as Washington is concerned," Schlesinger told a news conference to release the 126-page report.
"Former Republican Rep. Tillie K. Fowler of Florida, a panel member who was once a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, was more direct.
""We found fundamental failures throughout all levels of command, from the soldiers on the ground to Central Command and to the Pentagon. These failures of leadership helped to set the conditions which allowed for the abusive practices to take place," Fowler said.
"She said the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the head of the U.S. Central Command failed to plan properly for the treatment of prisoners.
""There was sadism on the night shift at Abu Ghraib, sadism that was certainly not authorized," Schlesinger said. "It was kind of 'Animal House' on the night shift...." [more]
'Never in my lifetime could I make this much money'
By Howard Witt
Tribune senior correspondent
"HOUSTON -- They journey by the hundreds each week to a cavernous warehouse tucked inside Houston's rusting industrial district: the unemployed, the underemployed, the blue-collar fathers struggling to make ends meet and the single mothers with preschoolers in tow.
"Anxiously they clutch resumes freshly printed or scrawled in urgent longhand; the few who have passports wave them overhead, hoping to gain an edge and the chance to earn $80,000 or $100,000 or more--salaries most never could have dreamed of.
"The jobs these men and women are clamoring for will take them far from their homes and families for a full year. They will work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. They will sleep in tents, in 120-degree deserts, often with no air conditioning. They will risk being kidnapped, shot at and blown up.
"They will be in Iraq.
"The employment lines stretch out the door.
""Never in my lifetime could I make this much money," said Barbara Sharp, 58, an office worker who was one of hundreds attending a job fair one morning last month at the Houston headquarters of KBR, formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root. Her reasoning was echoed by many in the crowd.
"Cooks, truck drivers, carpenters, mechanics, locksmiths, electricians--these and thousands of other jobs supporting the U.S. military are on offer as KBR, the Halliburton Co. subsidiary that is the Pentagon's main contractor in Iraq, seeks to maintain and expand its workforce of 30,000 civilians already there.
"So acute is the need, and so frenetic is the hiring pace, that job applicants can show up for one of KBR's open-house job fairs on a Friday, begin training Monday and fly to Iraq two weeks later. The company is hiring 350 fresh employees each week, with no end in sight.
"The danger these workers face is real: 45 employees of KBR and its main subcontractors have been killed in Iraq since U.S. forces invaded on March 20, 2003, and the first KBR support workers followed the next day. Another 118 have been wounded, and two kidnapped employees remain missing...." [more]
"KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - American authorities are satisfied that three U.S. citizens on trial in Afghanistan for allegedly torturing prisoners during a freelance counter-terrorism mission are being treated humanely, despite charges from the defendants that they have been beaten in jail, a U.S. official said Tuesday.
"``They are being treated well,'' said the official, who spoke on the condition he not be further identified. ``Our embassy is watching closely and we should let the trial proceed and not try to influence it.''
"Consular officials have met with the defendants, Jonathan Idema, Edward Caraballo and Brent Bennett, and the official said there was no evidence that they were beaten.
"The three face up to 20 years in jail if convicted on charges of torture and kidnapping. They were arrested July 5 when authorities freed about a dozen Afghan men being held at a private jail. The Afghan prisoners were allegedly tortured using boiling water, and much of the abuse was apparently video-taped.
"Idema, a former U.S. soldier with a checkered past that includes a stint in federal prison for fraud, denies he tortured anyone and claims he was working with the approval of the Pentagon and senior Afghan authorities. Videos of the alleged torture have not been played in court.
On Monday, Caraballo, a New York City native, came to court walking with a limp and on crutches, and displayed large bruises on the bottom of one of his feet.
"Idema charged in court that his co-defendant had been beaten. Caraballo's lawyer, Michael Skibbie, said only that he was ``not in a position to comment'' on how his client got the injuries. Idema also claims that he was severely beaten in his initial days in custody.
"The American official said the embassy wants to make sure that the trial is conducted fairly, but also recognizes the right of Afghanistan to pursue a case.
"``The charges leveled are very serious charges about serious crimes,'' he said.
"The U.S. military has described Idema as a freelancer with no connections to it whatsoever. However, it has acknowledged receiving a prisoner from his crew and holding the man for about two months. The suspect was subsequently released...." [more]
"An Army investigation into the Abu Ghraib prison scandal has found that military police dogs were used to frighten detained Iraqi teenagers as part of a sadistic game, one of many details in the forthcoming report that were provoking expressions of concern and disgust among Army officers briefed on the findings.
"Earlier reports and photographs from the prison have indicated that unmuzzled military police dogs were used to intimidate detainees at Abu Ghraib, something the dog handlers have told investigators was sanctioned by top military intelligence officers there. But the new report, according to Pentagon (news - web sites) sources, will show that MPs were using their animals to make juveniles -- as young as 15 years old -- urinate on themselves as part of a competition.
""There were two MP dog handlers who did use dogs to threaten kids detained at Abu Ghraib," said an Army officer familiar with the report, one of two investigations on detainee abuse scheduled for release this week. "It has nothing to do with interrogation. It was just them on their own being weird."
"Speaking on the condition of anonymity because the report has not been released, other officials at the Pentagon said the investigation also acknowledges that military intelligence soldiers kept multiple detainees off the record books and hid them from international humanitarian organizations. The report also mentions substantiated claims that at least one male detainee was sodomized by one of his captors at Abu Ghraib, sources said...." [more]
"KABUL, Afghanistan - A defense lawyer for one of three Americans accused of torturing a dozen Afghan prisoners in a private jail showed a video in court Monday of Afghanistan's former education minister congratulating the group and offering his help in arresting terrorists.
"In the footage, former minister Yunus Qanooni, an influential figure in the Northern Alliance that helped the United States oust the hardline Taliban regime in late 2001, is shown meeting with Jonathan Idema, leader of the counterterrorism group, and promising help.
"``Any cooperation, we are ready. We have a small security group,'' Qanooni says on the tape in broken English. Another video appears to show Qanooni's security forces coming along on a raid on the home of a suspect that Idema claims was plotting to kill the Afghan politician.
"Idema claims his activities were sanctioned by the Pentagon, and says the Afghan government was also behind his efforts to track down terrorists. He and two other Americans - Edward Caraballo and Brent Bennett - were arrested July 5 by Afghan intelligence agents. Authorities found about a dozen prisoners tied up at the site and say there is evidence of torture.
"The trio face up to 20 years in jail if convicted. Four alleged Afghan accomplices are also on trial. A verdict had been expected Monday, but the judge postponed the proceedings for a week to allow Bennett more time to get a lawyer. Idema is representing himself.
"The footage of Qanooni, also a senior Afghan government security adviser, appeared to support Idema's claim that he had official sanction...." [more]
"WASHINGTON (AP) After a week of flip-flops by the Army, Halliburton is waiting for a final decision on whether the military will withhold 15 percent of payments for some of its work in Iraq.
"The confusion over payments which could cost the company around $60 million is the latest hitch for Halliburton's multibillion-dollar work in Iraq. Various government agencies are investigating several aspects of that work, including allegations of kickbacks by Kuwaiti subcontractors and improper charges totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.
"Some Democrats in Congress also are questioning whether Vice President Dick Cheney, who headed Halliburton from 1995 to 2000, helped clear the way for the company's extensive work in Iraq. Cheney and Halliburton deny any political influence.
"At issue in the latest development is Halliburton subsidiary KBR's work in Iraq under an Army logistics contract. Under that umbrella deal, awarded years before the war, KBR provides food, sanitation, transportation and other logistical help for U.S. troops in Iraq as well as elsewhere around the world.
"KBR has a separate contract to repair and manage oil facilities in southern Iraq.
"The Army Materiel Command and KBR are disputing whether the company has provided enough information to justify its billing for some of the work done in Iraq. Under federal regulations, the Army can withhold 15 percent of a contractor's payments until such disputes are resolved. ..." [more]
"KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - Four months ago, Edward Caraballo grabbed his camera and left for Afghanistan to chronicle the exploits of flamboyant, self-styled terrorist hunter Jonathan Idema.
"Somewhere along the way, Afghan prosecutors say, the Bronx-born videographer went from reporting on Idema to joining his vigilante army.
"Now the Emmy Award-winning journalist is on trial for allegedly helping Idema run a private jail in Kabul where terror suspects were hung by their ankles and had their heads dunked in scalding water. If convicted, he faces 20 years in prison.
"The trial is set to begin tomorrow.
"At a hearing last week, Caraballo insisted he never touched any of the eight captives Afghan police found inside a rented Kabul house on July 5.
""I came here to document and to show the world that Afghanistan is America's best northern ally," he said. "I came with Mr. Idema because of his extensive knowledge of Afghanistan, having fought here to help along with the Americans to free Afghanistan from the tyranny of the Taliban."
"But Caraballo "should have stopped Jack from torturing people," said Abdul Fattah, chief prosecutor in the National Security Court. "If he did the same thing in America, he would be arrested and punished."
"In New Jersey, Caraballo's older brother said footage his sibling shot will prove that he's a journalist, not a mercenary.
""This was just supposed to be a six-week location shoot," Richard Caraballo, 47, said. "He was working on a documentary on Idema, and he told me he wanted to get a little more footage of him in Afghanistan."
"Idema, who's already on trial, told The Associated Press in his first interview from custody that he was hot on the heels of Osama Bin Laden and other militants when he was arrested.
""We would have had Bin Laden in less than 30 days," Idema insisted.
"He accused the FBI of orchestrating his arrest, saying the agency was trying to cover up its own incompetence in hunting for terrorists.
""I gave [the FBI] Bin Laden's exact address right outside Peshawar," a northwestern Pakistani city, Idema said. "I gave them the grid coordinates, the street and house number and everything. They got there five days after he left."..." [more]
"Jonathan Keith "Jack" Idema got into Afghanistan in 2001 after an official at the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan wrote a letter identifying him as a contractor with the Department of Defense.
Three years later, Idema stands accused of running an illegal jail in what has been termed a freelance search for terrorists. The U.S. government says it did not sponsor or employ him.
A hearing in Idema's case is expected to resume in Kabul on Monday. Idema, Ed Caraballo of New York and Brent Bennett of Fayetteville are accused of kidnapping and torturing Afghan citizens in their makeshift jail. They could face 15 to 20 years in an Afghan prison.
"Idema, a former Green Beret from Fayetteville, has said he tortured no one. He maintains he was only trying to elicit information from suspected terrorists using methods he learned in the Special Forces. The American and Afghan governments, he says, knew what he was doing and supported him.
"The U.S. government has not explained why Idema had a letter from the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan. The letter, dated Nov. 2, 2001, asks Uzbekistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs for help in issuing visas to Idema, Gary Scurka and Greg Long. It identifies the three men as Defense Department contractors.
"Long is a member of the humanitarian aid organization Partners International Foundation. Idema and Scurka, a freelance TV producer, have known each other for years. Scurka and Caraballo have been working on a documentary about Idema's life.
"According to sources familiar with Idema's work in Afghanistan, he joined with Partners International Foundation at the same time that Scurka got a job through National Geographic TV to produce a documentary on humanitarian aid work in Afghanistan.
"Those sources think Idema and Scurka wanted to continue working on their own documentary on Idema.
"A memo signed by Timothy Kelly, president of National Geographic TV, says Scurka would be going to Afghanistan as part of a humanitarian aid group known as KnightsBridge International. KnightsBridge's leader, Ed Artis, would be working with Idema, the memo said.
"Artis, who is being sued by Idema, would not comment for publication. Others agreed to talk and provided documents to The Fayetteville Observer on the condition that they not be identified. They said they feared that Idema would retaliate, either physically or through lawsuits. Idema has sued dozens of people over the years...." [more]
By PAUL HAVEN
"KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - An American on trial for allegedly torturing Afghan terror suspects in a private jail claimed Saturday in his first interview from custody that he was hot on the heels of Osama bin Laden and other militant leaders when he was arrested on July 5.
"Jonathan Idema told The Associated Press he had official sanction from Afghans and Americans to hunt down terrorists and said he has been prevented from showing the evidence in court. Prosecutors say Idema was waging a private war, and he faces up to 20 years in a crumbling Afghan prison if convicted.
""We would have had (renegade Afghan warlord Gulbuddin) Hekmatyar in 14 days or less. We would have had bin Laden in less than 30 days" had he and his team not been arrested, said Idema, a colorful former U.S. Army soldier who spent three years in jail in the 1980s for allegedly bilking 60 companies out of more than $200,000 in goods.
"Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, Idema came to Afghanistan and was featured in several books about the war and the search for bin Laden. He has also worked with several western TV networks. He said he came to Afghanistan again earlier this year because he felt U.S. anti-terror efforts were failing.
"At least four Afghan intelligence officials sat in on the 75-minute interview in a sparsely decorated room on the top floor of a building at the National Security Directorate - Afghanistan's chief intelligence agency.
"Though none interceded, Idema made frequent references to not being able to speak freely in their presence. He claimed he was badly beaten repeatedly by his jailers, though he had no visible cuts or bruises.
""Everything I was accused of doing (to the Afghan prisoners) got done to me," said the Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-native, sitting in a T-shirt, black pants and brown combat boots on a couch between two of the officials. He was not handcuffed.
"As he has done during his trial in a Kabul court, he wore dark sunglasses throughout the interview and refused a request to be photographed.
"Idema accused the FBI of orchestrating his arrest, saying the agency was trying to cover up its own incompetence in hunting for terrorists.
"But the U.S. government has described Idema as a vigilante working on his own. An Afghan government spokesman told AP that Idema had met with two top Afghan politicians. But there was no confirmation his mission was approved by either U.S. or Afghan officials.
"After initially denying any knowledge of Idema's activities, the U.S. military announced in July that it had received a prisoner from the American and held him for more than a month at Bagram Air Base before deciding that he was not the man Idema said he was. A military spokesman said the military did not realize Idema was working on his own at the time...." [more]
"WASHINGTON, Aug 20 (IPS) - Three U.S. senators have called on Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to account for 8.8 billion dollars entrusted to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq earlier this year but now gone missing.
"In a letter Thursday, Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon, Byron L Dorgan of North Dakota and Tom Harkin of Iowa, all opposition Democrats, demanded a "full, written account" of the money that was channelled to Iraqi ministries and authorities by the CPA, which was the governing body in the occupied country until Jun. 30.
"The loss was uncovered in an audit by the CPA's inspector general. It has not yet been released publicly and was initially reported on the website of journalist and retired U.S. Army Col David Hackworth.
"The CPA was terminated at the end of July to make way for an interim Iraqi government, which is in turn scheduled to be replaced by an elected body early in 2005.
"We are requesting a full, written account of the 8.8 billion dollars transferred earlier this year from the CPA to the Iraqi ministries, including the amount each ministry received and the way in which the ministry spent the money," said the letter.
"The senators also requested that the Pentagon designate a date by which it will install adequate oversight and financial and contractual controls over money it spends in Iraq.
"They accused the CPA of transferring the "staggering sum of money" with no written rules or guidelines to ensure adequate control over it.
"They pointed to "disturbing findings" from the inspector general's report that the payrolls of some Iraqi ministries, then under CPA control, were padded with thousands of ghost employees. They refer to an example in which CPA paid the salaries of 74,000 security guards although the actual number of employees could not be validated.
"The report says that in one case some 8,000 guards were listed on a payroll but only 603 real individuals could be counted.
""Such enormous discrepancies raise very serous questions about potential fraud, waste and abuse," added the letter...." [more]
By Robert O'Harrow Jr. and Vanessa Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
"An Army official responsible for administering the giant logistical contract with Halliburton Co. for food, housing and other services in Iraq and Kuwait said yesterday that his command has not had enough trained people to properly oversee the arrangement.
"Col. Tim Considine, deputy commander for the Army Field Support Command, made his remarks in response to questions about a confusing series of events on Monday and Tuesday, in which the Army waffled on whether to withhold some payments to subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root Inc. because of persistent questioning from Pentagon auditors about billing.
"On Monday, the day after a regulatory deadline for imposing such sanctions, Halliburton reported that its officials had been told they would get more time to justify billing claims. On Tuesday morning, the company released a statement saying the Army said it would withhold 15 percent of payments on future invoices, pending negotiations over bills. Later Tuesday, the Army announced it would put off any decision about withholding until next week.
"Considine said officials decided to give Halliburton more time to learn more about the impact of sanctions on the ability of the company and its subcontractors to provide troop support.
"Considine said his operation has been stretched so thin by managing the contract that it did not have time to address such things until after Sunday's deadline.
"Considine said the Army Field Support Command was unprepared at the outbreak of war in 2003 to manage what has become the largest contract of its kind. The Army has obligated $5.7 billion on the contract so far, and it has issued checks for $4.3 billion. "We ramped up for this fight so quickly, we weren't properly resourced early on. . . . It has stressed our resources," he said. "We have really struggled."
"Democrats yesterday seized on the extension, the third this year, as evidence that the Army and the Bush administration have given special treatment to Halliburton, where Dick Cheney was chief executive before he was elected vice president.
"The company faces investigations and audits examining whether KBR and its subcontractors overcharged the government for fuel, food and other services in Iraq under the contract for logistics support, known as LogCAP. ..." [more]
The Associated Press
"WASHINGTON - The company that provided private interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere in Iraq on Wednesday reported a large jump in its earnings for the past year.
"CACI International Inc. reported net income of $63.7 million for the year ending June 30, a 42 percent increase over the previous year. For April, May and June, the company saw earnings of $20.7 million, a 56 percent jump over the same period last year.
"CACI provided nearly three dozen interrogators to the U.S. Army in Iraq under a standing information technology contract. Army reports on abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad accused one CACI interrogator of encouraging mistreatment of detainees and other CACI interrogators of pouring water on prisoners who were forced into uncomfortable ``stress positions.''"
"LONDON - Doctors working for the U.S. military in Iraq collaborated with interrogators in the abuse of detainees at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, profoundly breaching medical ethics and human rights, a bioethicist charges in The Lancet medical journal.
"In a scathing analysis of the behavior of military doctors, nurses and medics, University of Minnesota professor Steven Miles calls for a reform of military medicine and an official investigation into the role played by physicians and other medical staff in the torture scandal.
He cites evidence that doctors or medics falsified death certificates to cover up homicides, hid evidence of beatings and revived a prisoner so he could be further tortured. No reports of abuses were initiated by medical personnel until the official investigation into Abu Ghraib began, he found.
""The medical system collaborated with designing and implementing psychologically and physically coercive interrogations," Miles said in this week's edition of Lancet. "Army officials stated that a physician and a psychiatrist helped design, approve and monitor interrogations at Abu Ghraib."..." [more]
"Cape Town - The Scorpions have raided a recruitment company in Parow, which they believe has recruited thousands of South Africans as mercenaries.
"Andrew Leask, who heads the Scorpions' special national projects, confirmed that three people had been "taken in for questioning".
"Two of them were arrested at their home in Durbanville about 09:00 on Wednesday. They accompanied the Scorpions to the offices of International Intelligence Risk Management in Parow.
"By 15:30 the Scorpions were still at the offices, where the special investigation unit had seized paper and electronic documents, cellphones and computers.
At least 2 000 files found
"Leask said files were found of at least 2 000 people, who had been recruited as mercenaries.
He said the Scorpions were trying to determine whether these recruits had been sent to foreign countries as mercenaries...." [more]
"WASHINGTON -- A long-awaited report on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal will implicate about two dozen military intelligence soldiers and civilian contractors in the intimidation and sexual humiliation of Iraq war prisoners, but will not suggest wrongdoing by military brass outside the prison, senior Defense officials said Wednesday.The report will recommend disciplinary action against two senior prison officers: the colonel in charge of the military intelligence brigade that oversaw interrogations at the compound near Baghdad and a general in charge of a reserve military police brigade in charge of the prison.
"It also will recommend that the intelligence soldiers face criminal abuse charges similar to those lodged earlier against seven reserve military police soldiers, the officials said on condition of anonymity.But in the end, Defense officials said, the report implicates no one outside the prison.
"The report is going to say responsibility for Abu Ghraib stops at the brigade level," a senior official said...." [more]
"HOUSTON (AP) - The Pentagon backed off its threat not to pay a Halliburton Co. subsidiary for troop support work, instead giving the company more time to justify its bills to the Army.
Tuesday's decision ended a two-day exchange between the military and the oil and gas giant once led by Vice President Dick Cheney, according to a newspaper report.
"Earlier in the day, Houston-based Halliburton had said the government planned to withhold 15 percent of its monthly payment, or about $60 million a month, from the company's Kellogg Brown & Root subsidiary, which provides meal services, laundry, mail and housing for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The announcement was a reversal from one Monday, when the company said the Army Materiel Command had given it more time for its subcontractors to prove their costs before implementing a clause in a contract allowing withholding of payments. Halliburton has already been granted extra time twice.
"Halliburton received extensions because there is insufficient staff in the government or at the company to review its many bills, Linda Theis, a spokeswoman for the Army Materiel Command, told The Washington Post for a story in Wednesday's editions...." [more]
By JIM LANDERS and RICHARD WHITTLE / The Dallas Morning News
"WASHINGTON – The Army got tough with Halliburton Co. over its multibillion-dollar contracts in Iraq on Tuesday – for a few hours.
"At the end of a day of odd announcements and reversals, the Army Field Support Command said it has yet to make up its mind whether it will give Halliburton more time to justify expenses or start withholding as much as $60 million a month from the firm.
"Halliburton, saying it had gotten oral assurances from senior Pentagon representatives, announced Monday that it was in the clear. On Tuesday morning, the Army said that it would start withholding. Halliburton then said it would sue, and the Army appeared to back down.
Then, Lt. Col. Virginia Ezell of the Army Materiel Command said the matter was still pending.
"Right now the decision for the withhold is on hold," Lt. Col. Ezell said. "They [Army Field Support Command] said a decision will be made within a couple of days."
"Halliburton, once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, put out a news release blaming "a politically charged environment" for the morning announcement.
""At the end of the day, we do not expect this will have a significant or sustained impact on liquidity," said Cris Gaut, Halliburton's chief financial officer.
""The company said if the Army holds back on its payments, Halliburton would do the same with its subcontractors."
"The Army Field Support Command's deliberations follow two earlier Pentagon decisions to withhold $260 million claimed by Halliburton's KBR subsidiary for serving meals to U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait and for work related to Iraq's oil industry...." [more]
"An American mercenary accused of kidnapping and torturing terror suspects in Afghanistan told a court in Kabul yesterday that the FBI was withholding hundreds of papers, photographs and videotapes showing that he was employed by the agency, as well as by the CIA and the US military.
"The American government denies all links with the former special forces soldier, Jonathan "Jack" Idema, a convicted fraudster, but has agreed to return the controversial documents, the court hearing was told.
"The case against Mr Idema was adjourned for a week to allow him to examine the documents and prove his alleged links with the US government.
"Mr Idema, a 48-year-old former green beret, and his fellow Americans, Edward Caraballo and Brett Bennett, were arrested last month after police found a makeshift jail inside their Kabul house. Detainees claimed they had been held for days, doused in scalding water or hung from the ceiling by their feet.
"The three men were charged with hostage-taking, torturing eight people and entering Afghanistan illegally.
"If found guilty they face up to 20 years in jail.
"They made their second court appearance yesterday, alongside four Afghans who are accused of helping them. The hearing was a confused affair, marred by emotional outbursts from Mr Idema, rebukes from the presiding judge, Abdul Bakhtari, and poor translation.
"Mr Idema, who wore dark glasses and a combat uniform decorated with US flags, conducted his own defence. Turning to the press gallery, he proclaimed the trial a sham. "This is a political trial, driven by unusual political motives," he called out to the cameras.
"He complained that his indictment had not even been translated into English, and said both he and his co-defendants had been beaten and tortured in police custody.
"Mr Idema admitted that he had detained suspects, but said he had used "very standard" interrogation techniques. "No one was hung upside down; there were no beatings," he said.
The case, which could prove embarrassing to the US military, has highlighted the murky underworld of armed western mercenaries in Afghanistan.
"Some work in the lucrative private security business; others come in search of the $50m (£27m) bounty on the heads of Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida leadership.
"Mr Idema's source of employment remains unclear. He was discharged from the US army in 1983 with the rank of captain and arrived in Afghanistan in 2001 after having served three years in an American prison for wire fraud.
"In Afghanistan, Mr Idema sometimes worked closely with the international media, selling a videotape to the US network CBS that purported to show an al-Qaida training camp. The tape was broadcast in January 2002.
"But he said his main objective was to hunt for the "bad guys" in collaboration with the US army, through links that reached as high as the office of the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld...." [more]
"NEW YORK (Reuters) - Halliburton Co. on Tuesday said the U.S. Army will withhold payments of 15 percent of future bills, apparently backtracking on an earlier deal.
"The Houston company said statements it made on Monday that the U.S. Army had decided to give the company more time to resolve a billing dispute "were accurate at the time based on clear oral assurances from senior Pentagon representatives.""
"KABUL, Afghanistan - Three American counterterrorism vigilantes on trial for allegedly running a private jail in Afghanistan denied Monday that they tortured prisoners and won a week's recess to bolster their defense with documents returned by the FBI.
"The group's leader, Jonathan Idema of Fayetteville, N.C., had accused authorities of withholding hundreds of documents, photos and videos he claimed will prove his group was working with the knowledge of the CIA, FBI and U.S. Department of Defense.
"Idema, Brett Bennett and Edward Caraballo were arrested when Afghan security forces raided their makeshift jail in a house in Kabul on July 5. They face charges including hostage-taking and "mental and physical torture," which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The prosecutor has said Caraballo, 35, of New York, and Bennett, 28, also reportedly of Fayetteville, appeared to be journalists.
"In the trio's second court appearance, along with four Afghans accused of helping them, Idema said that U.S. and Afghan officials were conspiring against him and that he could not defend himself properly because he received no translation of the indictment or laws on which he's being charged.
""We don't even know what the law says," said Idema.
"Presiding Judge Abdul Baset Bakhtyari accused Idema, who is conducting his own defense, of failing to respond to the charges. "You just want to waste time. You understand perfectly," he said.
"Idema said Afghan intelligence agents had confiscated some 200 videotapes, 500 pages of documents and more than 800 photos and given them to U.S. authorities. He claimed these materials are key to the defense because they give details of the interrogations of prisoners and prove the defendants were operating with the knowledge of U.S. military and law enforcers...." [more]
By Pamela Constable
Washington Post Foreign Service
"KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 16 -- Jonathan Keith Idema, the American accused of running a free-lance anti-terror operation and private prison in Afghanistan, testified in court Monday that he could prove U.S. and Afghan authorities were fully aware of his actions and accused the FBI of confiscating evidence that would support his claim.
"Often interrupting the judge and laughing in apparent disgust at the proceedings, Idema said FBI agents in Kabul had seized hundreds of documents, photographs and videotapes from his base here that showed "constant contacts" between him and U.S. military and intelligence officials this spring and summer.
"They knew every single thing we did, every single day," he said.
"Idema said FBI agents had questioned several Afghans after he took them prisoner and confirmed that they knew of a plot to kill two Afghan Cabinet ministers. He also read from a printed e-mail about his operations, which he said had been sent to him from the office of the multinational peacekeeping forces here.
"U.S. military and intelligence officials here have repeatedly denied having any affiliation with Idema, although they acknowledge having received one prisoner from him. International peacekeeping officials in Kabul say they cooperated with him briefly until learning he was an impostor.
"Idema and two American associates, along with four of their Afghan employees, have been charged with entering the country illegally, operating an illegal jail, detaining and imprisoning eight Afghan citizens, kidnapping and torture. All have been in custody since their arrest July 4. If convicted, they could face 20 years in Afghan prisons.
"In listing the charges Monday, the prosecutor said police had found "torture equipment, bloody clothing, handcuffs, blindfolds and stored water" when they raided a building used by Idema to hold his prisoners. He said Idema's detainees had all proven to be "innocent Afghan citizens."
"Although Idema did not deny holding a group of Afghans prisoner, he adamantly denied having tortured them, saying, "I assure this court, no one was burned with cigarettes, no one was hung upside down, no one was beaten, no one was in body bags . . . none of this happened."
"Noting that his operations this spring coincided with the widening scandal over abuse by U.S. military guards and interrogators at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq, he said, "everyone was very concerned about the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. . . . W were very careful to use standard interrogation techniques."..." [more]