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]
"Scandalmonger doesn’t often stray into territory that is the hot political topic of the moment. But we are doing so this week .
"Questions over Halliburton and its contracts with the US government have been at the centre of recent criticisms of the Bush administration by Democratic contender John Kerry.
"The Bush response to this is that it is all just politics, a way of getting at the President via Dick Cheney, the Vice President who was chief executive at the oil services giant from 1995 until he joined the George Dubya ticket in 1995.
"But the issues concerning Halli burton are far more than this week’s political get-up dreamed up by the Kerry campaign strategists. The immediate issue is $1.8 billion charged by the Houston-based business for work in Iraq and Kuwait for the Pentagon.
"An audit by the Defence Contract Auditing Agency found that the firm could not properly account for the work and the watchdog is demanding answers within 45 days over the company’s pricing of the contracts.
"The usual procedure is that estimates run some way behind the actual costs so that the US government does not have to claw money back from a company. To date, Halliburton has charged the government $4.3bn under the contract – 42% of which the auditors are not happy with.
"Whatever the spin from Cheney and Bush, the issue of Halliburton and government contracts runs a lot longer and deeper than the recent Pentagon contracts.
"Let us look at a few figures. In the five years before Cheney joined Halliburton, the company received $100 million in government-backed loans from the Export-Import Bank. Over the same period, the company’s contract business went up from $1.2bn to $2.3bn.
"Political questions about Cheney and Halliburton first really began circulating during the 2000 vice- presidential debate between Cheney and Senator Joe Lieberman, Al Gore’s running mate. Asked about Halli burton’s financial success during that debate, Cheney said: “I can tell you, Joe, the government had absolutely nothing to do with it.”
"If that is so, why did Halliburton hire a man whose complete experience was in public service, including being defence secretary, deputy White House chief of staff and as a Republican congressman for Wyoming for 10 years? Perhaps, just perhaps, it was because of his contacts in government
"Was there abuse at Halliburton because of Cheney’s Washington network? Certainly the numerous investigations that the company is facing would seem to suggest so. And last week the company agreed to shell out a $7.5m fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle a probe into accounting practice that appeared to boost revenues while Cheney was its CEO.
"Halliburton is facing a an FBI inquiry into whether two of its employees received up to $6.3m in kickbacks. And a federal grand jury in Texas has launched a criminal investigation into whether Halliburton violated US sanctions by doing business in Iran through a Cayman Islands-registered subsidiary.
"There is more to Halliburton than a bit of political mudslinging and much more to come on the issue...." [more]
"The US government must start providing civil-rights groups with documents about the torture of prisoners held by US forces at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and other facilities within two weeks, a federal judge ordered on Thursday.
"US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein expressed impatience with the government and said prosecutors must start handing over certain papers identified by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) by Aug. 23 unless they can show the documents cannot be found or they are subject to certain exemptions.
""The court expressed a desire that this be done very quickly," said Lawrence Lustberg, a lawyer representing the civil-rights groups.
"The ACLU and other civil-rights groups sued the US government in June for what they said was the illegal withholding of records about US military abuse of prisoners held in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and other locations.
"The suit, filed in Manhattan federal court, charges that the US Department of Defense and other federal agencies failed to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the groups last October and May this year. The FOIA allows citizens access to public federal records.
"The plaintiffs are seeking records documenting torture and abuse which they said has occurred since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US. After they filed the first FOIA request last October, they said, numerous news stories and photographs have documented mistreatment of prisoners held in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"When the groups received no documents, they filed a motion with the court last week seeking an order to force the government to comply with their requests.
"Hellerstein's ruling follows an American Bar Association vote condemning the torture of prisoners by US forces...." [more]
"WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 - A company that supplies civilian interrogators to the American military in Iraq said Thursday that its own investigation and information supplied by the Army had produced no "credible or tangible evidence" so far that its employees were involved in the abuses of prisoners there.
"The company, CACI International Inc., said in a news release that it was cooperating with government investigations of the abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq, that it continued to conduct its own internal investigation and that it would not tolerate illegal behavior by any employees.
"On Tuesday, the company announced that its contract to provide interrogation services in Iraq had been extended by the Army for four months at a value of $15.3 million, with two optional extensions worth up to $3.8 million each.
"In March, a report on the Abu Ghraib inquiries conducted by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba said that some CACI employees, as well as some military intelligence personnel, might have been "either directly or indirectly responsible" for the abuses at the prison, which occurred last year and were disclosed in January. Since then, several military police personnel have been charged with involvement in the mistreatment of prisoners, while a separate investigation has continued into whether military intelligence personnel at the prison, or private contractors or others were involved.
"The lawyer for Steven Stefanowicz, one of the CACI employees under scrutiny since the Taguba report, issued a statement saying Mr. Stefanowicz was "heartened" by the company's statement that it had found "no wrongdoing" by him.
""Mr. Stefanowicz continues to be employed by CACI and the Army has not in any way suggested to CACI that Mr. Stefanowicz's employment should be terminated or altered in any way," said the statement by his lawyer, Henry B. Hockeimer Jr.
"CACI, in its statement, said that "a few" employees had left the company after the Army requested that they not be kept in their positions in Iraq. However, the company said the reasons for their leaving did not involve abuse of detainees or any other misconduct at Abu Ghraib...." [more]
"SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) - CACI International said Thursday that the U.S. Army had asked some of its 36 interrogators that worked in Iraq to leave their positions and said those personnel are no longer working for the company.
"CACI, an Arlington, Va.-based government contractor, also said its internal probe has yet to turn up evidence of alleged torture abuses by its employees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. But it cautioned that its investigation continues.
"Regarding the employee departures, CACI said in a statement it "did not involve the abuse of detainees or any other inappropriate behavior that has been identified with the Abu Ghraib prison."
"The company did not identify the exact number of employees the Army demanded CACI rotate off the contract, only saying a "few."
"CACI (CAI: news, chart, profile) has provided 36 interrogators to support military operations in Iraq since August 2003, with no more than 10 at the Abu Ghraib prison.
"Despite the ongoing probe, the Army extended CACI's contract for another four months Wednesday. The deal is valued at $15.3 million. It consists of two optional extensions that would make the contract worth up to $23 million.
"The contract comes after one of CACI's interrogators, Steven Stefanowicz, was singled out earlier this year in the investigation by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba as contributing to the prison abuse at Abu Ghraib.
"Stefanowicz remains employed at CACI and is working at one of its US locations, the company said...." [more]
By JIM LANDERS and RICHARD WHITTLE / The Dallas Morning News
"Addison-based Dresser Inc. said Thursday that it may have violated U.S. sanctions laws by selling oilfield control valves and related equipment to Iraq, Iran and Sudan. The company, which was spun off from Halliburton Co. in 2001, did not disclose when the sales occurred.
Iran and Sudan are considered state sponsors of terrorism, as was Iraq before the overthrow last year of Saddam Hussein. Oilfield equipment sales to the three countries could bring criminal or civil penalties.
"Dresser disclosed the possible sanctions violations in its second-quarter financial results filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday. The company said it had notified the Commerce and Treasury departments last month, under a government voluntary-disclosure program that may mitigate penalties.
"Dresser spokesman Stewart Yee said company employees alerted management about the questionable sales by a branch office of the company in the United Arab Emirates. The company's financial statement said the allegations were received in April.
"Dresser is an oilfield equipment firm with annual sales of about $2 billion. The company is the namesake of Dresser Industries, which merged with Halliburton in 1998, when Vice President Dick Cheney was Halliburton's chief executive...." [more]
ARMY TURNS TO PRIVATE GUARDS The military is criticized for risking security at bases and for a process that awarded $1 billion in contracts without competitive bidding.
By T. Christian Miller, Times Staff Writer
"WASHINGTON — Stretched thin by troop deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and security needs at home, the Army has resorted to hiring private security guards to help protect dozens of American military bases.To date, more than 4,300 private security officers have been put to work at 50 Army installations in the United States, according to Army documents obtained by The Times.
"The work was awarded to four firms — two of which got the contracts without having to bid competitively. The contracts are worth as much as $1.24 billion.The Army says the maneuver lets it free up more soldiers for military duty while quickly putting private guards in place to meet the need for additional security since the Sept. 11 attacks.
"But the Army's action has drawn criticism on two grounds: that it compromises domestic military security, and that it amounts to abuse of a law intended to aid impoverished Alaska Natives.
"Two five-year contracts worth as much as $1 billion went to two small Alaska Native firms with little previous security experience. The firms, which operate under special contracting laws enabling them to avoid competitive bidding, subcontracted part of the work to two of the country's largest security firms: Wackenhut Services Inc. and Vance Federal Security Services.
"Thirty-six bases are covered by the Alaska Native contracts — including three in California: Ft. Irwin, the Sierra Army Depot and the Presidio of Monterey.
""I'm concerned about the protection of our military facilities," said Rep. Lane Evans, an Illinois Democrat who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and has called for hearings on the contracts. "Some of these installations house chemical weapons and intelligence materials and should not be compromised with questionable contracting processes and poor security."
"Democrats, watchdog groups and independent contracting experts said that the Army's contracting arrangement with the Alaska Native firms amounted to a back-door deal to send taxpayer dollars to Wackenhut and Vance, which lost out the only time they faced open competition against other companies for the security contracts.
""It's a total abuse of the intent of the law," said Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Program on Government Oversight, a watchdog group. "The law was designed to benefit companies that need a special boost. At the end of the day, if Wackenhut is benefiting, it's just a blatant abuse of the system."
"The move is part of a larger trend of hiring private contractors to do many jobs previously done by the military. Since the war in Iraq, the shift toward private contractors has accelerated. Private companies now do everything from washing soldiers' laundry to protecting senior American officials from attack...." [more]
"WASHINGTON — Pentagon auditors have found that Halliburton Co. cannot properly document more than $1.8 billion worth of work done under its contracts in Iraq and Kuwait, Army officials said Wednesday.
"The latest setback for the Houston oil services company came in an audit by the Defense Contract Auditing Agency, which also found that the firm's system for generating cost estimates used in negotiations with the government was "inadequate."
"The agency recommended that government contracting officials demand fixes within 45 days and seek more detailed information during negotiations with Halliburton, which has contracts worth as much as $18.2 billion in Iraq to feed and house troops and restore the country's oil infrastructure.
"Army contracting officials said they were studying the auditors' recommendations but had not decided how to proceed, leaving open the question of how the audit would affect the bottom line of Halliburton, which was run by Vice President Dick Cheney from 1995 to 2000.
""What the final outcome will be, I can't speculate. It's under review now," said Dan Carlson, a spokesman for the Army Field Support Command in Rock Island, Ill., which oversees Halliburton's largest contract in Iraq and Kuwait...." [more]
"Afghanistan called to Jonathan Keith Idema, a one-time Green Beret from Fayetteville who now sits in an Afghan jail, charged with abusing innocent Afghans in his own private prison.
The country, in the more than two years since U.S. forces toppled the Taliban regime, has become a sort of wild, wild West, replete with warlords, soldiers, mercenaries, true believers, do-gooders and outlaws. Into this setting rode Idema, whose military career was inspired by watching John Wayne movies and who has depicted himself as a patriot, humanitarian and tough guy in a real-life drama that, like any good flick, blurs reality.
"Idema was arrested by Afghan authorities in July, along with two other Americans: Edward Caraballo, a video cameraman who was enlisted to gather footage for a documentary on Idema's life; and Brent Bennett, a former Fort Bragg soldier from Fortuna, Calif., who reportedly worked for Idema's wife in a pet-grooming business.
"All three are scheduled to stand trial in an Afghan court this month. But nothing is certain -- especially the facts of the case. What is clear is that his actions are raising prickly questions about how much U.S. officials knew of, or perhaps sanctioned, Idema's work in Afghanistan since his arrival in the country in May. The answers to those questions could determine whether Idema faces trial in a U.S. court or deals with the Afghan system.
"According to press accounts from Kabul, Idema held at least eight men in a makeshift prison at the time of his arrest. Some of the men told authorities that they were beaten, held without food and water, and dunked in either cold or hot water.
"Through his lawyer in the United States, Idema denies abusing the prisoners. He maintains that his work was approved by officials at the highest levels of the Department of Defense. He has identified his contact as a Pentagon official named Heather Anderson, whose existence was initially discounted in Associated Press reports because she was not listed in Pentagon directories.
"But Anderson does exist; she works in the office of Stephen Cambone, who was named to the new position of undersecretary of defense for intelligence in March 2003. The office was created by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to oversee spy operations. Anderson did not return a telephone call to her office.
"Idema's attorney, John Tiffany of New Jersey, said he has documents proving that Idema was in contact with Anderson and other high-level defense officials, but he declined to disclose them.
"It's not a trump card I want to play right now," Tiffany said...." [more]
"WASHINGTON (AP) -- Halliburton Co. did not adequately account for more than $1.8 billion it billed the government for work in Iraq and Kuwait, a published report on the findings of Pentagon auditors said Wednesday.
"The results of the audit, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, were the latest financial headache for Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root, which filed for bankruptcy protection last year to resolve billions of dollars in pending asbestos claims.
"The $1.8 billion amounts to 40 percent of the $4.18 billion KBR has already billed the Pentagon for its work feeding and housing military troops. The Pentagon could begin withholding payments from KBR if it determines it is owed money -- though it has yet to do so.
"KBR officials told the newspaper the company has done nothing wrong, and expressed confidence the issue would be resolved without such action.
""The fact that we have negotiated and continue to negotiate proposals proves that our estimating system is valid," an unidentified KBR official was quoted as saying. "This is the same system that the company has used for more than 10 years."
"The audit, part of a report dated Aug. 4 that has yet to be made public, found that KBR's "internal control policies" are "inadequate for providing verifiable, supportable, and documented cost estimates that are acceptable for negotiating a fair and reasonable price." Pentagon officials told the newspaper that that no defense contractor has had its estimating system ruled "inadequate" in years.
"Auditors' concerns included more than $900 million in payments for dozens of dining facilities; auditors say that more than a third of those costs may be unjustified, the newspaper said. Auditors also are examining $180 million in costs charged for fuel from Kuwait that was delivered to Iraq.
"The dispute over the Iraq/Kuwait billing only intensifies the scrutiny on Halliburton...." [more]
"DALLAS (AP) - Four former employees claim that Halliburton Co. engaged in systematic accounting fraud, according to a filing in a class-action lawsuit against the oilfield-services giant.
The fraud allegedly occurred from 1998, when Vice President Dick Cheney ran Halliburton, to 2001. Cheney, who left Halliburton in August 2000, was not named as a defendant in the filing.
The former finance employees say that Halliburton divisions routinely inflated their results by overstating amounts due from customers and understating money owed to vendors.
"They say the company's top executives also hid Halliburton's vulnerability to asbestos claims. The former employees were not named.
"Lawyers attached the proposed lawsuit to a motion they filed Tuesday in U.S. district court in Dallas as part of a class-action case against Halliburton. The lawyers asked a federal judge for permission to file the lawsuit despite a June 7 order that apparently settled the larger case.
The complaint named Halliburton and four executives as defendants, including chairman and chief executive David J. Lesar, former chief financial officer and now El Paso Corp. CEO Douglas L. Foshee, retired CFO Gary V. Morris and former controller Robert Charles Muchmore Jr.
"The charges in the filing go far beyond those outlined this week in a settlement of a civil lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which called for Halliburton to pay $7.5 million and Muchmore to pay $50,000 for failing to disclose a change in accounting procedures in 1998. The SEC said the change caused the company to mislead investors in 1998-1999...." [more]