"WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney's office denied Sunday that he was involved in a coordinated effort to secure a multibillion dollar Iraq oil deal for Halliburton, his former employer.
"A reference to such an arrangement was made in an internal Pentagon e-mail from an Army Corps of Engineers official to another Pentagon employee, Time magazine reports in its June 7 edition, which is due on newsstands Monday.
"The existence of the e-mail was confirmed to CNN by a senior administration official familiar with it.
"The e-mail -- dated March 5, 2003 -- says Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, approved the arrangement to award the contract to the oil-services company, the administration official said.
"According to an e-mail excerpt in Time, the contract was "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w[ith] VP's office."
"The Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton the contract three days later without seeking other bids, Time reports...." [more]
"In April 2003, the Defense Department hired Military Professional Resources Inc., an Alexandria government contractor, to supply Arabic translators in Iraq. The two parties agreed on a $1.9 million price and the deal was done.
"The translators were hired under a federal contract category designed for the employment of education and training analysts, not linguists, according to a report by the Defense Department's inspector general. The military contracting officer who approved the deal told investigators he did not check the General Services Administration schedule to make sure that translation services were within the scope of MPRI's contract with the government. "Noncompliance of a GSA schedule is an issue between the GSA and the contractor," the report says.
"MPRI, a subsidiary of L-3 Communications Corp., was never disciplined by the GSA, according to company and government officials.
"Stretching the boundaries of large federal contracts is commonplace, and one the government has often overlooked, many contracting experts say.
"That attitude may be shifting. Last week, CACI International Inc. said the GSA, the federal agency that administers large interagency contracts, had begun an investigation into the procedures the company used to place civilian interrogators at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq under an information technology contract. The Arlington defense contractor said the GSA is trying to determine whether CACI should be allowed to continue doing business with the government.
"Companies are obliged to inform the government when the work they are being asked to do falls "outside the scope of their contract" a GSA spokeswoman said last week. But some experts say that policy is not widely known or generally enforced...." [more]
"Vice President Dick Cheney was a guest on NBC's Meet the Press last September when host Tim Russert brought up Halliburton. Citing the company's role in rebuilding Iraq as well as Cheney's prior service as Halliburton's CEO, Russert asked, "Were you involved in any way in the awarding of those contracts?" Cheney's reply: "Of course not, Tim ... And as Vice President, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the [Army] Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the Federal Government."
"Cheney's relationship with Halliburton has been nothing but trouble since he left the company in 2000. Both he and the company say they have no ongoing connections. But TIME has obtained an internal Pentagon e-mail sent by an Army Corps of Engineers official—whose name was blacked out by the Pentagon—that raises questions about Cheney's arm's-length policy toward his old employer. Dated March 5, 2003, the e-mail says "action" on a multibillion-dollar Halliburton contract was "coordinated" with Cheney's office. The e-mail says Douglas Feith, a high-ranking Pentagon hawk, got the "authority to execute RIO," or Restore Iraqi Oil, from his boss, who is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. RIO is one of several large contracts the U.S. awarded to Halliburton last year.
"The e-mail says Feith approved arrangements for the contract "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP's [Vice President's] office." Three days later, the Army Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton the contract, without seeking other bids. TIME located the e-mail among documents provided by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group.
"Cheney spokesman Kevin Kellems says the Vice President "has played no role whatsoever in government-contract decisions involving Halliburton" since 2000. A Pentagon spokesman says the e-mail means merely that "in anticipation of controversy over the award of a sole-source contract to Halliburton, we wanted to give the Vice President's staff a heads-up."
"Cheney is linked to his old firm in at least one other way. His recently filed 2003 financial-disclosure form reveals that Halliburton last year invoked an insurance policy to indemnify Cheney for what could be steep legal bills "arising from his service" at the company. Past and present Halliburton execs face an array of potentially costly litigation, including multibillion-dollar asbestos claims."
"When Iraqi police raided the Baghdad home and offices of politician Ahmad Chalabi on May 20, U.S. officials hurried to distance themselves, saying that the operation was an Iraqi affair and that no U.S. government employees were involved.
"But eight armed American contractors paid by a U.S. State Department program went on the raid, directing and encouraging the Iraqi police officers who eyewitnesses say ripped out computers, turned over furniture and smashed photographs.
"Some of the Americans helped themselves to baklava, apples and diet soda from Chalabi's refrigerator, and enjoyed their looted snacks in a garden outside, according to members of Chalabi's staff who were there.
"The contractors work for DynCorp, a subsidiary of California-based Computer Sciences Corp. and the company in charge of training and advising Iraqi police through a State Department contract.
"A State Department official confirmed the DynCorp workers' presence during the raid. A DynCorp spokesman declined to comment...." [more]
"At least 16 people were killed in multiple attacks on an oil company's offices and a housing compound in the Saudi Arabian city of Al Khobar Saturday.
"The Saudi interior ministry was quoted as saying four gunmen stormed into company offices and a residential compound and began shooting indiscriminately, killing and injuring a number of people.
"Media reports indicated hundreds of Saudi security forces surrounded the compound where the attackers were believed still holding hostages.
"An e-mail message left on an Islamic Web site attributed the attacks to the al Qaida terrorist group. The message was signed the al Qaida network in the Arab peninsula.
"The Italian news agency ANSA, reporting from Dubai, quotes Saudi security sources as saying nine civilians and seven members of the security forces died.
"One civilian victim was a U.S. citizen and another was from Britain, according to media reports. The others include one Egyptian, two from the Philippines, one Indian, one Pakistani, and two Saudi Arabians.
"Eyewitnesses said the gunmen were wearing what looked like army uniforms and drove to the compound in cars bearing military insignia.
"The security members were believed to have been killed as they stormed the residential compound and released five Lebanese hostages.
"The e-mail statement said the attack was aimed to storm the offices of American oil companies linked to the occupation company, Halliburton, which is specialized in robbing the resources of Muslims...." [more]
"CACI International Inc. could be barred from future federal contracts, following revelations that Army officials hired prison interrogators for Iraq from CACI using a computer services contract that the Interior Department administered.
"Now General Services Administration officials have requested additional information from company officials and could potentially debar the firm, CACI officials said.
"According to company officials, the delivery orders in question came through GSA Schedule 70, a contract designated for information technology purchases, and were issued by Interior officials at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
"J.P. "Jack" London, CACI's chief executive officer, said that the company is cooperating with the government to answer questions. London said in a written statement that if company officials used the GSA contract improperly, "we will take immediate action to rectify the situation."
"CACI acquired the contract when it acquired the assets of Premier Technology Group Inc. in May 2003, according to CACI's statement.
"The Project On Government Oversight (POGO), a watchdog group, said that the attention to CACI is politically driven because the Iraqi prison abuse scandal is making headlines. Other contractors have far worse records and should be the focus of GSA's attention, said POGO's executive director, Danielle Brian.
"The group's Federal Contractor Misconduct Database ranks companies based on the amounts they have paid in fines, penalties and settlements of misconduct allegations. General Electric Corp. tops the list with $990 million, more than double the amount paid by Lockheed Martin Corp., in second place at $426 million. CACI is not in the top 10 in POGO's rankings.
"Debarment could be devastating for CACI...." [more]
"Efforts to determine who orchestrated the abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison may be complicated by the ways in which many military intelligence officials, covert U.S. agents and civilian contractors obscured their identities.
"Intelligence officers, agents and interrogators at the prison did not wear name tags or display insignia indicating rank, according to testimony at an April 7 hearing for Sgt. Javal Davis, one of seven military police officers accused of abuse. Dressed in desert camouflage uniforms or casual clothes, military and civilian intelligence operatives blended in with other soldiers, and some of them responded coyly when MPs asked their names, says Paul Bergrin, a Newark, N.J., lawyer who represents Davis.
"In an interview, Bergrin quoted Davis, 26, as saying that when he asked some of the mysterious agents and interrogators for their names, they would say, " 'I'm Special Agent John Doe,' or 'I'm Special Agent in Charge James Bond.' " (Related graphic: Abuse photos, more on Abu Ghraib)
"Some of the MPs have been able to identify civilian and military interrogators who they say encouraged the abuse, and photos that MPs took of detainees being abused have allowed investigators to zero in on several other suspects. But as the defense strategies begin to take shape for Davis and other reservists charged with maltreatment of detainees, dereliction of duty and other offenses, Bergrin says he is struggling to identify many of the shadowy covert operatives he claims directed the abuse from October to December...." [more]
"ARLINGTON, VA (CBS.MW) -- We learned this week that civilian interrogators used by the Army at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad were hired under a Department of the Interior contract for information technology.
"Yes, the Interior Department, best known for running the national parks, apparently has a side business administering contracts for other government agencies. And under what is known as a "blanket purchase agreement" for the government to buy technology services from CACI International of Arlington (CAI), the Army was able to order up prison interrogators.
"Welcome to the wild, wacky world of government contracting.
"It's strange enough that Iraq intelligence gathering is contracted out to the private sector, and even stranger that Baghdad prison interrogators are working under an Interior Department technology contract. But what really bothers me is this type of thing is not that uncommon, and it's seen as "efficiency" in the federal government.
"It's hard for an outsider to see what's efficient about the complex web of government contracting. I'm sure it made sense, to someone, for the Army to ask a technology company to hire interrogators -- but to me it seems like going to a lumber yard to buy a computer.
"Now that the deal is public, the government has ordered investigations.
"Interior Department spokesman Frank Quimby said Tuesday the department's inspector general wants to find out if it was proper to hire interrogators under an information technology contract. He was speaking on a conference call, so we don't know if he was able to keep a straight face...." [more]
"ARLINGTON, Va. – A defense contractor supplying civilian interrogators to the U.S. military at the scandal-ridden Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq is the subject of five different government investigations, the company president said Thursday.
"Most of the investigations center on whether it was proper for Arlington-based CACI International Inc. to provide interrogators to the Army under a contract with the Department of the Interior that was originally designed for information technology services...." [more]
"CACI International, a private contractor that provided interrogators to the US military in Iraq, yesterday confirmed that US authorities were investigating whether some of its employees were involved in the abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
"CACI and Titan, another defence contractor that supplied the military with interpreters, were both mentioned in the first army investigation into the abuses. Major General Antonio Taguba, who compiled the first report into the scandal, outlined how one CACI employee encouraged military police to abuse detainees physically.
"While Congress and the military investigate the brutal treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib, the role of contractors and other government agencies - a euphemism for the CIA and other branches of government involved in clandestine operations - inside the prison has come under increased scrutiny.
"Senators have raised concerns about whether contractors and members of the intelligence agencies who may have participated in interrogations were subject to military rules for interrogations. The FT reported last week that several high-ranking military legal officers believe the Pentagon used private contractors for interrogations to avoid government and congressional oversight, which the Pentagon denies...." [more]
"WASHINGTON, May 26 — The questioning of hundreds of Iraqi prisoners last fall in the newly established interrogation center at Abu Ghraib prison yielded very little valuable intelligence, according to civilian and military officials.
"The interrogation center was set up in September to obtain better information about an insurgency in Iraq that was killing American soldiers almost every day by last fall. The insurgency was better organized and more vigorous than the United States had expected, prompting concern among generals and Pentagon officials who were unhappy with the flow of intelligence to combat units and to higher headquarters.
"But civilian and military intelligence officials, as well as top commanders with access to intelligence reports, now say they learned little about the insurgency from questioning inmates at the prison. Most of the prisoners held in the special cellblock that became the setting for the worst abuses at Abu Ghraib apparently were not linked to the insurgency, they said.
"All of the prisoners sent to Abu Ghraib had already been questioned by the troops who captured them for urgent information about roadside bombs, imminent attacks and the like.
"The officials could not say whether the harsh interrogation methods used at Abu Ghraib were counterproductive. But they said few if any prisoners there had been able to shed light on questions to which Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American commander for the Middle East, and his deputies had assigned highest priority, including the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein and the nature of the insurgency's leadership.
""Most of our useful intelligence came from battlefield interrogations, and at the battalion, brigade and division-level interrogation facilities," said a senior military intelligence officer who served in Iraq. Once prisoners were sent on to Abu Ghraib, the officer said, "we got very little feedback."..." [more]
"NEW YORK (Reuters) - CACI International Inc., which provides interrogation services to the U.S. military in Iraq, is the subject of five government probes into whether the company's employees may be linked to abuse of prisoners, the company said in a conference call with analysts and investors on Thursday.
In one investigation, the U.S. General Services Administration has requested that CACI provide information to aid in determining whether the company should remain eligible for future government contracts.
"CACI received 11 task orders worth about $66 million through August to December for work in Iraq. So far, CACI, which also provides information technology services to government clients, has billed $16.3 million under those task orders, with $7.1 million collected.
"In response to a question related to whether CACI could have difficulty collecting the rest of the money due for its work, the company said its customers have said the work it has done so far has been "very satisfactory" and clients "continue to request our services."..." [more]
"WASHINGTON, May 25 — John B. Israel, an Iraqi-American Christian and one of two civilian contractors implicated in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, returned home to California a few weeks ago and, until Monday, was living quietly with his wife, Rosa.
"In an interview on Monday at their home in Santa Clarita, Calif., Ms. Israel said that her husband had not even hired a lawyer.
"Mr. Israel, who was born in Baghdad in 1955, was one of three Iraqi-Americans working as translators at Abu Ghraib. The Army report on the abuses described him as "either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib."
"On Monday, his employer, SOS Interpreting, with offices in New York and suburban Washington, called Mr. Israel here for talks. That same evening, SOS issued its first statement about Mr. Israel, saying simply that the company, a subcontractor for the Titan Corporation for the work in Iraq, "fully intends to cooperate with the Army and with Titan" in the investigations. SOS said it would have nothing more to say.
"Almost nothing was known about Mr. Israel before now. Among a raft of documents from the Army investigation, obtained by The New York Times, is a brief statement by Mr. Israel in which he denies any knowledge of the abuses. In it he says he arrived in Iraq on Oct. 14 and served as a translator for military intelligence. Asked if he had "witnessed any acts of abuse," he wrote: "No I have not."
"Ms. Israel said her husband was "just a translator" and knew nothing of the Abu Ghraib abuses. She said a fellow employee had given his name to investigators. She would not say when he expected to return home, and he could not be reached for comment.
"The Army report said that Mr. Israel's statement of ignorance ran contrary to the testimony of several witnesses. It also said he did not have a security clearance, and recommended that he be disciplined.
"But if the failure to hold a secret or top-secret security clearance is a prosecutable offense, almost every translator working in Abu Ghraib would be found guilty. The Army records show that, of 15 Titan or SOS translators working at Abu Ghraib prison last fall, only one held a security clearance. Nearly all of them are foreign-born American citizens, and most come from backgrounds that have nothing to do with the sort of government work that would require a security clearance...." [more]
"The inspector general of the Interior Department has opened an inquiry into why the department approved the hiring of interrogators to question Iraqi prisoners under a contract for computer services, officials announced yesterday.
"The review targets a long-term "blanket purchase agreement" for information technology with Virginia-based CACI International, which provided interrogators to Abu Ghraib prison and other detention facilities in Iraq.
"The agreement was established with the Army in 1998 but renewed by the Department of Interior in 2001 when Interior took over the Army contracting office at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.
""We've assigned a team of auditors to look at the specifications of the contract and see why the Department of Interior is operating a procurement center in an area they may not have expertise in," said Pam Boteler, director of external affairs for Interior's inspector general.
"Boteler said the inquiry will not cover allegations of misconduct by a CACI interrogator, Steven Stefanowicz. An Army report alleges that Stefanowicz encouraged military police officers at Abu Ghraib to physically abuse detainees and lied to investigators. Through his attorney, Stefanowicz has denied any wrongdoing, and he has not been charged with a crime.
"Because the law governing crimes by contractors overseas, the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, covers Department of Defense contractors, it is unclear whether it can be applied to contractors, such as CACI, that are technically working for the Department of the Interior...." [more]
"AMONG THE MANY disturbing aspects of the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison is the involvement of private contractors in conducting interrogations. Contractors are playing a widening role in the military, and never more so than in the war in Iraq. Private-sector workers feed and house U.S. troops, maintain sophisticated weapon systems and provide security for the Coalition Provisional Authority. Their growing involvement, and the consequent blurring of military and private roles, was brought home horrifically in March with the murder and mutilation of four security guards employed by Blackwater USA.
"But privatized interrogation is troubling on a whole new level. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lt. Gen. Lance L. Smith said 37 contract interrogators were working for the military in Iraq. The revelation underscores the need for rigorous debate about their proper function in wartime, their position in the chain of command and the laws that govern their activities.
"Interrogating prisoners is a sensitive function, one that needs to be conducted under clearly delineated rules by people who are properly trained and supervised and, if necessary, subject to punishment. As the country is learning, uniformed personnel don't always meet those criteria. But private citizens are not appropriate for the job...." [more]
"The Interior Department's inspector general is reviewing the contracting procedures that allowed the Army to hire civilian interrogators in Iraq and has blocked the Army from using the contract to place new orders with Arlington-based CACI International Inc., an agency spokesman said yesterday.
"It was under this contract that CACI's Steven A. Stefanowicz worked as an interrogator at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. An Army report on abuses at the prison accused Stefanowicz of encouraging soldiers to set conditions for interrogations and says he "clearly knew his instructions equated to physical abuse." Stefanowicz's lawyer has said his client was wrongly accused.
"CACI's work was performed for the Defense Department, but managed by Interior, sparking questions about whether the government properly supervised the order...." [more]
"BAGHDAD, Iraq - Dhia al Aftan has heard his soft-drink factory in southern Iraq runs only once a week. But he's not sure. The phones lines are down as usual and he won't risk being kidnapped to make the trip out of Baghdad.
""Here, take my mobile," Aftan said Sunday, thrusting his tiny Nokia toward a visitor. "Try to call anywhere you want. It won't work."
"In a 15-minute tirade, Aftan unloaded a year of frustration over being part of an American-led, $30 billion rebuilding effort that has little to show less than six weeks before the handover of Iraqi sovereignty. Violence and sabotage, he said, plague nearly every sector of reconstruction.
"As President Bush launches a campaign to rally support for his Iraq policy, the inability of coalition forces to secure the safety of individuals and infrastructure has created a vicious cycle: Economic stagnation caused by poor security fuels dissatisfaction with the U.S. occupation, which fuels an insurgency that further undermines stability.
"Much of Iraq still has fewer than 15 hours of power a day. Phone service for large swaths of the country is usually down or crackling from terrible connections. Water supply and oil production hover only a hair above prewar levels, according to reports from the Coalition Provisional Authority. Thousands of Iraqis have gone without rice and tea rations because the distribution channels are too dangerous...." [more]
"Members of a National Guard unit assigned to protect civilian contractors in Iraq says the task puts them at greater risk than when they were hauling military supplies for the Army.
"Sgt. Donald Curttright of the 1221st Transportation Company said the 150-member unit doesn't have enough manpower to provide security for defense contractor KBR, formerly known as Kellogg, Brown & Root.
""There might be 30 trucks, and we'll have six or seven of us riding shotgun armed with M-16 (rifles)," he said during a trip home to Excelsior Springs. "If we're attacked, we're expected to protect the whole thing. I don't know how we're supposed to do it."..." [more]
"Iraqi prison scandal raises questions about outsourcing
"Outsourcing faces greater scrutiny in the wake of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.
"Several lawmakers want the Defense Department and the White House to give a detailed accounting of the role contractors play in areas beyond traditional military support after employees with two companies were named as participants in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
"Leading Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee have asked the General Accounting Office to examine the use of private security contractors in the Central Command's area of responsibility.
"During recent hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee, lawmakers raised questions about the lack of oversight of contractors supporting the military at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, where the alleged abuses occurred.
"Few government or industry officials expect the military to immediately reduce its reliance on contractors. Some regard the Democrats' calls for investigations as partisan posturing.
"But questions about the contractors' involvement at Abu Ghraib, coupled with their prominent role in the military and rebuilding efforts, have made outsourcing a topic of public debate.
""Folks within both the House and Senate are, obviously, now activated on the issue and starting to not only demand a GAO investigation, but also [beef] up legislative language," said Peter Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, an independent Washington think tank...." [more]
"The U.S. civilian interrogators questioning prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq work not under a military contract but on one from the Department of the Interior, a bureaucratic twist that could complicate any effort to hold them criminally responsible for abuse of detainees or other offenses.
"The unexpected role of the Department of the Interior, usually associated not with wartime intelligence-gathering but with national parks, grew out of a government plan to cut costs. But in practice, it may have increased costs and reduced scrutiny, said Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution.
""You're placing a military interrogation task under Smokey the Bear," Singer said. "You can't have good oversight."
"What's more, legal experts say, contractors for nonmilitary agencies such as the Department of the Interior may be able to escape prosecution for crimes they commit overseas because of an apparent loophole in the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. The law, passed in 2000, applies only to contractors with the Department of Defense - a flaw some members of Congress want to remedy.
"Michael J. Nardotti Jr., a Washington lawyer who served as judge advocate general of the Army from 1993 to 1997, said the law is untested and that it is uncertain whether a court would stretch the law to cover an Interior Department contractor working on Army assignments...." [more]
"BURNET, Texas -- Late on the night of April 9, Sylvia and Allen Petty sat on the front porch of their small rental house in the hill country northwest of Austin and talked about the future. With six daughters, ages 4 months to 14, it was the only time of day they had to themselves, what they called their "midnight dates."
"They had been discussing for a couple weeks the idea of Allen Petty, 31, going to Iraq. Two fellow truck drivers at his company in the adjoining town of Marble Falls had left for jobs driving trucks for KBR, a subsidiary of Houston-based Halliburton Co.
"That day, insurgents in Iraq had attacked a KBR convoy and killed four contract employees. But Allen Petty's $30,000 salary did not stretch far enough. The family had no insurance, no money for movies or new clothes, no savings, no credit, and their car was on loan from Sylvia Petty's father.
""We really prayed," she recalled. "This is a beautiful town, but we're not making it here. I told him, 'Baby, you have to go.' "
"Allen Petty applied to KBR for a truck-driving job the next day, one of thousands of Americans competing, despite the dangers, for jobs with the contractors working to supply the US military or rebuild the country. After a week of training, he left for Iraq on the first Saturday in May.
"Many of the KBR recruits, like Petty, are working poor. They are willing to dare the hardship of 12- to 14-hour days seven days a week, and the risk of kidnapping or worse, to bring back $80,000 or $100,000 in a year.
"KBR has 24,000 workers in Iraq, about half from the United States. The workers have gone to drive trucks, cook meals, and build and operate base camps as part of a contract with the Army to provide logistical support to the troops. The company has used 51 recruiters and 30 job fairs this year to find people to fill the positions.
"Even with the continuing violence, the applications keep coming in, the company says, mostly from Southern states or the East Coast. KBR has thousands of resumes on file and is processing 400 to 500 workers a week to go to Iraq...." [more]
"One grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, the other in Egypt.
"One came home from a job in Australia to join in the war on terror. The other heeded the call for Arabic speakers to help his adopted country negotiate the world of the Middle East.
"Both found their way to Iraq through private companies, part of a decades-long evolution where private companies provide the military with trained soldiers, intelligence, advice on high-tech weapons and more.
"And both -- interrogator Steven Stefanowicz and translator Adel Nakhla -- have been named by an Army investigation as suspects in the graphic allegations of abuses at a prison outside Baghdad.
"The allegations are raising thorny issues on oversight, accountability and how to ensure that civilians working for the military follow the rules of war.
""These people are clearly engaged in the prosecution of a war effort, and yet they're not combatants in the same terms," said associate professor Deborah Avant of George Washington University...." [more]
"BAGHDAD -- It was after nightfall when they finally found their offices at Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace -- 11 jet-lagged, sweaty, idealistic volunteers who had come to help Iraq along the road to democracy.
"When the U.S. government went looking for people to help rebuild Iraq, they had responded to the call. They supported the war effort and President Bush. Many had strong Republican credentials. They were in their twenties or early thirties and had no foreign service experience. On that first day, Oct. 1, they knew so little about how things worked that they waited hours at the airport for a ride that was never coming. They finally discovered the shuttle bus out of the airport but got off at the wrong stop.
"Occupied Iraq was just as Simone Ledeen had imagined -- ornate mosques, soldiers in formation, sand blowing everywhere, "just like on TV." The 28-year-old daughter of neo-conservative pundit Michael Ledeen and a recently minted MBA, she had arrived on a military transport plane with the others and was eager to get to work.
"They had been hired to perform a low-level task: collecting and organizing statistics, surveys and wish lists from the Iraqi ministries for a report that would be presented to potential donors at the end of the month. But as suicide bombs and rocket attacks became almost daily occurrences, more and more senior staffers defected. In short order, six of the new young hires found themselves managing the country's $13 billion budget, making decisions affecting millions of Iraqis...." [more]
"Almost since the first American tank rolled into Iraq last year, the role of private military contractors has been controversial. When Kellogg Brown & Root Inc. (KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton Co. (HAC ), billed the government hundreds of millions of dollars to support the invasion, critics griped that it was receiving preferential treatment because of ties to the Bush Administration -- and was overcharging to boot. When the bodies of four security guards employed by Blackwater USA were mutilated in Fallujah in March while escorting food deliveries to U.S. troops, Marines laid siege to the city, igniting widespread violence. And when a classified U.S. military report came to light in late April alleging abuses of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison, private military contractors (PMCS) found themselves in the center of a firestorm.
"The end of the Cold War and Pentagon efforts to increase efficiency, speed the delivery of services, and free troops for purely military missions have triggered a boom in the outsourcing of work to private contractors. Indeed, with the strength of America's armed forces down 29%, to 1.5 million, since 1991, contractors have become a permanent part of the military machine, doing everything from providing food services to guarding Iraq Administrator L. Paul Bremer.
"Now, along with the heady growth, come mounting concerns that an industry dependent on taxpayer dollars has been spiraling out of control. That has Congress, the Defense Dept., and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq scrambling to draft regulations that make contractors -- both on the security and services/reconstruction side of the industry -- more accountable.
"Like many businesses that have to staff up rapidly, some security contractors have cut corners in the rush to expand. On the ground in Iraq, contractors appear to have operated with little or no supervision. Mercenaries are not choirboys, but some outfits have signed up hired guns trained by repressive regimes. And revelations that civilians are performing sensitive tasks such as interrogation have jolted Congress and the public. "This outsourcing thing has gone crazy," says Gary D. Solis, a former Marine Corps judge advocate and now adjunct law professor at Georgetown University. "You have a lot of people with heavy weaponry answerable to no one."..." [more]
"May 21 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Congress may force the Pentagon to disclose the roles of civilian contractors and private security firms in Iraq after allegations that Titan Corp. and CACI International Inc. were involved in abuse of prisoners.
"A U.S. defense spending bill passed yesterday by the House would require Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to issue guidance on the management of contractors within 90 days. Democratic Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut say they may propose legislation to prohibit contractors from being involved in prisoner interrogations.
"``We will see legislation that gets support from both sides of the aisle to get increased Congressional oversight,'' said David Baker, managing director of Washington-based Schwab Soundview Capital Markets' Washington Research Group.
"More private contractors are working in Iraq than in any war in U.S. history. Rumsfeld is relying on civilian companies to provide about a quarter of U.S. personnel in the region. There are 50,000 contractor employees in Iraq and Kuwait, including 20,000 working for 60 private security firms, according to data compiled for U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Myers...." [more]
"The Justice Department said yesterday it has opened a criminal investigation of a civilian contractor in connection with the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
"Neither the Justice Department nor the Defense Department would identify the contractor. "We remain committed to taking all appropriate action within our jurisdiction regarding allegations of mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners," Mark Corallo, Justice Department director of public affairs, said in a statement. A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment.
"Meanwhile, Titan Corp., which provided translators at the prison, confirmed yesterday that it had terminated an employee, Adel L. Nakhla, who was cited in an Army report on the abuses there.
"Nakhla was one of three civilian contract employees who were criticized in the report. He was listed as both a suspect and a witness, although there are no allegations against him spelled out in the portion of the report that has been publicly released. Several thousand pages of the report remain classified...." [more]
By David Washburn and Bruce V. Bigelow
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITERS
"San Diego-based Titan Corp. yesterday fired an employee who has been named as a suspect in the U.S. Army's investigation of torture and abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
"Adel Nakhla, who worked as a translator in the prison, had told Army investigators that he witnessed military police and military intelligence personnel handcuffing and shackling naked prisoners and then stacking them on top of one another.
"Nakhla's statements were part of a classified Army report on the abuses at Abu Ghraib that was leaked to the media last month.
"The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Nakhla admitted he helped hold down three detainees who were "nude, handcuffed to each other and placed in sexual positions." The newspaper attributed the information to a U.S. official who had access to parts of the report that had not been previously revealed.
"Titan spokesman Wil Williams confirmed Nakhla's termination but would not give the reason, citing company policy against releasing personnel information.
"Congress is paying Titan up to $657 million to provide thousands of translators to military personnel in Iraq and elsewhere. The company has been under scrutiny in recent weeks because of the prison abuse scandal as well as reports from soldiers that the company is hiring translators who have no professional training and speak limited English...." [more]
"WASHINGTON - (KRT) - Empty flatbed trucks crisscrossed Iraq more than 100 times as their drivers and the soldiers who guarded them dodged bullets, bricks and homemade bombs.
"Twelve current and former truckers who regularly made the 300-mile re-supply run from Camp Cedar in southern Iraq to Camp Anaconda near Baghdad told Knight Ridder that they risked their lives driving empty trucks while their employer, a subsidiary of Halliburton Inc., billed the government for hauling what they derisively called "sailboat fuel."
"Defense Department records show that Kellogg Brown and Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, has been paid $327 million for "theater transportation" of war materiel and supplies for U.S. forces in Iraq and is earmarked to be paid $230 million more. The convoys are a lifeline for U.S. troops in Iraq hauling tires for Humvees, Army boots, filing cabinets, tools, engine parts and even an unmanned Predator reconnaissance plane.
"KBR's contract with the Defense Department allows the company to pass on the cost of the transportation and add 1 percent to 3 percent for profit, but neither KBR nor the U.S. Army Field Support Command in Rock Island, Ill., which oversees the contract, was able to provide cost estimates for the empty trucks. Trucking experts estimate that each round trip costs taxpayers thousands of dollars.
"Seven of the 12 truckers who talked to Knight Ridder asked that they not be identified by name. Six of the 12 were fired by KBR for allegedly running Iraqi drivers off the road when they attempted to break into the convoy. The drivers disputed that accusation.
"In addition to interviewing the drivers, Knight Ridder reviewed KBR records of the empty trips, dozens of photographs of empty flatbeds and a videotape that showed 15 empty trucks in one convoy...." [more]
By Marian Wilkinson, Herald Correspondent in Washington
"One of Australia's largest postwar contracts in Iraq has collapsed, with the partners embroiled in a multi-million-dollar legal battle and allegations of corruption in the awarding of contracts by a leading Pentagon supplier.
"Morris Corporation, a Queensland catering company that has delivered meals to the armed forces in hot-spots from Somalia to Cambodia, was dumped last year by the giant US military contractor Halliburton, losing a $100 million contract to supply meals to US troops in Iraq.
"Morris Corporation won the catering contract last June in partnership with a Kuwaiti company, KCPC, soon after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
"The deal was praised by the Howard Government as a signal that Australian companies would get fair treatment over postwar contracts in Iraq.
"The contract was to feed 18,000 troops at three camp sites in northern Iraq. But the US company quietly cancelled the deal six weeks later, saying that Morris and its Kuwaiti partner had not met their obligations.
"Now an insider involved in the deal alleges that the Australian-Kuwaiti joint venture was approached by a Halliburton employee seeking kickbacks worth up to $3 million during the contract negotiations. "We're not talking about a paper bag. This guy was after a percentage of your sales every month."..." [more]
"Several high-ranking military legal officers believe the Pentagon used private contractors to interrogate prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in a deliberate attempt to obscure aggressive practices from congressional or military oversight, according to a civilian lawyer who has spoken with them.
"The civilian lawyer said that the military lawyers, part of the Judge Advocate General corps, complained to him about the use of private contractors during meetings last year, before the scandal over abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison became public.
""They believed that there was a conscious effort to create an atmosphere of ambiguity, of having people involved who couldn't be held to account," he said.
"JAG lawyers have also raised concerns about the Pentagon's decision to bar them from interrogations, which they routinely attended during the first Gulf war.
"Two private companies were involved in the interrogations at Abu Ghraib. One, CACI International, supplied interrogation specialists; the other, Titan International, supplied interpreters.
"Their participation has been highly controversial because of concerns that their confused legal status could preclude them from effective oversight.
"Private contractors are not subject to the same military legal code as uniformed soldiers. They have also been exempted from local laws in Iraq, under a decree passed by the Coalition Provisional Authority.
"A Pentagon spokesman denied that contractors were used for reasons of secrecy, and said they were held to the same standard as regular military intelligence: "The regulations - both Geneva and otherwise - apply the same exact way to the contractors as they do to uniform personnel."
"Contractors, he suggested, could be caught up in continuing army and Justice Department investigations.
"But critics of such outsourcing arrangements note that while seven US soldiers are already facing court martials for their conduct at Abu Ghraib, no contractors have yet been punished despite being implicated in the abuses in a report filed by army Major General Antonio Taguba in late February...." [more]
"As questions mount about the accountability and oversight of companies working for and sometimes with U.S. forces in Iraq, government officials have confirmed that the Army acquired private-sector interrogators in Iraqi prisons using a contract reserved for information technology purchases.
"The procurement was performed on behalf of the military's Coalition Task Force 7, which has operational control of troops in Iraq, in August and December of 2003 by the National Business Center, a fee-for-service procurement operation of the Interior Department. The center had negotiated an open-ended purchase agreement against a pre-existing General Services Administration contract with Premier Technology Group Inc., a technology and intelligence services firm in Fairfax, Va.
"The contract provides a broad range of technology services, including programming, backup and security, maintenance, facility operations, computer-aided design and data conversion. It is a GSA information technology schedule contract, one of thousands awarded to companies GSA approves for use by government agencies.
"The schedule the National Business Center tapped for interrogation work first was awarded in 1998 to Premier Technology, which has provided technology and intelligence services to military and intelligence agencies. CACI Inc., a technology and network services company based in Arlington, Va., bought Premier Technology in May 2003 in order to obtain its expertise in "intelligence and military operations," according to Jack London, CACI's chairman and chief executive officer...." [more]
THE IMPERIAL PENTAGON Rumsfeld and his minions are treating Congress as if it's on a need-to-know basis about Iraq -- from the number of private contractors there to how taxpayers' money is being spent to our military strategy.
By Robert Schlesinger
"May 20, 2004 | The two companies -- CACI and Titan -- implicated so far in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal are notably missing from a list submitted earlier this month to Congress by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld of private security companies operating in Iraq.
"On April 2 -- after a skirmish in Fallujah, Iraq, left four Blackwater employees dead, but before the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke -- Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, sent a letter to Rumsfeld asking about the private security companies in Iraq: "Specifically I would like to know which firms are operating in Iraq, how many personnel each firm has there, which specific functions they are performing, how much they are being paid, and from which appropriations accounts."
"A month later, on May 4, Rumsfeld responded with generic information. The Coalition Provisional Authority has paid $147 million to eight companies, he reported, and he offered a "current listing of known PSCs." Sixty firms were listed, but CACI and Titan were not among them. Also missing from the list were companies like the Vinnell Corp., MPRI International, SAIC, Eagle Group and WorldWide Language Resources, which are involved in training the new Iraqi Army, according to a Web site set up by the Department of Commerce.
"Since the prisoner abuse scandal first broke at the end of April, members of Congress have been trying to understand exactly what these independent contractors are doing in Iraq. But questions remain unanswered concerning precisely what contractors did at Abu Ghraib and what they still do in other U.S.-run prisons, to whom they are responsible and, more broadly, what they are doing on such critical missions as counterintelligence. Congress has received only a trickle of information from the Pentagon, and this information is often incomplete if not outright deceptive, according to members of Congress and their staffs...." [more]
"Two US companies enlisted by the Pentagon to oversee some of the $18.4bn in contracts to rebuild Iraq have separate business arrangements with companies they are meant to be monitoring.
"Parsons, a California construction company, and CH2M Hill, a Colorado engineering company, were granted a $28.5m contract in March to scrutinise the work of four other contractors on a $1.7bn project to restore Iraq's public works and water sector.
"One of those companies, Fluor, is currently serving as a joint-venture partner with Parsons on a $2.6bn oilfield project in Kazakhstan, while another, Washington Group International, is working with CH2M Hill on a separate $314m Department of Energy contract.
""The Department of Defense is contracting the oversight of the henhouse to the foxes," said Senator Ron Wyden, one of four Democratic lawmakers who yesterday introduced an amendment that would end the practice of outsourcing the oversight of Pentagon contracts to rebuild Iraq.
""It is the government's responsibility to oversee these contracts," added his colleague, Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.
"The Pentagon has turned to private companies to monitor a range of projects as part of its broader push to outsource all non-combat tasks, according to procurement experts.
"While few gave the proposal much chance of being adopted by Congress, it is likely to draw attention to the charges of cronyism that have dogged the Bush administration throughout the reconstruction process...." [more]
"WASHINGTON, May 18 — Thirty-three-year-old Steven Stefanowicz, fresh out of the Navy, arrived at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as a contract interrogator last October, just as the prisoner abuses were getting under way.
"He had no military experience in interrogation. As a junior Navy intelligence specialist, a petty officer third class, he did all of his work in an office, reading and analyzing intelligence reports, the Navy said. But just three months later, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba began his investigation of prisoner abuses and found that Mr. Stefanowicz was directing some of the military police officers linked to abuses. He was, therefore, "directly or indirectly responsible" for the abuses, the general wrote.
"Friends describe Mr. Stefanowicz as a popular, natural leader. In the mid-1980's, he was a member of his high school student government in eastern Pennsylvania for three years. Last year, he quickly became a team leader among the contract interrogators at Abu Ghraib.
"But Mr. Stefanowicz is also an enigma. At 6-foot-5, he is a towering figure. Friends and associates say his manner is easy, deferential. Because of his size, a former boss said, "he almost went out of his way to be nonthreatening." A onetime girlfriend who is still in contact with him described Mr. Stefanowicz in an interview as "a gentle giant, generous to the nth degree."
"And yet General Taguba wrote that he "clearly knew that his instructions equated to physical abuse."
"Saddam Saleh Aboud, an Iraqi who was held at the prison last fall and who said he had been the subject of some abusive behavior, identified one of his captors as "Steven." To Mr. Aboud, it appeared that "Steven was responsible for everything."
""He was the one who told them what to do," Mr. Aboud said. But he added, "He did not do any torturing himself."..." [more]
"Two companies monitoring billions of dollars in Iraq reconstruction contracts have business relationships with some of the contractors they're overseeing, a report by congressional Democrats concluded Tuesday.
"The report questioned the neutrality of Parsons and CH2M Hill, firms hired to detect fraud, waste and abuse in noncompetitive rebuilding contracts that have no cost limitations.
""My advice to taxpayers is, 'Hold on to your wallet'," Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., told a news conference.
"Spokesmen for Parsons, of Pasadena, Calif., and CH2M Hill, of Englewood, Colo., would not immediately comment on the report issued by Dingell and three other Democrats: Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, along with Rep. Henry Waxman of California. The four have hammered the Bush administration repeatedly for awarding noncompetitive contracts to rebuild Iraq.
"They said they would propose amendments to Defense Department spending legislation that would require termination of the two watchdog contracts and five similar contracts that were not studied by the Democrats. If the legislation should be successful, the Defense Department would take over the monitoring.
"Parsons and CH2M Hill are being paid $28.5 million in a joint venture to oversee $1.7 billion in public works and water construction projects; while $43 million went to a joint venture of Parsons and Parsons-Brinckerhoff, of New York City, to watch over $1.6 billion in work on power generation, transmission and distribution.
"The two Parsons firms are not connected.
"According to the findings:
"-- Parsons is the business partner of Fluor Corp., one of the firms it oversees, in a $2.6 billion joint venture to develop oil fields in Kazakhstan. Fluor, headquartered in Aliso Viejo, Calif., announced the venture in a March 2003 news release.
"-- CH2M Hill and a company it monitors, Boise, Idaho-based Washington Group International, are collaborating on a $314 million contract for environmental cleanup work in Miamisburg, Ohio. Washington Group International announced its role in the project in December 2002.
"-- CH2M Hill is the Department of Energy's prime contractor for storing and retrieving 53 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous waste at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state. Iraq contractor AMEC, of London, is a subcontractor on the Hanford project along with Fluor and Washington Group International, according to Internet sites of the Energy Department and the companies.
"The Democrats' report also contended that actions that Parsons takes as an overseer could affect its own Iraq reconstruction projects...." [more]
"WASHINGTON - Pentagon auditors have recommended withholding nearly $160 million in payments to Halliburton Corp., saying the company charged the military for meals in and around Iraq that were never served.
"Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company released a statement Monday night saying it hoped to persuade Army officials to reject the auditors’ recommendation.
"The alleged overcharging for meals last year is one of several suspected improprieties with the contract work in Iraq of Halliburton subsidiary KBR, formerly known as Kellogg, Brown & Root. Authorities are investigating allegations of overcharging for fuel delivered to Iraq, kickbacks involving two former KBR workers and other management problems.
"Investigators for the Defense Contract Audit Agency, or DCAA, concluded last week that KBR charged the military for thousands of meals it never provided to troops under its contract to provide logistical services to forces in the region.
"The DCAA said in a statement Monday that it recommended withholding more than $159 million from future payments to KBR."..." [more]
"BURNET, Texas -- For many recruits of KBR, a subsidiary of Houston-based Halliburton Co., the road to Iraq starts at a job fair like the one held at a Holiday Inn in Wichita Falls, near the Texas-Oklahoma border.
"Chris Ward recently delivered the reverse of the usual recruiter's pitch. He tried to persuade applicants not to go.
""We want people to know exactly what they're getting into," he said during a break. The company has lost 34 people in Iraq--13 contract employees and 21 who worked for subcontractors.
"Fifty applicants gathered in a meeting room, interested in the high pay. Standing before them, Ward ticked off the reasons they should reconsider.
""It's not Disneyland," he said. "It's a war zone. This is not even the Balkans. The average temperature is 120 degrees. Last year we had to send more people home because of dehydration and mild heat stroke. You will be in 8-to-10-man tents on a cot. Plumbing is not the first thing we put in when we build a base camp. Expect to be dirty most of the time. This is a dust bowl. Dust will get in your eyes and find places you didn't know you had. There are mice, camel spiders, ticks, fleas and scorpions."
"A question came from the audience: "How big are those camel spiders?"
"Ward held up his hand and stretched his fingers. "They are as big as a hand," he said.
""We work. We eat. We sleep," he continued. "That's about it. You will work eight to 12 hours a day, if not more."
"Defending the long workdays, he added: "If we worked an eight-hour shift every day, you'd have 16 hours to hate us."
"NEW YORK, May 17 (Reuters) - CACI International Inc. (nyse: CAI - news - people), a U.S. defense contractor that has been linked in a report to abuses of prisoners in Iraq, said on Monday in a securities filing that no employees have been charged with wrongdoing and it has not been asked to discipline personnel.
"CACI's statement comes after a widely disseminated internal Army report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, which said two men identified as CACI employees were among those who "were either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuse at Abu Ghraib."..." [more]
"For Dave Tittle, who has run an executive placement company in northern Virginia for the last 30 years, business has never been so good. That is because Mr Tittle's speciality is supplying talent for the growing number of private companies that do the US government's spying.
""An awful lot of activity has been outsourced," says Mr Tittle, who himself once worked at the National Security Agency. "Anything that has to do with collection or analysis of intelligence data is being done by the private sector."
"If the build-up to the Iraq war highlighted the extent to which the army relies on private contractors like Halliburton for logistical tasks like delivering fuel, then the recent prisoner abuse scandal has revealed similar trends under way in the nation's intelligence apparatus.
"Two private companies - CACI International and Titan Corp - employed interrogators and interpreters who worked at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, where Iraqi prisoners faced humiliating abuse.
"The fact that US intelligence services turned to private companies to handle such sensitive tasks has surprised even former CIA officers. Yet it represents only the leading edge of a much larger trend, according to former intelligence officials.
"Information technology companies scattered near the Pentagon in northern Virginia have taken on billions of dollars worth of contracts in recent years to do everything from gathering intelligence from satellites and sophisticated sensors to analysing the results and then distributing them to the appropriate government customers.
"Meanwhile, smaller companies have cropped up to supply former agents as actual "bodies on the ground" in hazardous locations. Some former intelligence officials claim that these "spooks" are currently operating in the tribal lands of Pakistan, where US soldiers have been forbidden in their hunt for Osama Bin Laden, al-Qaeda leader.
""The agency's being run by contractors in a certain sense," said Robert Baer, a former CIA agent who operated in northern Iraq...." [more]
"In my class on U.S. Foreign Policy at Cairo University, I have explained to Egyptian students that American soldiers responsible for abusive acts committed in Abu Ghraib prison just outside Baghdad will be subject to the U.S. military code of justice. It is much more difficult to explain that private military contractors reportedly involved in this case may escape punishment altogether.
"Despite their increasing prominence in military operations, such contractors have not been considered part of the command structure that answers to U.S. military law or the international humanitarian law of war. It is urgent for Congress to review and regulate their role in the delivery of U.S. foreign policy. Democratic government requires no less.
"Army reports suggest that employees of the San Diego-based Titan Corp. and Virginia's CACI International Inc. were at least complicit in the events that have brought such great shame to America. The internal Army report on the Abu Ghraib events written by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba suggests that a CACI employee set the stage for abusive treatment: The employee clearly knew his instructions equated to physical abuse.
"But neither the contracting firms nor their employees have suffered even a reprimand.
"Prior to the departure of Army Secretary Thomas White in April 2003, the Army was planning to outsource more than 200,000 jobs -- as many as one in six. White's departure scuttled a Pentagon privatization plan known as the Third Wave, but even so, the number of contractors has risen dramatically and their role has expanded...." [more]
"The government contract that led interrogators working for CACI International Inc. into Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was awarded in 1998, with the stated purpose of providing inventory control and other routine services to the U.S. Army.
"This kind of "blanket-purchase agreement" is becoming increasingly popular with federal agencies because it is supposed to increase efficiency. Large, vaguely worded contracts are designed so the agencies can make quick requests and get fast results, without requiring separate bids and evaluations for each service. Critics say these open-ended contracts allow agencies to skirt public oversight and give big companies an unfair advantage in winning government business.
"The CACI contract with the Army is administered by the Interior Department, under an outsourcing agreement with the Army, which has made it even harder to track.
"The CACI contract has a $500 million limit, said Frank Quimby, a spokesman for the Interior Department. CACI has received 80 requests, or delivery orders, from the Army under this contract. Most requests are for CACI's meat-and-potatoes offerings, such as information technology services, but 11 of the delivery orders were for projects in Iraq. Three of those dealt with interrogation and intelligence gathering.
"One order, issued in August 2003, was worth $19.9 million for a year-long stint of interrogation support, Quimby said. It is under that order that CACI's Steven A. Stefanowicz and other contractors worked as interrogators at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. An Army report on abuses at the prison accuses Stefanowicz of encouraging soldiers to "set conditions" for interrogations. The company has not identified Stefanowicz as the employee in question and declined to comment on the details of its contract with the Army.
""If they want to provide information to the media, that's the business of the United States government, that's not the business of CACI," J.P. London, CACI's chairman and chief executive, said in an interview last week. Stefanowicz's lawyer has said that his client did nothing wrong at the prison...." [more]
David Leigh in Moyock, North Carolina
Monday May 17, 2004
"Here on the outskirts of the Great Dismal Swamp, now a nature reserve, is the new face of the privatised American army. Some fear it is getting out of control.
Grim-faced men in battle fatigues are oiling their M4s and Glocks, blasting their way through mocked-up terrorist streets, and riddling old cars with bullets.
"The TV set in the rest room is tuned to gung-ho Fox News and the mess tables are shared today by a mixed bunch of 200, mostly male. Some are freelances readying themselves for Iraq, some are from the overstretched real US military buying firing-range time, some are coastguards about to be deployed to an unspecified spot "overseas". Young men at one table have Grupe Tactico Chile on their shoulders.
"This is Blackwater, a commercial army base - the largest private firearms training centre in the world, according to its owner, Eric Prince, a former Navy Seal.
"Blackwater guards provincial outposts for the Iraqi coalition provisional authority, and the firm has the contract to keep its head, Paul Bremer, alive. It fought in a heroic rescue of a wounded soldier in Najaf, but four of its men were ambushed and killed in Falluja, causing an international crisis.
"This week the company is bulldozing a long twisting track out of its 6,000 acres of swampland so convoy troops can experience being shot at, as they will be in Iraq. The trainers will use live ammunition.
"Blackwater is at the forefront of lobbying efforts to stop a clampdown on private military companies in Iraq. The US defence department has issued draft regulations seeking to bring them under US military law, instead of their present local legal immunity.
""You simply can't do that," said Chris Bertelli, their Washington lobbyist. "How do you enforce it? At the end of your 60-day contract, you can just go home."... " [more]
"In the shock of the Iraqi abuse scandal — amid horrific images of prisoner brutality, the inquiries into who did what and who told them to — one unsettling detail went largely unnoticed.
"But only temporarily.
"Of the 37 interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison, 27 did not belong to the U.S. military but to a Virginia private contractor called CACI International. Twenty-two linguists who assisted them were employed by California-based Titan International.
"Two of these workers were cited in Maj.-Gen. Anthony Taguba's damning report on the "sadistic, blatant and wanton" treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib 1A cellblock.
"Unlike the seven reservist guards facing criminal trials and military intelligence officers under investigation, interrogator Steven Stefanowicz and translator John Israel face no accountability, let alone punishment. Being civilians, they are not subject to military law nor to the Geneva Convention.
"Local prosecution could have been an option — if Iraq had a functioning judiciary, which it doesn't — but last year, U.S. administrator Paul Bremer issued an order protecting contractors from precisely that.
"An extraterratoriality law that would have made civilian contractees subject to U.S. domestic law sits stalled on Solicitor-General John Ashcroft's desk.
"The two men likely will be fired, though neither CACI nor Titan has so far said so. That's all that happened in 1999 in Bosnia after several employees of another firm, DynCorp, were accused of statutory rape and running a child-prostitution ring.
"The only court cases involved the two whistleblowers.
""To give the civilians in Iraq a legal free pass is unconscionable," says Peter W. Singer, author of Corporate Warriors: The Rise Of The Privatized Military Industry, a scathing examination of the Pentagon's spiralling reliance on outsourcing.
"Singer, a national security fellow at the Brookings Institution, briefed 40 members of Congress last week, after they'd viewed the photographic evidence of abuse. He says they wanted to know why civilians were even involved in the questioning of detainees.
""Using them for interrogation is pushing the envelope about as far as it's possible to go. It should nor have happened."
"It likely wasn't planned, analysts say.
"With an arrest-first, question-later policy in Iraq and the conflict lasting longer than the White House envisioned, the demand for interrogators simply outstripped the supply, both of military and Central Intelligence Agency specialists.
"The defence department was caught on the hop, says Singer, "because it never prepared a worst-case scenario. That's the mode in this administration, and disagreement isn't the proper face of loyalty."
"Washington has made no secret of the fact that private military firms (PMFs) have been active in Iraq since the start of the war. Their numbers shot up after its official end a year ago, when the job of reconstruction began.
"PMFs, the largest of which is Halliburton, formerly headed by Vice-President Dick Cheney, are used for everything short of front-line combat...." [more]
THE ROAD TO CAMP REDEMPTION The mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners was the result of a fundamental shift in interrogation policy but at whose instigation?
Julian Coman in Washington and Philip Sherwell in Baghdad reveal how - and why - aggressive techniques from Guantanamo Bay were adopted in Abu Ghraib
"In the front lobby of CACI International, the Virginia firm that provided US military forces with contract interrogators for the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, a flag from the days of the American rebellion against British rule is furled discreetly in a corner.
"Beneath an image of a defiant rattlesnake is an old anti-colonial slogan that, after the revelations of the past fortnight, strikes an unhappy note: "Don't Tread on Me."
"As the world now knows, "high-security" Iraqi prisoners in cell blocks 1A and 1B of Abu Ghraib suffered far worse abuse than being trodden upon, much of it allegedly at the instigation of at least one CACI employee.
"A military investigation has reported that Stefan Stefanowicz, one of 20,000 civilian contractors in Iraq, was instrumental in the mistreatment of prisoners at the Baghdad prison, which also involved military police and allegedly military intelligence officials.
"But confusion still reigns over what actually happened in the cell blocks last autumn.
"CACI refuses to comment on the case. Several of the seven military policemen and women facing court martial for prisoner abuse are blaming their immediate superiors. In Baghdad last Thursday, the beleaguered US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, presented the scandal as an isolated, shameful case involving a handful of military police.
"The International Red Cross, however, has complained for months about widespread abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
"To get to the bottom of the Abu Ghraib scandal, said a Pentagon adviser, it is necessary to go back to the visit to Iraq of Major General Geoffrey Miller last autumn.
""The foundations were laid back then," said the adviser. "And they were laid by the most senior civilians at the Department of Defence."..." [more]
"BAGHDAD - Commerce is thriving on Saddoun Street again, and its storefronts have the feel of a global bazaar. Glossy billboards show off electronics from South Korea. Vendors hawk cell phone service from Egypt. Corner groceries stock ice cream from the United Arab Emirates.
"Postwar Iraq was supposed to be a bonanza for American companies. The Commerce Department hosted a series of conferences attended by thousands who dreamed of investment opportunities promised by a free Iraq. The administration characterized the more than $21 billion Congress allocated to the reconstruction as a down payment, an initial investment that would spark the economy and bring riches to the Iraqi people as well as American entrepreneurs.
"The reality a year after President Bush declared the end of major combat is far different.
"Though many dozens of U.S. corporations have government contracts to help rebuild the country, relatively few American companies have invested their own capital. The volatile security situation has kept many potential investors away, and even as the U.S.-led coalition government has called on businesses to come to Iraq, the State Department has warned Americans to stay out of the country.
"The beheading of Pennsylvania businessman Nicholas Berg, broadcast this week in a video on the Web, put a face on the dangers facing private entrepreneurs trying to operate independently in Iraq. Berg's family said he was inspired to go to Iraq after attending a government-sponsored trade fair for potential investors. But when he arrived in Iraq and met with State Department officials, they begged him to go home and even offered him a plane ride.
"Commerce Department officials say they still encourage investment in Iraq and believe the country is hospitable to U.S. businesses. William H. Lash III, assistant secretary of commerce and chairman of the department's Iraq Investment and Reconstruction Task Force, said that when he was last in Iraq, in February, he "was out and about without a [flak] vest walking around the markets with an American flag." He said this week that it's difficult to assess whether he would still do that if he went back today but that companies should look at investing in Iraq "not only an economic opportunity but a moral imperative."
"But, Lash cautioned, "if you're going to do large-scale investment in Iraq, if you are going to engage in reconstruction, we have to say it's prudent to have your own security consultant."..." [more]
"PHILADELPHIA - (KRT) - Besides the 135,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq, there's a smaller army of U.S. civilians - thousands of Americans working in a variety of jobs, from private- security guards to engineers, translators, truck drivers and technicians.
"The pay is excellent - frequently more than $100,000 a year for people with technical expertise - a significant premium over comparable jobs in the United States, with transportation, housing and other living expenses paid by employers. The first $80,000 is usually tax-exempt, and the Iraqi economy offers few of the spending temptations that confront people at U.S. shopping malls.
"But the gruesome death of Nicholas Berg, 26, a West Chester, Pa., native with his own business fixing communication antennas, made clear again that civilian workers in Iraq run unusual risks of death or injury - perhaps riskier than military personnel.
""My sense is, there's an opportunity to make maybe three times what you'd make in the course of a year in the United States, particularly given the economy here," said Kathryn Rosenblum, editor of the Iraq Reconstruction Report, a newsletter devoted to Iraqi business prospects.
""But it truly amazes me how many people are willing to work there, given the risks," Rosenblum said.
"There are 15,000 American civilian contractors in Iraq, working for about 180 firms, according to the New York Times.
"Congress has approved $18.6 billion in funds for reconstruction of the Iraqi economy. Hundreds of U.S. companies are competing for slivers, relying heavily on Iraqi workers or other subcontractors, but also using U.S. workers in various roles.
"Halliburton, the Texas corporation formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, is the biggest military contractor in Iraq, through its subsidiary KBR, formerly Kellogg Brown & Root, which has a 10-year, $5 billion contract.
"From KBR and its subcontractors alone, 35 workers have died in the Iraq-Kuwait region, 74 have been wounded and two kidnapped workers remain missing...." [more]
By Ellen McCarthy and Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writers
"TELFORD, Pa., May 13 -- Steven A. Stefanowicz was a towering high school athlete in this Philadelphia suburb; at 6-foot-5, he was the tallest member of the Souderton Area High School class of 1988 and the grandson of a Marine. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 1995 with a bachelor of science degree. Three years later, he joined the Navy Reserve and learned the intelligence craft, a skill he brought to the private sector.
"Before Navy postings in Afghanistan and Oman, he sold Jet Skis in the Florida panhandle town of Panama City, befriending a former prison corrections officer with whom he discussed interrogation techniques. He worked as an information technology headhunter in Australia and dated a woman there who recently called him a "gentle giant" in an interview with an Australian newspaper.
"The former Navy intelligence specialist -- now a civilian interrogator with Arlington-based CACI International Inc., a defense contractor -- was implicated this month in the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, which came to light with the publication of photographs showing unclothed Iraqi inmates forced to pose in humiliating positions.
"In interviews Thursday, Stefanowicz's lawyer, mother and friends said he was wrongly accused in Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba's report, which said Stefanowicz lied to military investigators about alleged prison misdeeds and ordered or allowed military police to physically abuse prisoners.
""The only source of any allegation against him are the six lines in the 53-page report. And those six lines are not only vague, but completely unsubstantiated," said Henry E. Hockeimer Jr., in his office at Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin in Philadelphia on Thursday. "He did nothing wrong, nor is he aware of any wrongdoing whatsoever by any CACI employee."
"CACI has not acknowledged Stefanowicz's employment but said it has not fired anybody as a result of the Army investigation. Neither CACI, his lawyer nor his mother would say where he is. His mother said she would not discuss his location because she feared for his safety.
"Taguba recommended that Stefanowicz's military security clearance be revoked and his job terminated. The report names Stefanowicz and three other men as "either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib."..." [more]
"JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - The U.S. military confirmed Wednesday that soldiers are riding shotgun in civilian supply convoys, and a Missouri soldier stationed in Iraq defended the practice against the criticism of his home state governor.
"A day after complaining about the mixing of soldiers and citizens in a letter to President Bush, Democratic Gov. Bob Holden continued to press the issue Wednesday, alleging at a Capitol news conference that what American soldiers "have been asked to do is highly inappropriate."
"Yet it apparently is not highly unusual.
""We have coalition troops, to include the (Missouri) unit in question, routinely providing security for civilian convoys which provide food, fuel and supplies for coalition troops throughout Iraq," Capt. Patrick Swan, a spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force in Baghdad, said in an e-mail response to an inquiry from The Associated Press.
""This security can be through military vehicles escorting trucks, or the placing of coalition troops within the cabs of civilian trucks to provide additional firepower," Swan said.
"Holden's complaint was prompted by the concerns of a family member of a soldier in the National Guard's 1221st Transportation Company, which is based in Missouri...." [more]
"The Calvert Group's Calvert Social Index Fund may be missing another local company. The Bethesda-based fund company says its social research department is recommending it drop Arlington-based defense contractor CACI International.
"The decision is up to the Calvert Group's so-called Social Index Committee, which meets quarterly to review companies in its Social Index Fund. The committee's next meeting is in June.
""CACI was recently reviewed and no longer meets Calvert's criteria for weapons and human rights," the company said in a statement without elaborating...." [more]
"While on missions in Iraq last year, 35-year-old Todd Drobnick was attacked by small-arms fire, grenades and makeshift bombs. Yet he continued to go out day after day, until he died in a vehicle crash on his way from one U.S. military base to another. For his loyalty and dedication, he was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
"Thousands of Americans in Iraq have received such honors, but Drobnick's case was unusual: He wasn't a soldier. He was a private contractor working with a translation company.
""He died in the service of his country and the gratitude of his comrades is deep and lasting," U.S. Army Col. Gary L. Parrish, assistant chief of staff of intelligence, wrote in a letter to Drobnick's family after his death.
"Several other contractors have received battlefield commendations in Iraq, too, but the military says it was a mistake. Only active-duty soldiers are eligible for the awards and those received by civilians are being rescinded.
""This is not to say that what the contractors did wasn't valorous or wasn't important, but legally we aren't supposed to give them these awards," said Shari Lawrence, an Army spokeswoman.
"The confusion demonstrates that in many situations soldiers and civilian contractors have become virtually indistinguishable -- and interchangeable -- in postwar Iraq.
"The occupation could not function without contractors. Construction giants such as Bechtel Inc., Fluor Corp., Parsons Corp. and Perini Corp., are rebuilding the country's infrastructure. Blackwater Security Consulting and Erinys, staffed with former Special Forces fighters, provide security details for occupation personnel. General Dynamics Corp. and Halliburton Inc. subsidiary KBR supply the military with support personnel who handle such diverse duties as repairing tanks and cooking.
"The estimated tens of thousand of contractors in Iraq -- who according to the Brookings Institute amount to more than 10 percent of U.S. personnel there -- have become a flashpoint for the troubles of the U.S.-led occupation...." [more]