• Another Voice from the PRT Diaspora

    December 2, 2012 // 1 Comment »

    As a former BDE ops officer and former MiTT team leader, I can say I know Iraq. Your book was dead on. We were there at the same time. I especially liked you comparing the KBR guys to the dudes that won’t stop hanging around high school. Yep, that is what we all thought of those ass clowns. My brothers fought in Iraq and I lost my best friend to an IED in 2004. Anyways, thanks for the fast read and the laugh-out-loud moments.




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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State, Iraq, Military, PRT Life

    How to Keep/Lose Your Security Clearance at the State Department

    May 5, 2012 // 10 Comments »




    As an aid to all current and future State Department employees, here are examples of how to keep/lose your security clearance. These example are important, because the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), which grants and withdraws clearances, operates as a type of black hole: information goes in and decisions come out, but nothing that happens inside is visible. One never knows why a decision was made, or on what basis.

    With DS, facts can be hidden from Freedom of Information Act requests and even court-ordered discovery in the name of “security,” and thus manipulated to document pre-determined outcomes. What is called an investigation can morph into an indictment, where the goal is to keep fishing until something, anything, comes up. Actions by Diplomatic Security at the State Department occur without any independent review, and are largely not appealable to the Courts. Diplomatic Security, unlike its counterparts at the Department of Defense and other agencies, even refuses to use the “substantial evidence standard” mandated by the Administrative Procedures Act.

    Here is how to keep your security clearance:

    Commit rape. Tracy Barker, who says a State Department employee sexually assaulted her in Iraq in 2005 has won $2.93 million in arbitration from KBR, the military contracting company that employed her. KBR denies a rape occurred while Ms. Barker remains clear that State Department employee Ali Mokhtare assaulted her in Basra, Iraq. Investigators asked that the State Department suspend Mokhtare’s security clearance, but that request was denied. Clearance remains.


    Here is how to lose your security clearance:

    Write a blog. You can read more here. Clearance suspended.




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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State, Iraq, Military, PRT Life

    State Department Mismanages Food Contract in Iraq

    August 31, 2011 // 2 Comments »

    Who doesn’t like free food? One of the best things about working at the World’s Largest Embassy in Baghdad © is free food. Peter devotes most of a chapter in his book to food in Iraq, as his cholesterol count after a year there is higher than his pre-sales.

    At the Embassy (World’s Largest ©) you can feed off a buffet miles long, or, if walking or riding the hovercart shuttle to the buffet is inconvenient, sandwiches, Pop Tarts and all sorts of goodies are available at three Grab-‘n-Goes located right inside the office buildings. It’s like taking an all-inclusive cruise, where stewards stuff food into your mouth while you sleep.

    The problem is freedom isn’t free, especially the freedom to pound down six free meals a day whilst conducting diplomacy. The purveyor of said food, mega-contractor KBR, has pocketed some $37 billion dollars of taxpayer money. And guess what—an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report has found that this figure includes waste and mismanagement on the part of the State Department.

    Happy Meals

    The fun starts in that State’s contract with KBR says that total meals cost per person per day should be $20. This is hilarious. Breakfast at the Embassy offers made-to-order omelets, a waffle station, pancakes, fresh fruit and all sorts of extras. Lunch usually included two hot entrees, a hamburger station, a sandwich bar, salad bar, dessert bar, ice cream and every type of beverage. Dinner also rocked two hot entrees, including lobster and crab legs on Sundays, steak sometimes, the burger bar, an Indian food bar, salad bar, plus the aforementioned desserts and drinks. In between meals snacks were always available. You’d have a hard time doing all that for $20 a day at McDonald’s, never mind in a war zone where everything had to be trucked in from Kuwait.

    But since the contract had to do with the amount of food prepared, not “meals” eaten, State found a nice solution: just have everyone clock in for a “meal” every time they consume anything. Grab a Diet Coke, clock in as if it was your second lunch. There were ads in the Embassy newsletter asking people to do this; the OIG found one guy who clocked in for 25 meals in two days. The net result is that the ratio of “meals” to people changes, and the official cost per meal appears to go down to near $20. It was a lie. The OIG found $970,000 in overages here.

    Feed the World

    The OIG also found that State was lax about just who got to feed from its trough-o’-cornucopia. The contract with KBR provided for most Embassy staff and any uniformed military around to eat free. It turns out that the OIG found that 80 percent of the cafeteria denizens were contractors, some of whom were also being paid by State for their meals. In other words, State paid them a meals per diem and then also fed them. Double cost to the Government! Ten points to Slytherin!

    This was possible because of lazy entrance control. The door was policed when Peter was in Baghdad by a KBR staffer, not a State employee. The main person was a delightful Bosnian young woman, skillful with her makeup and always nicely dressed. She greeted everyone, was the subject of much attention by the male soldiers, and was always friendly when someone showed up having forgotten his/her ID.

    Then again, no one could have really told her who to admit legally anyway; the OIG found State maintained no up-to-date registry of those who are authorized to receive food service support under the LOGCAP contract. The OIG team reviewed the Table of Population (an appendix to task order 151), which is supposed to list organizations eligible for food service support. The team found in 2010 that the table was out-of-date with listings of organizations ranging back to 2006-07.

    Hand Head Count

    The great news is that while the contract required State to maintain an automated method of counting diners, State just did not do it, letting the contractor send an employee from Bosnia to handle things. State paid the contractor for anyone the contractor let in to eat. The automated system required would not have been hard to implement, as the military in Iraq had one they used all over the country with simple, off the shelf technology. State just didn’t bother.

    Money

    So how much did all of this free food cost you, the taxpayer? When OIG reviewed food services, equipment and facilities maintenance, and fuel operations, the team was unable to make definitive conclusions because of a lack of available data. For example, in food services, KBR’s headcount records from meals consumed do not match dining facility account records, and OIG was unable to reconcile the difference. These discrepancies suggest that in FY 2009 there were $2.23 million in unsupported food costs but really, with the sloppy record keeping, who knows? In fact, some of the OIG’s primary recommendations to State were to demand from KBR the data needed to actually figure out if the Government is being cheated or not.

    Food Fight

    …and we care because?

    Because State will inherit contracts from the Army for logistics that run into the tens of millions of dollars and that’s a lot of money. Because the State Occupation of Iraq, and State work in Afghanistan, will depend on contractors to succeed, and sloppy mismanagement means that not only will the money be flushed away, but also that the mission will fail.

    Gotta watch the money. Follow the money. It’s all about the money, kiddos.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State, Iraq, Military, PRT Life

    KBR Requests Rape Claimant Pay Company’s Legal Fees

    August 24, 2011 // 1 Comment »

    KBR A case we wrote about in a previous “Contractors Gone Wild in Iraq” post returns to the news. The case concerns the alleged rape in Iraq of KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones by another KBR employee (Ms. Jones’ name and picture have been prominently featured around the web, so we are not “outing” anyone here). The criminal case got lost in immunities, and KBR’s insistence that the allegations be dealt with through the employee arbitration proceedings spelled out in Jones’ employment contract.

    After six years of legal fussing and fighting, the courts eventually allowed Jones to pursue the matter as a civil complaint. Details are complex, and what really happened seems unclear—a good break down of the evidence is on Mother Jones. The claimed attack took place in 2005; ultimate source of all contractor legal matters Ms. Sparky has pages of details on the legal events since then.

    Ms. Jones recently lost her civil case. Now, KBR wants Jones to pay for its legal fees and court costs.

    In its motion seeking to recover more than $2 million in fees, KBR alleged that Jones’ rape and hostile work environment claims were fabricated and frivolous. The company has also requested that she cover its court costs of $145,000. Everything is back in the hands of lawyers again. Ms. Jones brought her claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which apparently allows prevailing parties to seek attorneys fees from the losing party. “Anyone who brings a claim under Title VII knows that there is a likelihood that if they lose the other side will seek attorneys fees,” said one attorney.

    The facts of the case are complex, but we can all agree that nothing good seems to come of things from the Iraq experience.

    We have another piece on KBR’s legal issues in Iraq if you are not yet depressed enough.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State, Iraq, Military, PRT Life

    Last American Out of Baghdad Please Shut Off the Lights

    July 12, 2011 // Comments Off

    Oops. The World’s Largest Embassy (c) is running out of gas. Literally.

    The Embassy’s air conditioners won’t be operating at full power until further notice due to a temporary fuel shortage. “Recent security incidents” have halted fuel deliveries to Baghdad’s Green Zone, according to an email sent Tuesday morning to Embassy staffers. Iraqi officials have blocked roads leading to the Green Zone, meaning the compound’s main fuel supplier, KBR, is allotting fuel in smaller quantities.

    “As a result, the Embassy is running low on reserve fuel,” the email said. Until further notice, the Embassy is increasing temperatures inside its buildings in an attempt to conserve fuel. Staffers reported room temperatures close to 80 degrees.

    It is hard to know where to start with this one.

    Firstly, one has to wonder about security plans after the US military leaves/draws down at the end of the year. Roads in Iraq stay open in large part because out military patrols them, conducts route clearance of IEDs, uses drones to survey the roads ahead of convoys, and provides the muscle to get contracted drivers out of trouble when attacks occur. It is very, very unclear that State’s planned mercenary guard force will be able to pull off these very, very military duties. This will leave the World’s Largest Embassy (c) very vulnerable; after all, there is nowhere locally for them to buy any of the fuel, food and supplies needed to keep operating.

    The bigger irony of course is that all of Iraq suffers from lack of electricity; Iraqi power guys estimate that less than half the juice needed by citizens will be available, meaning the suffering that most Iraqis have endured under US-provided freedom is now being visited on the World’s Largest Embassy (c). Last year, temperatures rose to 120 degrees, and people took to the streets in anger. Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki sacked the Electricity Minister, and then banned all protests. That unrest could be repeated again this year, despite all the government’s promises of new power projects. Also, on June 25, in a vote of confidence, the director general at the Ministry of Electricity was assassinated in southeast Baghdad.

    Lastly, it is amusing to note that while the US Embassy trucks its fuel into Baghdad by road from Kuwait (average cost is $18 a gallon), Iraq proper buys a lot of its fuel directly from Iran.

    Even that Iranian fuel might still be available to the Embassy– on the black market. Officials in the Ministry of Electricity are involved in the theft of millions of dollars of fuel intended for power stations, an MP from the ruling National Coalition claimed Saturday.

    Susan al-Saad said that the tankers used to transport fuel to power plants across the country regularly go missing, and that this would not be possible without official collusion.

    “Many officials in the Ministry are involved in the theft. Which is sad because it adversely affects the performance of electrical provision, in addition to contributing to the phenomenon of widespread financial and administrative corruption in state institutions,” she said.

    Last irony: Iraq sits atop the world’s largest oil reserves. Maybe the Embassy should consider cutting out the middleman and drilling for its own oil inside the compound.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State, Iraq, Military, PRT Life

    Contractors in Iraq Never Held Responsible

    July 8, 2011 // 2 Comments »

    If my child does something wrong, as a parent I’m responsible for interceding. If an employee does something wrong, the employer steps in to fix things. If a US Government contractor in Iraq does something wrong, anything from torture to sexual harassment to murder, nobody is held responsible. By law, it seems.




    Torture

    The latest get out of jail free card was issued by the Supreme Court last week, when they let stand the dismissal of a lawsuit claiming that employees of two defense contractors took part in the torture and abuse of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib. The justices rejected an appeal by a group of 250 Iraqis seeking to reinstate their lawsuit against CACI International Inc, which provided interrogators at Abu Ghraib, and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc’s Titan unit, which provided interpreters to the U.S. military.

    The lawsuit was filed in 2004 on behalf of the Iraqis who said they or their relatives had been tortured or mistreated while detained by the US military at Abu Ghraib. They said contractor employees participated in the abuse. The justices declined to review a federal appeals court ruling that dismissed the lawsuit because the companies had immunity as government contractors. The Obama administration supported the companies and said the appeal should be denied. Free at last, I guess.

    Rape

    Another case to make the news concerns the alleged rape in Iraq of KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones by another KBR employee (Ms. Jones’ name and picture have been prominently featured around the web, so we are not “outing” anyone here). The criminal case got lost in immunities, and KBR’s insistence that the allegations be dealt with through the employee arbitration proceedings spelled out in Jones’ employment contract.

    After six years of legal fussing and fighting, the courts eventually sided with Jones, who is pursuing the matter as a civil complaint. Details are complex, and what really happened seems unclear—a good break down of the evidence is on Mother Jones. The claimed attack took place in 2005; ultimate source of all contractor legal matters Ms. Sparky has pages of details on the legal events since then.

    Sexual Harassment

    The problem of contractor liability is not new, nor is it going away. As a reminder, we’ve written previously about the problem women interpreters claiming sexual harassment at the hands of their contractor employment face– it is almost impossible to successfully sue any of America’s finest contractors for things that may have happened in Iraq.

    Murder

    We also wrote about KBR, the contractor who runs the backstage portion of our wars, setting up the chow halls, building the offices, running the power lines and maintaining the plumbing. It is the latter task that resulted in a slip and fall lawsuit just settled after a federal judge ruled that KBR cannot be sued by someone who slipped in a toilet it maintained at Camp Shield. KBR argued against their having any liability for anything they ever did, citing cases as significant as the Supremes’ 1803 hit Marbury v. Freaking Madison in their defense.

    Ironic Comparison to the UK

    No blog post here is complete without an ironic comparison, this time to the way the UK has treated human rights abuses by its soldiers (Ok, yeah, not exactly the same as contractors, but…).

    The European court of human rights on July 7 issued two landmark rulings on UK abuses in Iraq. In the first (al-Skeini and others) it found that Britain had violated the rights of the families of four Iraqis killed by British forces (and one other case in which responsibility for the killing is disputed) by failing to ensure independent investigations into their deaths. In the second (al-Jedda) it ruled the UK had violated the rights of a man it had interned for three years without trial or any real opportunity to challenge his detention, on vague grounds of security.



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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State, Iraq, Military, PRT Life

    Down the Toilet

    April 14, 2011 // Comments Off

    KBROne of the unique features of the current War on Terrors Wars (Iraq, AfPak, et al) is the incredible number of contractors in the field, everyone from shooters like Xe to maintenance men to the stars Kellogg, Brown and Root, KBR, the company old cuss Cheney used to head.

    KBR runs the backstage portion of our wars, setting up the chow halls, building the offices, running the power lines and maintaining the plumbing. It is the latter task that resulted in a slip and fall lawsuit just settled after a federal judge ruled that KBR cannot be sued by someone who slipped in a toilet it maintained at Camp Shield. Shield was a wonderful mortar-bait FOB that used to sit just outside Sadr City in Baghdad. The guy who fell wanted $2 million dollars from KBR in damage payments.

    (more…)

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    Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in Democracy, Embassy/State, Iraq, Military, PRT Life

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