Private Contractor Surge Into Afghanistan-(post all AFPAK contractor news here)

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Offline bigron

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Hexavalent chromium case: Iraq contractor cut deal for lawsuit immunity


   Updated: Tuesday, July 13, 2010, 6:34 AM
 Julie Sullivan, The Oregonian
http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/07/taxpayers_not_kbr_could_foot_l.html
 
American taxpayers -- and not KBR-- will likely pay if the war contractor is found to have harmed Oregon Army National Guard veterans who say they were exposed to cancer-causing chemicals in Iraq. The startling details emerged in documents related to a U.S. District Court hearing Monday that illuminate the secretive world of defense contracting.

Documents show that within days of the 2003 Iraq invasion, Kellogg, Brown and Root delivered an ultimatum to the Pentagon:

Either the Army cover the potential cost of any soldier or civilian killed or harmed on a KBR project – or the defense contractor would not carry out its no-bid contract restoring Iraqi oil.

The Army agreed to it, according to a deposition given by a KRB attorney who delivered the ultimatum. The attorney added that KBR has also recently notified the Army that it will have to reimburse KBR for court and potential liability costs.

On Monday, attorneys representing the 26 current and former Oregon soldiers and those representing KBR argued nearly 80 minutes over whether the case should go forward in U.S. District Court in Oregon. KBR asked Magistrate Judge Paul Papak for a second time to dismiss the case, saying a private company doing the job of the military on the battlefield should receive the same envelope of protection the military does.


Hexavalent chromium
Read The Oregonian's continuing coverage of the health problems linked to hexavalent chromium.In 2009, Oregon National Guard troops sued the former Halliburton subsidiary claiming that managers downplayed or dismissed the presence hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing rust fighter. In 2003, U.S. and British troops had guarded KBR workers repairing a decrepit water-treatment plant near Basra used to maintain pressure in oil wells. Piles of the toxic orange-yellow powder stained the soil, water and walls of the critical Qarmat Ali plant.

Troops from four states and Britain later claimed they suffer health problems as a result. At least two who were exposed to the chemical have died of cancer. KBR defended itself by saying the Army was responsible for safety at the plant and that the soldiers were not there long enough to be risk of cancer. Exposure to 40 micrograms of hexavalent chromium per cubic meter -- about the size of a grain of salt in about a cubic yard -- has shown a high increase in lung cancer, stomach, brain, renal, bladder and bone cancers.

Judge Papak said he will decide quickly whether the case should proceed. But already the limited discovery Papak has allowed is being tracked by attorneys suing, or defending, KBR nationwide. More logistical support has been conducted by private companies in Iraq and Afghanistan than in any previous U.S. wars.

KBR's attorney Raymond Biagini, of Washington D.C., told the judge that KRB workers arrived in Iraq to do the job that the military, or whom he called "green suiters," used to do. He called KBR "a force multiplier" that allowed an all-volunteer Army to fight while KBR took care of making meals, hauling fuel and doing laundry. Task Force Restore Iraqi Oil was deemed critical to the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom and to the security and stability of the country.

Biagini told the judge that like the military, KBR should be immune from liability as a combatant in a war zone, whose management decisions were entertwined with military and international political decisions.

For instance, the Qarmat Ali should replaced, but was rebuilt for political reasons.

"We were in a battlefield under the command of the U.S. military," Biagini said. "Why did we have these wonderful escorts with us? They were the shooters, we didn't have guns."

But the soldiers' attorney, David Sugerman of Portland, argued that the government enjoys immunity only if it acts within the law and within the scope of its contract. He said KBR managers violated federal health and safety laws and its contract by failing to do an environmental assessment and concealing the presence of the chemical. And he said that KBR had the full authority for health and safety decisions at the plant.

Sugerman was joined by Houston attorney Mike Doyle, who represents 140 Indiana Guard members. On Monday, Spc. Jay Louisiana was among five current and former Oregon soldiers in the courtroom. He joined the suit since returning this spring from his third combat tour. He sat and listened, trying to understand the legal arguments.

Attorneys had asked former National Guard soldier Larry Roberta to clarify the dates his unit served. Roberta brought what proof he had: his Army Commendation Medal Certificate awarded for Task Force RIO.

-- Julie Sullivan

Offline bigron

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Blumenauer demands that Pentagon explain KBR immunity deal

    Updated: Thursday, July 15, 2010, 6:23 AM
 Julie Sullivan, The Oregonian
http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2010/07/blumenauer_calls_for_no-bid_do.html
 
 
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer is demanding that the Pentagon explain how war contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root may have been granted immunity from harming any soldier or civilian in Iraq.

In a sharply worded letter Wednesday, Blumenauer gave the secretary of defense five days to produce details of KBR's claims of indemnification. The details of a secret agreement have emerged in a U.S. District Court case in Portland and were reported Tuesday in The Oregonian. Blumenauer said he plans to take his concerns to colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee.

"I find this mind-numbing," Blumenauer said after sending the letter to Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.

Twenty-six Oregon Army National Guard veterans who guarded KBR employees restoring Iraqi oil production in 2003 are suing the contractor, claiming the contractor knowingly or negligently exposed them to a cancer-causing chemical. Another 140 Indiana National Guard veterans have filed a similar suit.

KBR defends its conduct at the Qarmat Ali water-treatment plant, saying it "was governed at all times by the terms of its contract with the United States military."


Hexavalent Chromium
Read The Oregonian's continuing coverage of the problems with Hexavalent Chromium.Twenty-six Oregon Army National Guard veterans who guarded KBR employees restoring Iraqi oil production in 2003 are suing the contractor, claiming the contractor knowingly or negligently exposed them to a cancer-causing chemical. Another 140 Indiana National Guard veterans have filed a similar suit.

KBR defends its conduct at the Qarmat Ali water-treatment plant, saying it "was governed at all times by the terms of its contract with the United States military."

But during a June 22 deposition in the Portland case, Chris Heinrich, a Texas attorney for KBR, revealed his company had performed contingency planning in 2002 that identified hazards in the Iraqi oil fields, well before the invasion.

After KBR had signed its no-bid Restore Iraqi Oil contract and as the coalition invasion was taking place in March 2003, Heinrich said he went to the Pentagon himself to demand immunity for KBR's restoration work. Heinrich told Army officials that KBR refused to do the job unless granted "broad coverage." KBR required that the U.S. Treasury -- taxpayers and not the contractor -- pay for any property damage, injury or death of any soldier or civilian working at a KBR site. That applied even if the harm resulted from KBR negligence.

"We proposed some language that we preferred to have in terms of the indemnification," Heinrich said, adding that the agreement was typed up during that single meeting with an Army attorney. Heinrich said an amended contract was signed shortly afterward by the secretary of the army -- at the time Tom White -- or someone at the "secretariat level."

Despite seven years of war and months of discovery in the U.S. District Court case in Portland, that clause remained secret until Heinrich's testimony under oath.

A furious Blumenauer sent a letter to Gates, saying, "I am deeply concerned that the Department's contracts appear to leave the U.S. service members doubly exposed: first to the unsafe environment created by these contractors and second as taxpayers potentially paying for the legal defense of the very contractors causing harm."

KBR, which in 2007 split from its parent company, Halliburton, maintains in press releases that the Iraqis left the cancer-causing chemical and "immediately after we became aware of potential contamination ... KBR began working with the military to conduct air and soil testing at the site and posted signs in English and Arabic to advise of the presence of the chemical." KBR said that U.S. and British forces at the Qarmat Ali plant also performed "a multitude of medical and environmental tests in 2003 and concluded that there were no long term health risks associated with the soldiers' brief exposures."

"It is apparent that since the plaintiffs cannot sue the Army, they are instead taking action against KBR."

Dozens of National Guard soldiers claim lung, stomach and skin problems as a result of guarding KBR civilians at Qarmat Ali. Two Indiana soldiers and one Oregonian who served there have since died of cancer.

Blumenauer also asked for a list of contractors with similar indemnification and whether Congress was ever notified. He told The Oregonian that downsizing the military and outsourcing to private contractors has been costly.

"We now have more civilian contractors in Afghanistan than we have soldiers," Blumenauer said. "That has been used to hide the scale of the activity and do war on the cheap. But as we look back, there are lots of hidden costs, including the safety and the well-being of our soldiers."

In the Portland case, Oregon veterans await a decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak who is considering KBR's second motion to dismiss.

--Julie Sullivan

Offline bigron

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Pentagon Seeks Contractor to Move Weapons Through Pakistan/Afghanistan

Jeremy Scahill | May 25, 2010


The United States military is in the process of taking bids from private war contractors to secure and ship massive amounts of US military equipment through sensitive areas of Pakistan into Afghanistan, where it will then be distributed to various US Forward Operating Bases and other facilities. According to the contract solicitation [1] (PDF), "There will be an average of 5000" import shipments "transiting the Afghanistan and Pakistan ground lines of communication (GLOC) per month, along with 500 export shipments." The solicitation states that, "This number may increase or decrease due to US military transportation requirements," adding, "The contractor must maintain a constant capability to surge to any location within Afghanistan or Pakistan" within a 30-day period. Among the duties the contractor will perform is "intelligence, to include threat assessments throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan."

And while it seems the United States is trying to put a Pakistani or Afghan face on the work, the terms of the contract mandate that US personnel will be involved with inherently risky and potentially lethal operations. Among the firms listed [2] by the Department of Defense as "interested vendors" are an Afghan company tied to a veteran CIA officer and run by the son of Afghan defense minister, General Abdul Rahim Wardak, and a Pakistani outfit with links to Blackwater.

Perhaps most striking about this US military contract solicitation is the admission by the military that contractors are being used for shipping and guarding military hardware as a runaround to the current official policy of the US and Pakistan governments that the US military does not conduct operations in Pakistan. "Due to current limitations on having US military presence in Pakistan and threat levels precluding US Military active involvement with the contractor 'outside the wire' in Afghanistan, the contractor must be proactive at identifying appropriate methods for obtaining the necessary in-transit visibility information," according to the contract solicitation.

Many of the companies that have currently expressed interest in the contract are registered as Pakistani or Afghan businesses. It is well established that the US military depends on Pakistani and Afghan intermediaries to pay off [3] the Taliban and other resistance groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan to allow safe passage of US military hardware and other supplies, meaning the United States is effectively funding both sides of the war. As my colleague Aram Roston reported [3] last year for The Nation, "US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon's logistics contracts--hundreds of millions of dollars--consists of payments to insurgents." Other US military sources have told me the number might be as high as 20 percent.

The current contracting arrangement for which the DoD is soliciting bids is essentially a more formalized way of doing the same thing. But while the contractor may place a Pakistani or Afghan stamp on the paper trail and allow the United States and Pakistan to deny that US personnel are involved, the security language of the solicitation actually mandates that US personnel work the operations.

According to the solicitation, the contractor must provide personnel "capable of facilitating, coordinating, obtaining, and reporting critical movement control data and information from the appropriate US government personnel at multiple locations." The personnel must "have the ability to obtain necessary identification...to gain access to base camps within Afghanistan without escort." Most importantly, "Personnel must have a valid US Secret Security Clearance." That level of clearance—"Secret"—cannot be issued to a foreign citizen, meaning that the contract actually necessitates US citizens working on the contract, presumably in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This arrangement is not new. In fact, this is precisely the arrangement I reported on last year for The Nation (See "The Secret US War in Pakistan [4]"). According to Blackwater and US military sources, US military shipments were being protected on a contract with Kestral Logistics, a powerful Pakistani firm, which specializes in military logistical support, private security and intelligence consulting. It is staffed with former high-ranking Pakistani army and government officials. A former senior Blackwater executive with experience in Pakistan told me that Kestral subcontracted to Blackwater and that "Blackwater has provided convoy security for Defense Department shipments destined for Afghanistan that would arrive in the port at Karachi. Blackwater, according to the former executive, would guard the supplies as they were transported overland from Karachi to Peshawar and then west through the Torkham border crossing, the most important supply route for the US military in Afghanistan." Blackwater, he said, was paid by the Pakistani government through Kestral for consulting services. "That gives the Pakistani government the cover to say, 'Hey, no, we don't have any Westerners doing this. It's all local and our people are doing it.' But it gets them the expertise that Westerners provide for [counterterrorism]-related work," according to the former Blackwater executive.

All of this is consistent with the US military's current contract solicitation. What's more, Kestral is listed as an "interested vendor" on the current DoD contract. According to federal lobbying records, Kestral has hired former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega, who served in that post from 2003 to 2005, to lobby the US government, including the State Department, USAID and Congress, on foreign affairs issues "regarding [Kestral's] capabilities to carry out activities of interest to the United States." Noriega was hired through his firm, Vision Americas, which he runs with Christina Rocca, a former CIA operations official who served as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs from 2001 to 2006 and was deeply involved in shaping US policy toward Pakistan. Since late 2009, Kestral has paid Vision Americas and a Vision Americas-affiliated firm, Firecreek Ltd., at least $60,000 to lobby on defense and foreign policy issues.

Another company that is listed as an "interested vendor" is NCL Holdings. "What NCL Holdings is most notorious for in Kabul contracting circles," according to Roston's reporting [3] for The Nation in November, "is the identity of its chief principal, Hamed Wardak. He is the young American son of Afghanistan's current defense minister, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, who was a leader of the mujahedeen against the Soviets." Roston reported that NCL's advisory board included Milton Bearden, "a well-known former CIA officer. Bearden is an important voice on Afghanistan issues; in October he was a witness before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where Senator John Kerry, the chair, introduced him as 'a legendary former CIA case officer and a clearheaded thinker and writer.' It is not every defense contracting company that has such an influential adviser." Bearden is no longer listed on NCL's website [5] as a member of the advisory board. Roston reported that in Afghanistan, "NCL, operating on a $360 million contract from the US military, and owned by the Afghan defense minister's son, is paying millions per year from those funds to a company [Watan Risk Management] owned by President Karzai's cousins, for protection." In a letter [6] to a US Congressional committee after Roston's story was published, NCL denied the allegations.

The bulk of the work in protecting US military shipments through Pakistan and Afghanistan is done for the military's Surface Deployment and Distribution Command [7], which, according to the SDDC website [8], "support the transportation management of freight such as tanks, fuel, ammunition, combat vehicles, food and other commodities to locations within CONUS [Continental United States] and throughout the world." According to the Afghanistan/Pakistan solicitation, the contractor will transport and secure "SDDC and other US military-sponsored shipments entering Pakistan via Karachi or Port Qasim (all terminals) and entering Afghanistan via the Chaman, Torkham, Hairaton, Sher Khan, and/or Towraghandi border crossings (import) and exiting Afghanistan and Pakistan via the aforementioned nodes (export). Additional entry and exit nodes may be added at the discretion of the US Government."

Once the contractor takes control of the military shipments, at "predestinated locations" throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan, the contractor is required to deliver reports back to the US military's contracting command. These include "ports, border crossings, official and unofficial checkpoints and rest stops, and final destinations / base camps within the OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom) theater of operations."

Many of these shipments will come into Pakistan through the ports of Karachi and Qasim, and the military lists the following as potential additional areas through which shipments would pass:

• In Pakistan: Quetta, Peshawar, Torkham, and Chaman.
• In Afghanistan: Torkham, Chaman, Hairaton, Kabul (Supreme / Camp Phoenix / Afghan National Army-Afghan National Police Depots, Jalalabad, Bagram, Shank, Sharona, Salerno, Kandahar, and Bastion / Leatherneck.

The solicitation essentially leaves oversight of the shipments to a combination of technology and self-policing. Radio-frequency identification tags are placed on the cargo and the contractor is required to document the movement of the shipments using Hand Held Interrogator devices throughout the trip. Though they sound ominous, the HHIs are mobile devices commonly used in austere locations to transmit data. "Due to restrictions on the military presence at key logistical locations in Afghanistan and Pakistan," the solicitation states, "quality assurance on...shipments is problematic. Therefore, the contractor must document and report any deficiencies found." According to the solicitation, "Common violations" include: failure to properly secure cargo, failure to take proper measures to prevent damage, and improper use of US Government equipment."

Read the contract solicitation here [1] (PDF). :
http://%20http//s3.amazonaws.com/thenation/pdf/pakistan-logistics-watermark.pdf


Source URL: http://www.thenation.com/blog/pentagon-seeks-contractor-move-weapons-through-pakistanafghanistan


Links:
[1] http:// http://s3.amazonaws.com/thenation/pdf/pakistan-logistics-watermark.pdf
[2] https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=3eb262d38cd1717ff5853b5778510755&tab=ivl&tabmode=list&subtab=list&subtabmode=list&=
[3] http://www.thenation.com/print/article/how-us-funds-taliban
[4] http://www.thenation.com/article/secret-us-war-pakistan
[5] http://www.nclholdings.com/about/board-of-advisors
[6] http://www.nclholdings.com/news-events/4/59-statement-of-hamed-l-wardak&Itemid=40
[7] http://www.sddc.army.mil/Public/Home
[8] http://www.sddc.army.mil/public/Global Cargo Distribution/


Offline bigron

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America's New Mercenaries

As American commanders meet this week for the Afghanistan review, Obama is hiring military contractors at a rate that would make Bush blush.

by Tim Shorrock



A private security contractor stands in front of a helicopter departing from Combat Outpost Terra Nova in Kandahar, Afghanistan on July 19, 2010. (Rodrigo Abd / AP Photo)


The Daile Beast, December 19, 2010

Article here:

http://uruknet.info/?p=m73058&hd=&size=1&l=e







 

Offline bigron

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Contractors behaving badly mean headaches for US


Contractors' bad behavior _ public drunkenness, teen hired to dance_ mean headaches for US

by RICHARD LARDNER
AP News

Dec 19, 2010 06:03 EST

Read here:
http://wire.antiwar.com/2010/12/19/contractors-behaving-badly-mean-headaches-for-us/




Offline bigron

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More examples of contractor headaches at a glance


The Associated Press
AP News

http://wire.antiwar.com/2010/12/19/more-examples-of-contractor-headaches-at-a-glance/

Dec 19, 2010 07:18 EST

Offline bigron

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Beyond WikiLeaks: The Privatization of War


by: Jose L. Gomez del Prado, UN Working Group on Mercenaries



(Photo: FRVMED)

t r u t h o u t, December 26, 2010


The United Nation Human Rights Council, under the Universal Periodic Review, started in Geneva on November 5, 2010 to review the human rights record of the United States. The following is an edited version of the presentation given by Jose L. Gomez del Prado in Geneva on November 3, 2010 at a parallel meeting at the UN Palais des Nations on that occasion.

FULL REPORT HERE
http://www.truth-out.org/beyond-wikileaks-files-the-privatization-war66239




Offline bigron

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Onetime Blackwater affiliate scores U.S. contract

By Jeff Stein


A company closely associated with the security firm once known as Blackwater has won a new State Department contract worth more than $84 million over five years.

The contract was won by International Developments Solutions, a joint venture that includes U.S. Training Center, a company until recently owned by Xe Services, which changed its name from Blackwater following a cascade of legal problems over several years.

The consortium will provide protective security in the Israel-occupied West Bank, “services that are based from the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

MORE :

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/spy-talk/2011/01/blackwater-linked_firm_scores.html?referrer=emaillink


Offline bigron

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Published on Wednesday, May 4, 2011 by Wired.com



Blackwater’s New Ethics Chief: John Ashcroft


by Spencer Ackerman


HERE

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/05/04-3