US State Dept Briefing on Private Security Misconduct I Afg

#1
This relates to an ongoing scandal involving misconduct in Afghanistan by private security contractors working for the US State Department.

State Department Briefing by Phillip J. Crowley, September 10, 2009


QUESTION: A former employee of ArmorGroup North America says that he alerted the State Department back in 2007 that some of the guards at the Embassy in Kabul were not only visiting brothels during work hours, but may have also been involved in sex trafficking. Did the State Department ever seriously look into these allegations?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, let me – I have a caution that because this is now an ongoing legal matter, I’ve got to be very careful and I cannot comment on any issue that might be subject to a lawsuit that has been filed. Just to start out, I’m sure you’ll have several questions in this area, I mean, the State Department continues to fully investigate allegations regarding ArmorGroup. We continue interviews. I think we’ve had more than 150 over the past week.

Just to bring you up to date, a total of eight guards have been removed from the contract and have departed Afghanistan, four additional guards resigned of their own accord and have also left the country; additionally, two managers were removed from the contract, two others resigned; one has departed Afghanistan, two others will depart tomorrow. So a total of personnel who are no longer part of the ArmorGroup contact – contract is 16.

This is a contract that is in its third year, initial year plus for option years, so it’s – we have had concerns about this contract over time, both related to performance and conduct. And we have aggressively overseen this contract, beginning in day one back in July of 2007. In a number of cases, because of improper behavior by contract personnel, we have asked the – that they be removed, and that has happened.
I’m not going to talk about specific allegations. Some of that may be the subject of this lawsuit. But in our view, it’s important that we have aggressively overseen this contract since it was let in March of 2007 and went into force in July of 2007. Part of that aggressiveness is that over time, to use a technical term, cure notices which – where we identify specific deficiencies in the contractor’s performance, we’ve issued nine of them over the past two years. In each time – in each case, the contractor has come back with a corrective action plan that we found satisfactory, and, in fact, that was subsequently implemented.

But it’s important that at no time, in our view, was the security of the Embassy ever threatened or compromised.

QUESTION: But the sex trafficking brings us to a new level, at least the allegations. I mean, did the State Department ever look into that specific thing? And are there any criminal investigations dealing with people who are under contract from the U.S. Embassy?

MR. CROWLEY: I can only repeat what I just said. Where – over the course of the contract, where we have been aware of improper behavior by contract personnel, and we have had incidents where we have seen that and taken aggressive actions, those individuals were removed from the contract or removed from the country.

QUESTION: How many is that then, before this latest --

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have a number. I’ll see if I can provide that to you.

QUESTION: Well, then how – if you don’t have a number, how do you know that they were removed?

QUESTION: That it’s been aggressive?

MR. CROWLEY: We know. I --

QUESTION: Wouldn’t that be the next logical question when one is putting together --

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have --

QUESTION: -- one’s guidance for this? I mean --

MR. CROWLEY: I will ask the question, and if I can – if we can provide an answer, I will do so.

QUESTION: The other thing is that I’m not sure I understand why it is you can’t – you can’t comment. The State Department is not actually named in this lawsuit. You’re not – you’re not being sued.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, at the --

QUESTION: So I guess, just to repeat Michelle’s question, what about the –

MR. CROWLEY: At the --

QUESTION: -- have the sex trafficking allegations been looked at before? And is that --

MR. CROWLEY: At the advice of the appropriate authorities here within the Department of State, I’ve been cautioned not to comment on issues that may be directly relevant to the lawsuit that has been filed. That said, I will be happy to talk about the contract itself.

And we feel very strongly that our oversight has been aggressive. It began in the early stages of the contract. Why is that? It’s because we’ve set a high bar for this particular contract in this particular environment. The contract in Kabul, the static guard contract in Kabul, like the similar arrangement in Baghdad, these are unique circumstances. We have standing guards, local hires, guarding all of our facilities around the world, but in this particular case, the unique situations where our facilities are in the middle of conflict zones, and we have taken aggressive actions simply because we understood the threat to our personnel and our facilities in Kabul.

Much of the – of what has come to light in terms of the contractor performance is because we are the ones who identified those deficiencies, provided the notice to the contractor, and insisted on corrective action. So – and it was based on that performance, not perfect, but certainly, we felt, and continue to feel, that the Embassy has been adequately protected and our people have been safe.

QUESTION: So you’d describe ArmorGroup’s performance as not perfect?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, clearly, it’s not perfect. But --

QUESTION: Well, clearly – I mean --

MR. CROWLEY: We have issued nine --

QUESTION: -- one could say that it’s a lot less than not perfect.

MR. CROWLEY: Over the course of two years, we’ve issued nine cure notices for a variety of issues, ranging from the number of people at a particular guard station to the language proficiency of particular guards in critical places. As we’ve described, I think before, there are places where language proficiency is more important than others. All of the guards who were hired under this contract were expected, under the terms of the contract, to have adequate English skills.

QUESTION: Well, what about the sex trafficking allegation, which is what Michele asked about?

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. I’m not going to talk about specific issues from --

QUESTION: But you just talked about the specific issue of the language training.

MR. CROWLEY: I just said --

QUESTION: That’s in the lawsuit as well.

MR. CROWLEY: I will – I make the general point where we have identified and been aware of misconduct by contractor personnel, we have taken aggressive action. That is the case in this most recent incident, and that was the case in other instances as well.

QUESTION: In --

MR. CROWLEY: We expect a high standard of performance and personal responsibility in the people who are working on these posts on behalf of the United States Government. And we feel we have taken aggressive action where we have seen problems evolve, and people have, in fact, been removed from the contract.
If I can get greater detail on that for you, I will. But I’m somewhat constrained because of the fact that this is now part of the lawsuit.

QUESTION: Yesterday, I asked Ian about the response that POGO got from the State Department to their 10-page letter to the Secretary. He said he was not – he hadn’t seen it. But I’m wondering if you have and whether you think that a – that referring this group to a web link for the daily press briefing from September 1st is an appropriate response to a detailed letter.

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think it was an appropriate response.

QUESTION: And so has there been an --

MR. CROWLEY: I am not aware that we have yet responded formally to the POGO letter.

QUESTION: Should they expect to get a more substantive response?

MR. CROWLEY: If and when we do respond substantively, I’ll let you know.

QUESTION: And can you just go – tell me broadly what are the rules for State Department contractors when it comes to visiting brothels?

MR. CROWLEY: We expect a high standard in terms of those who are working on behalf of the United States Government. And where we think that those standards have been compromised – and we have in the past seen and taken action in specific areas – those people have been removed from the contract.

http://www.enewspf.com/index.php?op...88888983:latest-national-news&Itemid=88889930
 
#2
Nice. I bet G4S are really happy with the armor group purchase
 
#4
Ex-managers: security firm cut corners at embassy

By RICHARD LARDNER (AP) – 25 minutes ago

WASHINGTON — Former managers for the security contractor protecting the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan said Thursday the company lowballed its bid for the work and then outfitted a badly understaffed guard corps with second-rate gear.

The allegations come a week after an independent watchdog group said that the private guards in Kabul employed by ArmorGroup NorthAmerica were subjected to abuse and hazing by supervisors who engaged in sexual misconduct and lewd behavior.

James Gordon, former director of operations at ArmorGroup, and John Gorman, a former ArmorGroup manager in Kabul, told reporters they were forced out after trying to get the company to fix a long list of problems.

Gordon, who left ArmorGroup in February 2008, said he alerted the State Department to shortcomings in personnel, equipment and discipline that created security risks, but little changed.

In a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court, Gordon said ArmorGroup withheld from Congress information about employees who went to brothels in Kabul known to house trafficked women.

ArmorGroup's "goal was to maximize their profits, provide a fig leaf of security at the embassy, and pray to God that nobody got killed," Gordon said.

ArmorGroup was awarded the $189 million embassy security contract in March 2007.

Susan Pitcher, a spokeswoman for Wackenhut Services, ArmorGroup's parent company, said Gordon resigned voluntarily and has been "threatening" a lawsuit since last year. A company review of Gordon's allegations found them to be baseless, she added.

The State Department is investigating ArmorGroup's handling of the contract in the wake of the watchdog group's report of misconduct among the company's employees. The department is also examining conditions at the embassy and nearby Camp Sullivan, the offsite location where the ArmorGroup guards live.

At the same time, department officials have insisted that security at the Kabul embassy, one of the country's most important diplomatic outposts, hasn't been compromised.

The Sept. 1 report from the Project on Government Oversight included photos of guards and supervisors in various stages of nudity at parties flowing with alcohol. So far, 16 ArmorGroup employees have been fired or resigned and alcohol has been banned at Camp Sullivan.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley declined on Thursday to comment on Gordon's lawsuit. He said ArmorGroup has corrected problems the department identified in frequent reviews of the contract.

Gorman joined ArmorGroup in April 2007, shortly after it was awarded the Kabul embassy contract.

He said ArmorGroup misled the government by claiming experience and assets the company didn't have. To cut costs and keep profits up, ArmorGroup changed shift lengths for guards from eight to 12 hours and also cut the number of shifts from five to four.

He also said guards were not properly screened, and that this failure led to the misconduct.

Gorman said ArmorGroup dismissed him in June 2007.

Gordon spoke to reporters by telephone from Kabul, where he is employed by a security contractor he would not name.

He said the guard force in Kabul has been "chronically understaffed" because ArmorGroup refused to pay for more people.

Gordon also said that ArmorGroup's logistics manager used U.S. tax dollars to buy counterfeit North Face and Altoona jackets and boots for the guards from a company in Lebanon owned by the manager's wife.

And he described an episode in which the ArmorGroup employee responsible for maintaining the guards' weapons had to be forcibly removed from a brothel during work hours. Gordon said he tried to have the employee fired. That didn't happen, and Gordon said he later learned other ArmorGroup guards and supervisors also frequented brothels in Kabul.
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gToH9pDp9NUK_rs3JcBnE6DAituQD9AKPTR80
 
#5
#6
As a US taxpayer I do not begrudge one cent paid to protect leaders and officials. I do not even begrudge the protection of leaders I have loathed like Carter. They did the job and are targets because of it.

I do begrudge payments to security corporations that take the money and provide "security staff" with less security training than your average school crossing guard and the IQ of a potted plant. The State department has a fine cadre of bright and well trained Diplomatic Security officers. I went to graduate school with a couple and have worked in command centers etc with DS agents. They all were bright and a good as law enforcement officers can get. I know they have very high standards (although they must have lowered them in the mid 80's as they tried to recruit me) . There are, however far to few of them and State has to hire private contractors. The parent company, Wakenhut, protects a number of sensitive facilities here in the states and they do a good job. Their ArmorGroup subsidiary sounds awful. Our foreign service officers are a fine group of extremely bright capable people, serving the US in some of the worlds hellholes. They deserve proper protection wherever they serve. State should correct this immediately and Hillary C chould be held accountable for making it happen.

(JJH, I don't loath Carter because he is from the great State of Georgia, I loath him because he did a miserable job as President, he let our diplomats be held hostage while doing nothing and also because he treated his USSS agents very badly. My elderly Uncle was at Canoe U. with him and loathed him.)
 
#7
DavidBOC said:
As a US taxpayer I do not begrudge one cent paid to protect leaders and officials. I do not even begrudge the protection of leaders I have loathed like Carter. They did the job and are targets because of it.

I do begrudge payments to security corporations that take the money and provide "security staff" with less security training than your average school crossing guard and the IQ of a potted plant. The State department has a fine cadre of bright and well trained Diplomatic Security officers. I went to graduate school with a couple and have worked in command centers etc with DS agents. They all were bright and a good as law enforcement officers can get. I know they have very high standards (although they must have lowered them in the mid 80's as they tried to recruit me) . There are, however far to few of them and State has to hire private contractors. The parent company, Wakenhut, protects a number of sensitive facilities here in the states and they do a good job. Their ArmorGroup subsidiary sounds awful. Our foreign service officers are a fine group of extremely bright capable people, serving the US in some of the worlds hellholes. They deserve proper protection wherever they serve. State should correct this immediately and Hillary C chould be held accountable for making it happen.

(JJH, I don't loath Carter because he is from the great State of Georgia, I loath him because he did a miserable job as President, he let our diplomats be held hostage while doing nothing and also because he treated his USSS agents very badly. My elderly Uncle was at Canoe U. with him and loathed him.)
I am in total agreement and no apologies needed regarding James Earl-he was an embarrassment to Georgia at the time and has become an embarrassment and shame to the nation after his ill-fated presidency.
 

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