Despite contractor corruption, Beck and Napolitano back use of "private army" in Afghanistan

››› ››› TERRY KREPEL

Glenn Beck and Andrew Napolitano endorsed the idea of a "private army," with Beck claiming there are "private individuals that could probably take care of things in Afghanistan better." In fact, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. government has made widespread use of private contractors who have been accused of waste and fraud and been allegedly implicated in the deaths of military personnel and civilians.

Beck: "Private individuals ... could probably take care of things in Afghanistan better"

From the June 19 edition of Fox Business' Freedom Watch:

NAPOLITANO: Do you accept Jefferson's maxim that I always say at the beginning of every freedom watch, that "that government is best which governs the least."

BECK: Yes.

NAPOLITANO: Why do you believe that?

BECK: Because I have not seen the government do anything except cause problems, with an exception of maybe defense, but I'd like to give it a whirl, on, you know, defense that wasn't solely run by the government. I think you have private individuals that could probably take care of things in Afghanistan better.

NAPOLITANO: You know, there's a weird phrase in the Constitution that lets the Congress issue, quote, "letters of mark and reprisal." That basically means, hire a private army to get this done, and they can get it done faster, easier, and far more efficiently.

BECK: We wouldn't be in Afghanistan today if it wasn't for that. I also think that the Founders were exactly right. They knew that people, all people, go bad with power, and you've got to limit that.

Contractors implicated in military deaths, civilian killings

KBR's faulty work in Iraq allegedly killed U.S. soldiers and civilian contractors. KBR, which received more than $24 billion in military contracts through May 2008 in exchange for performing a wide array of services related to the Iraq war, was allegedly responsible for the fatal electrocutions of 16 U.S. service members between the start of the war and October 2008 due to faulty electrical work. In July 2008, The New York Times reported that the Department of Defense ordered electrical inspections of all buildings in Iraq maintained by KBR because of the deaths. The Times reported in October 2008 that the Pentagon "rebuked its largest contractor in Iraq after a series of inspections uncovered shoddy electrical work and other problems on American military bases there." Additionally, in September 2006, a group of truckers who had worked for KBR provided congressional testimony against the company, claiming that its practices had unduly endangered them and contributed to the deaths of seven workers and two soldiers in an ambush.

Blackwater linked to shootings of Iraqi civilians. In September 2007, security guards working for contractor Blackwater Worldwide (now Xe Services) were accused of killing several unarmed civilians in Baghdad. While Blackwater claimed its guards were firing in response to an attack, according to The New York Times, "Iraqi investigators, supported by witness accounts, have failed to turn up evidence of any attack on Blackwater guards that might have provoked the shooting." Charges against five Blackwater employees in connection with the shootings were dismissed in December 2009 after a judge found that prosecutors and agents had improperly used statements that the guards provided to the State Department in the hours and days after the shooting. In part as a result of the incident, the Iraqi government denied a license for Blackwater to operate in the country, and the U.S. State Department subsequently allowed its contract with Blackwater to expire. Nevertheless, the State Department recently awarded a $120 million contract to Blackwater/Xe for security work in Afghanistan.

Blackwater employees charged in Afghan killings. In January 2010, two employees of a Blackwater/Xe subsidiary were charged by federal prosecutors with second-degree murder in the deaths of two civilians in Afghanistan. TPMMuckraker reported that prior to signing on with Blackwater/Xe, the two employees had "left the military with other-than-honorable discharges for behavior ranging from assault to going AWOL and testing positive for cocaine, according to service records that surfaced in bond hearings."

Contractors accused of waste and fraud

Report: Billions lost to contractor fraud, waste. In June 2009, the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan issued an interim report stating that "[c]ontractors are doing vital work, generally to good effect, but the sheer scale of their operations and weaknesses in the federal contract management and oversight systems create plentiful opportunities for waste, fraud, and abuse." The report also stated that "billions of taxpayer dollars spent on wartime contracting have been lost to waste, fraud, and abuse. ... The failures undermine U.S. policy objectives, waste taxpayer dollars, and threaten the well-being of American troops."

Questions raised about favoritism in awarding of contracts. An August 2008 Times article noted that "the dependence on private companies to support the war effort has led to questions about whether political favoritism has played a role in the awarding of multibillion-dollar contracts," adding:

When the war began, for example, Kellogg, Brown & Root [KBR], a subsidiary of Halliburton, the company run by Dick Cheney before he was vice president, became the largest Pentagon contractor in Iraq. After years of criticism and scrutiny for its role in Iraq, Halliburton sold the unit, which is still the largest defense contractor in the war, and has 40,000 employees in Iraq.

DOD audits of KBR's Iraq and Afghanistan contract found at least $3.2 billion in questioned and $1.5 billion in unsupported costs. The Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) -- a Department of Defense agency that audits Pentagon contracts -- presented a report in May 2009 on its audits of KBR's contract for troop support in Iraq and Afghanistan, which found more than $3.2 billion in questioned costs and $1.5 billion in unsupported costs out of $28.7 billion in audited task orders claimed under the contract. DCAA suspended or disapproved more than $553 million in costs claimed by KBR through the contract.

Blackwater accused of taking weapons designated for Afghan police. During a February 24 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Carl Levin stated that Blackwater had acquired, without any apparent authorization, hundreds of weapons from a U.S.-operated facility that stores weapons and ammunition for use by the Afghan National Police. Levin said that in one transfer of weapons, "[r]eceipts show that the guns were issued to an 'Eric Cartman' or 'Carjman' from 'BW CNTU' -- shorthand for Blackwater, Counter Narcotics Training Unit. ... In a February 4, 2010 letter to the Committee, a lawyer for Blackwater said it has no records of a person named Eric Cartman or Carjman having ever been employed by the company." Eric Cartman is the name of a character in the TV show South Park.

Contractors found guilty or under investigation for fraud, corruption, bribery

Three employees guilty of conspiracy in Afghanistan airfield fraud scheme. Former KBR employees James Sellman and Wallace Ward were charged in 2007 with conspiracy in a fraud scheme involving falsifying documents in exchange for payment at an Afghanistan airfield. According to the Justice Department:

James N. Sellman, 31, of Raeford, N.C., and Wallace A. Ward, 25, Columbus, Ga., were charged yesterday in a seven-count indictment with conspiracy, making a false writing, bribery, and making a false claim to the Department of Defense. The indictment alleges that between May and September 2006, while assigned to oversee fuel deliveries to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, Sellman and Ward conspired to accept bribes from Afghan truck drivers in return for falsifying government documents indicating receipt of the fuel and then diverting over 80 truckloads of fuel for sale outside the airfield. According to the indictment, the conspiracy involved over 784,000 gallons of fuel valued at more than $2.1 million.

Justice Department records show Sellman was sentenced in 2008 to 26 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $675,000 in restitution; Ward was sentenced in 2008 to 26 months in prison and ordered to pay $216,000 in restitution. A third former employee, Raschad L. "Sean" Lewis, was found guilty in 2009 "of conspiracy, false writing, bribery of a public official, and false claims" for his part in the scheme.

Halliburton worker pleaded guilty to taking kickbacks on Iraqi subcontracts. According to an August 23, 2005, Washington Post article, Glenn Allen Powell, a KBR employee in Iraq from October 2003 to January 2005, "admitted to taking 20 percent off the top of a subcontract, or more than $110,000." The Post also noted: "While the scheme was ongoing, KBR had been unwittingly billing the U.S. government an inflated amount for reimbursement because of the 20 percent kickback. The difference has since been refunded."

KBR employee pleaded guilty to participating in kickback scheme with a Kuwaiti contractor. In July 2007, the Houston Chronicle reported that former KBR employee Anthony Martin "pleaded guilty to participating in a kickback scheme related to the award of a $4.7 million contract in 2003 to a Kuwaiti firm, the Department of Justice said." The Chronicle reported that Martin told a federal jury that in 2003, "he worked with the manager of the Kuwaiti firm to hide more than $50,000 in kickbacks within a subcontract for heavy trucks and refrigerator trailers."

DOJ has announced a lawsuit against KBR for charging "improper costs" in Iraq from 2003 to 2006. On April 1, the Justice Department announced it had filed a lawsuit against KBR, alleging violations of the False Claims Act committed from 2003 to 2006 -- while KBR was owned by Halliburton. The suit "alleges that KBR knowingly included impermissible costs for private armed security in billings to the Army under the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) III contract."

Blackwater/Xe executives under investigation for reported attempts to bribe government officials. In November 2009, the Times reported that "[t]op executives at Blackwater Worldwide authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support after a September 2007 episode in which Blackwater security guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad," citing "former company officials." Both the Justice Department and the Iraqi government have reportedly opened criminal investigations into those claims.

Beck has history of ignoring corruption by military contractors

Beck focused on ACORN, ignored Blackwater and KBR. A Media Matters analysis of Beck's Fox News program from May 8, 2006, to September 18, 2009, found that Beck was 50 times more likely to reference alleged scandals involving ACORN -- which he referred to as "clear-cut, unadulterated, taxpayer-funded corruption" -- than any of the scandals involving Blackwater or KBR, even though the Blackwater and KBR scandals involved far more taxpayer money than those involving ACORN.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Afghanistan, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
Fox Business
Person
Glenn Beck, Andrew Napolitano
Show/Publication
Freedom Watch
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