The Rewards for Killing Our Troops

4KBR In March, House Oversight Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) announced that he was investigating the accidental electrocution of troops in Iraq and pressed Defense Secretary Robert Gates for uncensored details on at least a dozen deaths since 2003. Contractor KBR is at the center of the probe, with questions about whether it irresponsibly ignored wiring problems.

Today, The New York Times has more details on this malpractice, including the fact that senior KBR and Pentagon officials repeatedly ignored warnings by KBR electricians:

One electrician warned his KBR bosses in his 2005 letter of resignation that unsafe electrical work was “a disaster waiting to happen.” Another said he witnessed an American soldier in Afghanistan receiving a potentially lethal shock. A third provided e-mail messages and other documents showing that he had complained to KBR and the government that logs were created to make it appear that nonexistent electrical safety systems were properly functioning.

KBR itself told the Pentagon in early 2007 about unsafe electrical wiring at a base near the Baghdad airport, but no repairs were made. Less than a year later, a soldier was electrocuted in a shower there.

John McLain, the electrician who in 2007 told a visiting defense contracting agency official about his concerns over the logs, was fired shortly after the incident. Another employee “said his KBR bosses mocked him for raising safety issues.”

This sort of refusal to acknowledge and correct errors seems to be standard operating procedure within KBR, unfortunately. Former employee Jamie Leigh Jones revealed that after she was gang-raped by co-workers, not only did the company place her “under guard in a shipping container,” but warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she would lose her job. In an opposite situation, a KBR employee who was “busted by the military” for looting in Iraq was “given a promotion.”

Similarly, Bunnatine “Bunny” Greenhouse, who oversaw contracts for the Army Corps of Engineers, told the Senate in 2005, that KBR represented the “most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career.” Reflecting the Pentagon’s efforts to protect KBR, Greenhouse was demoted almost two months to the day after voicing that critique.

Despite all these irresponsible, unethical actions (as well as providing contaminated water to troops and evading millions in taxes), KBR recently announced that it had tripled its first quarter net profits and received new contracts worth up to $150 million for 10 years to provide assistance to the U.S. military overseas.

Inserted from <Think Progress>

There you have it.  If your company kills US troops through fraudulent contracting practices, you will reap the rewards of record profit and more no-bid contracts from the Bush/McBoomBoom/GOP Reich.  This is especially true is a good chunk of those profits end up in the pockets of ChickenHawk Cheney.

How do they get away with it?  Despite many requests for a DOJ investigation into KBR’s illegal activities, the DOJ has ignored all such requests.  This will not go on indefinitely.  With a Democrat in the White House and an honest AG, the investigations will proceed.  Under a statute from WWII, the federal government can sue them for treble damages.  Unfortunately, they have foreseen this.  As I explained on March 12, 2007,  Halliburton relocated their corporate HQ to Dubai to place themselves out of reach of US courts.  In addition, they spun-off KBR, so it is now a subsidiary.  They can raid the KBR for its assets and let it fail should the judgements pile up.

More Military Waivers for Felons

22army …Recruits were allowed to enlist after having been convicted of crimes including assault, burglary, drug possession and making terrorist threats.

The statistics were released by Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

He has given the Pentagon a month to hand over up-to-date details on the number of waivers granted, reports on how the recruits have performed and information about how the waivers are related to meeting recruitment goals.

Pentagon statistics show the Army granted 511 felony waivers in 2007, just over twice the 249 it granted the year before. The Army aims to recruit more than 80,000 new soldiers a year.

The Marines — which recruits fewer new service members each year than the Army — also reported a rise in waivers for felonies, with 350 granted in 2007, compared with 208 in 2006.

“There was a rapid rise in 2007 in the number of waivers the Army and Marine Corps granted to recruits convicted of serious felonies,” Waxman said in a letter Monday to David Chu, the under-secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

“I understand that there can be valid reasons for personnel waivers and recognize the importance of providing opportunities to individuals who have served their sentences and rehabilitated themselves.

“At the same time, concerns have been raised that the significant increase in the recruitment of persons with criminal records is a result of the strain put on the military by the Iraq war and may be undermining military readiness,” he charged… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <CNN>

Because I work with prisoners, you know that I’m all for giving people a second chance, but I doubt that a second chance has anything to do with this at all.  Instead, it reflects the desperation of Bush, McConJob and the GOP for cannon fodder to grind-up in their failed war for oil and conquest.  A war zone is NOT an place to put people with documented issues with coping skills.

FBI Deceived Congress on NSLs

16fbi Counterterrorism officials in FBI headquarters slowed an investigation into a possible conspirator in the 2005 London bombings by forcing a field agent to return documents acquired from a U.S. university. Why? Because the agent received the documents through a lawful subpoena, while headquarters wanted him to demand the records under the USA Patriot Act, using a power the FBI did not have, but desperately wanted.

When a North Carolina State University lawyer correctly rejected the second records demand, the FBI obtained another subpoena. Two weeks later, the delay was cited by FBI director Robert Mueller in congressional testimony as proof that the USA Patriot Act needed to be expanded.

The strange episode is recounted in newly declassified documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents shed new light on how senior FBI officials’ determination to gain independence from judicial oversight slowed its own investigation, and led the bureau’s director to offer inaccurate testimony to Congress. The revelations are likely to play a key role in Capitol Hill hearings Tuesday and Wednesday on the FBI’s use of so-called national security letters, or NSLs

At issue is the FBI’s probe of a former chemistry graduate student at North Carolina State University who was then suspected aiding the deadly attack. The student has since been cleared of any involvement.

The agent investigating the student in the Charlotte, North Carolina field office obtained a grand jury subpoena demanding some university records on the student. But he was then advised by superiors in Washington DC to return the papers and draft an NSL demanding the documents instead.

Under the USA Patriot Act, FBI counterterrorism investigators can self-issue such letters to get phone records, portions of credit reports and bank records, simply by certifying that the records are relevant to an investigation. Unlike subpoenas, NSLs do not require probable cause, and at the time obliged the recipient to not discuss the demand with anyone, ever. In contrast, gag orders attached to grand jury subpoenas have expiration dates.

FBI agents have relied heavily on the power, issuing more than 100,000 NSLs in 2004 and 2005 combined. The first audit of the FBI’s use of the power found the agents became sloppy in their use of the power and one HQ office went rogue and issued hundreds of fake emergency requests for phone records.

The problem in the bombing case: the NSL demanded the university’s health records on the student. Even under the USA Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the NSL’s reach, university records and health records are exempt, making the order from headquarters a sure-fire path to delay.

The FBI even has sample letters for each of the 11 kinds of records NSL can be used to obtain. To comply with the demand from Washington, the Charlotte agent had to modify a sample letter intended for internet records.

The university, which had readily turned over the records in response to a subpoena, rejected the illegal NSL. Two weeks later, Mueller, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, portrayed the university as intransigent and said the incident showed the FBI needed the power to force the turnover of all sorts of records without having to involve the court system.

“Now in my mind, we should not, in that circumstance have to show somebody that this was an emergency,” Mueller testified on July 27, 2005. “We should’ve been able to have a document, an administrative subpoena that we took to the university and got those records immediately.”… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Wired News>

In a nutshell. the FBI had the records they wanted, legally obtained through a court-ordered subpoena, gave them back, issued an illegal NSL, were properly denied, obtained another court-ordered subpoena and got the same records they had the first time. Then Mueller lied to Congress, saying that the delay in obtaining these records justified expanding the Patriot Act.

In translation, this Bush/GOP minion lied to Congress to support the ongoing GOP agenda to transform our nation into a totalitarian police state.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

Obama Would Investigate Bush/GOP Reich

Bush-Cheney08 Tonight I had an opportunity to ask Barack Obama a question that is on the minds of many Americans, yet rarely rises to the surface in the great ruckus of the 2008 presidential race — and that is whether an Obama administration would seek to prosecute officials of a former Bush administration on the revelations that they greenlighted torture, or for other potential crimes that took place in the White House…

…Here’s his answer, in its entirety:

What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that’s already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued. I can’t prejudge that because we don’t have access to all the material right now. I think that you are right, if crimes have been committed, they should be investigated. You’re also right that I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt because I think we’ve got too many problems we’ve got to solve.

So this is an area where I would want to exercise judgment — I would want to find out directly from my Attorney General — having pursued, having looked at what’s out there right now — are there possibilities of genuine crimes as opposed to really bad policies. And I think it’s important– one of the things we’ve got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing betyween [sic] really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. You know, I often get questions about impeachment at town hall meetings and I’ve said that is not something I think would be fruitful to pursue because I think that impeachment is something that should be reserved for exceptional circumstances. Now, if I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in coverups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law — and I think that’s roughly how I would look at it.

… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <ATTYTOOD>

While I would have preferred a much stronger statement from Obama, especially given that I and many other bloggers have documented top-down crimes time and time again, I have to consider Obama’s willingness not to sweep Bush/GOP crimes under the rug as a huge plus for him.

To the best of my knowledge, Clinton has not weighed in on this issue. If I am mistaken, would one of you correct me?

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

No Job for Poor Gonzo!

13gonzales Alberto R. Gonzales, like many others recently unemployed, has discovered how difficult it can be to find a new job. Mr. Gonzales, the former attorney general, who was forced to resign last year, has been unable to interest law firms in adding his name to their roster, Washington lawyers and his associates He has, through friends, put out inquiries, they said, and has not found any takers. What makes Mr. Gonzales’s case extraordinary is that former attorneys general, the government’s chief lawyer, are typically highly sought.

A longtime loyalist to George W. Bush dating to their years together in Texas, Mr. Gonzales was once widely viewed as a strong candidate to be the first Hispanic-American nominated one day to the Supreme Court. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he carried an impressive personal story as the child of poor Mexican immigrants.

Despite those credentials, he left office last August with a frayed reputation over his role in the dismissal of several federal prosecutors and the truthfulness of his testimony about a secret eavesdropping program. He has had no full-time job since his resignation, and his principal income has come from giving a handful of talks at colleges and before private business groups.

“Maybe the passage of time will provide some opportunity for him,” said one Washington lawyer who was aware of an inquiry to his firm from a Gonzales associate. “I wouldn’t say ‘rebuffed,’ ” said the lawyer, who asked his name not be used because the situation being described was uncomfortable for Mr. Gonzales. “I would say ‘not taken up.’ ”

The greatest impediment to Mr. Gonzales’s being offered the kind of high-salary job being snagged these days by lesser Justice Department officials, many lawyers agree, is his performance during his last few months in office. In that period, he was openly criticized by lawmakers for being untruthful in his sworn testimony. His conduct is being investigated by the Office of the Inspector General of the Justice Department, which could recommend actions from exonerating him to recommending criminal charges. Friends set up a fund to help pay his legal bills… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <NY Times>

13secondchance Listen folks, I think that it’s sad that poor Abu Gonzo can’t find work, so sad in fact that we should all join together to help him find employment suitable for a person with his accomplishments. Possibilities include, cleaning prison hallways, making license plates, or working in the prison kitchen. After twenty or thirty years of good behavior, he might even become a clerk in the prison law library. So won’t you join me in helping him find his proper place? And while we’re at it, let’s see that he has lots of friends to keep him company!

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

Worse Than Watergate

Keith Olbermann and John Dean explore the civil contempt of Congress suit against Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton and comment Bush’s crimes.

Cross-posted from Politics Plus

The Toy General and the Crock

9betcrock Gen. David Petraeus dashed hopes Tuesday that the U.S. could start significant troop withdrawals from Iraq any time soon, drawing the ire of legislators as he suggested that there would still be 100,000 troops there until the end of the Bush administration.

Seven months after telling Congress that he would offer a plan for reducing the troop presence, the general instead recommended a halt in troop withdrawals after roughly 30,000 troops sent as part of a buildup leave this summer, followed by at least 45 days to consider any further pullbacks. The situation, he said, was too tenuous to do more than that.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was among the Democrats who decried Petraeus’ recommendation as an open-ended commitment. Meanwhile, many Republican senators countered that a precipitous drawdown would undercut the gains from the U.S. troop buildup…

…Under questioning, Petraeus said there was “no mathematical equation” for withdrawing troops, and he repeatedly called the situation “fragile and reversible.”…

But they also were forced to acknowledge that the flawed Iraqi-led offensive in the mostly Shiite city of Basra showed that the Shiite-dominated south is on the precipice of an intra-sectarian war.

The Iraqi military all but collapsed within days of fighting rebel groups there, quashing hopes that the forces could soon take over security of their communities.

Moreover, violence has been rising in the capital. Twelve U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq since Sunday, most of them in Baghdad province. And civilian deaths in Baghdad are rising, from 172 in February to 211 in March, according to statistics compiled by McClatchy… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Seattle Times>

In a nutshell, the position put forward by Petraeus and Crocker is that they could not predict when we could withdraw troops and they could not even define a set of conditions under which troops could be withdrawn. It was a statement that they don’t know what it is, but they will know it when they see it. I think they were afraid to set parameters, because every time they have, they’ve had to return with a new line of BS.

They claimed that our most powerful enemy in Iraq is Al Qaeda and also claimed to have cut AQI’s resources in Iraq by nearly 90%. That is pure bull. When we invaded there was no AQI. A handful of local Sunni insurgents declared allegiance and receives support from some foreign fighters. At their strongest AQI never had more that 3,000 to 5,000 fighters. Their strength remains about the same today. But let’s assume, for the sake of argument only, that AQI is 90% wiped out. If that is true, the betrayer and the crock are claiming that a force of 300 – 500 guys is the most powerful enemy we face there. BEEP! BEEP!! BEEP!!! Listen to the sound of the Ka-shit detector going off.

They also claimed that Maliki was going after armed criminal groups when he struck Basra. I documented thoroughly HERE that Maliki was really going after Al Sadr because of the upcoming elections. They downplayed the failure and tried to paint it as a political success. They also tried to connect it to Iran. While it is true that all the Shia militia’s receive support from Iran, they failed to note that the one that receives the most Iranian support is the Badr Brigade, the militia connected to Maliki’s party. It was completely disingenuous for the betrayer and the crock to try to identify Al Sadr with Iranian influence, when Al Sadr is a nationalist, and Iran has more influence on Maliki.

Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were more low key that I would have liked. Both stated support for a responsible, not precipitous, withdrawal. Both asked relevant questions. Neither really went after Petraeus and Crocker. Senator Feingold and McCaskill did much better.

Representing the Reich, Joe LIEberman was the most extreme.

9liebermanworships …But Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) thinks that all too much emphasis has been put on the caveats. Clearly criticizing the questioning by Democrats today, Lieberman said that “there’s a kind of hear no progress in Iraq, see no progress in Iraq, and most of all, speak of no progress in Iraq.”

Lieberman, at least, sees no harm in overstating the progress in Iraq: “The Iraqi political leadership has achieved a lot more political reconciliation and progress since September than the American political leadership has.”

Finally, he seemed to indicate that if only Democrats would accept the clear success of the surge, we “can move to more success so we can bring more of our troops home.”… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <TPM>

Has he been drinking the Kool-Aid or what? Note the picture of LIEberman at worship.

Then there was McBoomBoom. Here’s part of what he had to say:

mccain2 …Because the U.S. did not “choose to retreat,” we now have a successful strategy in Iraq, the surge. And although “much more needs to be done… today it is possible to talk with real hope and optimism about the future of Iraq…. Success is within reach.”

If we pull out, he said, Iraq might descend into genocide and become a haven for terrorists and even “draw us into a far more costly war” as a result. “Congress must not choose to lose in Iraq,” he concluded, we “should choose instead to succeed.”… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <TPM>

As usual, McBoomBoom remained clueless about what is going on there.

mccain3 During today’s hearing with Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) questioned Petraeus on what he called “the major threat” of al Qaeda in Iraq. Coming on the heels of his recent confusion over the nature of al Qaeda, McCain today seemed to refer to al Qaeda as a “sect of Shi’ites”:

MCCAIN: Do you still view al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?

PETRAEUS: It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was say 15 months ago.

MCCAIN: Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shi’ites overall?

PETREAUS: No.

… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Think Progress>

Earth to McBoomBoom! Hello? Is anyone home? Al Qaeda is still Sunni!!

All in all, this was quite a show. Someone else did an excellent review of this BS session and I’ll close by sharing that with you. Here is Keith Olbermann.

And here is part 2:

Cross-posted from Politics Plus