I had thought to finish off a few pieces I had begun earlier today. But then I opened an email and what I found me so much I must share this article and photos with you. There are no words to describe this. Warning, these images are absolutely shocking, adult material, and quite possibly, demoralizing if you are American. For that I apologize, but it is imperative that Americans read and see what their tax dollars pay for in Afghanistan.
By Daniel Schulman
September 1, 2009
Photos provided by
Project on Government Oversight.
Warning: The pictures you are about to see are graphic ~ and may result in you swearing off vodka (and other varieties of hard liquor) permanently. The Project on Government Oversight provided me with a series of photographs ~ a dozen in all ~ that depict the bacchanalian goings on at Camp Sullivan, home to the ArmorGroup personnel who guard the nearby US embassy compound in Kabul.
On Tuesday, POGO sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton detailing a host of explosive charges relating to ArmorGroup's management of the embassy contract, including evidence of "near-weekly deviant hazing and humiliation of subordinates."
Drunken brawls, prostitutes, hazing and humiliation, taking vodka shots out of butt cracks ~ no, the perpetrators of these Animal House-like antics aren't some depraved frat brothers. They are the private security contractors guarding the US embassy compound in Kabul.
So far ArmorGroup, North America's parent comany, Wackenhut, is declining to comment. Wise, perhaps, since I can't imagine there's a good way to spin this.
Meanwhile, the State Department, which has harbored internal concerns about ArmorGroup's performance for years but still renewed its embassy contract this summer, says it is taking POGO's allegations very seriously.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters yesterday that the matter has been referred to the agency's inspector general. In the coming weeks, the agency is going to have some serious explaining to do. Not only concerning its contractor oversight, but about why a top State Department official told Congress in June that ArmorGroup's "performance on the ground ~ has been and is sound."
The contractor was the subject of a congressional probe earlier this summer that found serious lapses in the company's handling of the embassy security contract, which internal State Department documents said left the embassy compound "in jeopardy."Meanwhile, the State Department, which has harbored internal concerns about ArmorGroup's performance for years but still renewed its embassy contract this summer, says it is taking POGO's allegations very seriously.
Apparently this guy is urinating on himself, and smiling about it too.
Nevertheless, the government opted to extend the company's 5-year, $189 million contract for another year.
Underscoring the scope of the problems within ArmorGroup's Afghanistan operation, POGO says that nearly a tenth of the company's 450-man embassy security force contacted the watchdog group to "express concerns about and provide evidence of a pattern of blatant, longstanding violations of the security contract, and of a pervasive breakdown in the chain of command and guard force discipline and morale."
In the letter to Clinton, POGO executive director Danielle Brian writes:
This environment has resulted in chronic turnover by U.S./ex-pat guards. According to the State Department, "nearly 90% of the incumbent US/Expats left within the first six months of contract performance."
According to POGO sources, the U.S./ex-pat guard turnover may be as high as 100 percent annually. This untenable turnover prevents the guard force from developing team cohesion, and requires constant training for new replacement recruits.
The guards have come to POGO because they say they believe strongly in the mission, but are concerned that many good guards are quitting out of frustration or being fired for refusing to participate in the misconduct, and that those responsible for the misconduct are not being held accountable.
Brian's letter suggests that Wackenhut Vice President Sam Brinkley, who testified before a Senate panel in June about ArmorGroup's performance of the embassy contract, may have misled Congress.
Despite Wackenhut Vice President Sam Brinkley's sworn Senate testimony that "the Kabul contract has been fully-staffed since January 2009" the truth is that chronic under staffing of the guard force continues to be a major problem. And evidence suggests Mr. Brinkley knew that.
Around March, according to numerous participants, he was confronted by some 50 guards at Camp Sullivan who complained to him directly about a severe, ongoing guard shortage.
Then, in an April 2009 memo to a State Department official, U.S. Embassy Kabul guard force Commander Werner Ilic reported that guard shortages had caused chronic sleep deprivation among his men.
He described a situation in which guards habitually face 14-hour-day work cycles extending for as many as eight weeks in a row, frequently alternating between day and night shifts. He concluded that "this ultimately diminishes the LGF's [Local Guard Force's] ability to provide security."
The contract with the State Department specifies that guards may not be on duty for longer than 12 consecutive hours. Interviewees and documents reveal that short-staffing frequently results in the denial of contractually guaranteed leave and vacation, and that those who do not comply are threatened with termination or actually fired.
But criticisms of failing to meet manpower obligations are nothing compared to the bacchanalian activities ArmorGroup's personnel were allegedly engaged in.
Guards have come to POGO with allegations and photographic evidence that some supervisors and guards are engaging in near-weekly deviant hazing and humiliation of subordinates.
Witnesses report that the highest levels of AGNA management in Kabul are aware of and have personally observed ~ or even engaged in ~ these activities, but have done nothing to stop them.
Indeed, management has condoned this misconduct, declining to take disciplinary action against those responsible and allowing two of the worst offending supervisors to resign and allegedly move on to work on other U.S. contracts.
The lewd and deviant behavior of approximately 30 supervisors and guards has resulted in complete distrust of leadership and a breakdown of the chain of command, compromising security.
Numerous emails, photographs, and videos portray a Lord of the Flies environment. One email from a current guard describes scenes in which guards and supervisors are "peeing on people, eating potato chips out of [buttock] cracks, vodka shots out of [buttock] cracks (there is video of that one), broken doors after drunken [sic] brawls, threats and intimidation from those leaders participating in this activity."
Photograph after photograph shows guards ~ including supervisors ~ at parties in various stages of nudity, sometimes fondling each other. These parties take place just a few yards from the housing of other supervisors.
One would wonder what the day to day relationships within this compound consist of. Or what happens when the party is over. Or, perhaps one would not want to even think of going there!
Multiple guards say this deviant hazing has created a climate of fear and coercion, with those who declined to participate often ridiculed, humiliated, demoted, or even fired.
The result is an environment that is dangerous and volatile. Some guards have reported barricading themselves in their rooms for fear that those carrying out the hazing will harm them physically. Others have reported that AGNA management has begun to conduct a witch hunt to identify employees who have provided information about this atmosphere to POGO.
These allegations raise serious questions about why ArmorGroup has been allowed to retain this important contract, which gives the company the responsibility for protecting the lives of the hundreds of diplomats, officials, and others who work within the embassy compound.
Also in question is the State Department's ability to provide adequate oversight of contractors under its jurisdiction. It should at least be able to ensure that its embassy doesn't provide the backdrop for a Contractors Gone Wild video.
POGO is calling on the State Department to launch an independent investigation of the Kabul embassy contract and to "consider initiating suspension and debarment proceedings against the companies ArmorGroup North America."
UPDATE: The State Department responds. Plus: Why did a top State official tell Congress in June that ArmorGroup's performance in Afghanistan "has been and is sound" when internal documents suggest he had reason to believe otherwise? These State Department officials were supposed to be providing oversight; the watchdog says they, too, should be held accountable. Perhaps as punishment they ought to be forced to watch the butt crack vodka shot video.
According to POGO, "witnesses report that the highest levels of AGNA management in Kabul are aware of and have personally observed ~ or even engaged in ~ these activities, but have done nothing to stop them."