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Feb 8th, 2009

Contractor Gets Job Despite Criminal Inquiry

Image: Photo of dead soldier
The Pentagon is reviewing 18 deaths in conjunction with a contractor’s electrical work, including that of Staff Sgt. Christopher Everett, seen in the photograph next to his mother, Larraine McGee of Huntsville, Texas. (Photo credit: Susan Walsh / AP)

Feb. 7, 2009

WASHINGTON — Defense contractor KBR Inc. has been awarded a $35 million Pentagon contract involving major electrical work, even as it is under criminal investigation in the electrocution deaths of at least two U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

The announcement of the new KBR contract came just months after the Pentagon, in strongly worded correspondence obtained by The Associated Press, rejected the company’s explanation of serious mistakes in Iraq and its proposed improvements. A senior Pentagon official, David J. Graff, cited the company’s “continuing quality deficiencies” and said KBR executives were “not sufficiently in touch with the urgency or realities of what was actually occurring on the ground.”

“Many within DOD (the Department of Defense) have lost or are losing all remaining confidence in KBR’s ability to successfully and repeatedly perform the required electrical support services mission in Iraq,” wrote Graff, commander of the Defense Contract Management Agency, in a Sept. 30 letter.

Graff rejected the company’s claims that it wasn’t required to follow U.S. electrical codes for its work on U.S. military facilities in Iraq. …

KBR announced last week it won a new $35.4 million contract from the Army Corps of Engineers to design and build a convoy support center at Camp Adder in southern Iraq. It will include a power plant, electrical distribution center, water purification and distribution systems, wastewater and information systems and road paving. …

The AP has learned that Army criminal agents have reopened the death investigation of Staff Sgt. Christopher Lee Everett, 23, a member of the Texas Army National Guard. Everett was killed September 2005 in Iraq when the power washer he was using to clean a vehicle short-circuited. KBR and another contractor, Arkel International, performed the electrical work on the device’s generator, according to a civil lawsuit filed by Everett’s family. …

The AP previously reported that the Army has reclassified another soldier’s electrocution death as a negligent homicide caused by KBR and two of its supervisors. Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, a Green Beret from Pittsburgh, was electrocuted in his barracks shower. An Army investigator said KBR’s contractor failed to ensure qualified electricians and plumbers did the work. The case is under legal review, and KBR has said it was not responsible for Maseth’s death.

18 deaths under review

The deaths of Everett and Maseth are among the 18 under review by the Pentagon’s inspector general. Some of the deaths have been blamed on improperly installed or maintained electrical equipment. In three cases, service members were shocked while showering. Families of Maseth and Everett also have sued KBR in federal court for wrongful death; the company is attempting to have the lawsuits dismissed.

The Corps of Engineers said KBR has earned $615 million on 30 similar contracts as the newest it awarded to the company and noted that KBR has not been banned or suspended from winning U.S. government contracts. …

KBR was previously owned by Halliburton Co., the oil services conglomerate that former Vice President Dick Cheney once led. …

Separately, court papers filed in Houston on Friday show KBR is preparing to plead guilty to federal bribery charges for promising and paying tens of millions of dollars in bribes to officials in Nigeria in exchange for engineering and construction contracts between 1995 and 2004. …


Related reports on this site

Showers Put Troops in Harm’s Way (March 26, 2009)

Shoddy Contracting Kills Troops (Nov. 25, 2008)


U.S. Soldier Dies in Northern Iraq

Feb. 7, 2009

BAGHDAD — The U.S. military says an American soldier has died of a noncombat-related injury near the northern Iraqi city of Balad Ruz.

A U.S. statement released Saturday said the soldier died Friday but gave no further details.

The latest fatality brings to at least 4,238 the number of U.S. military members who have died in the Iraq war since it began in 2003, according to an Associated Press count. …


AP CEO: New Rules Needed for Covering War

Feb. 6, 2009

Curley War Reporting
Associated Press CEO Tom Curley came to the University of Kansas on Friday to receive this year’s national citation for journalistic excellence from the William Allen White Foundation. (Photo credit: Orlin Wagner / AP)

LAWRENCE, Kan. — The Bush administration turned the U.S. military into a global propaganda machine while imposing tough restrictions on journalists seeking to give the public truthful reports about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Associated Press chief executive Tom Curley said Friday.

Curley, speaking to journalists at the University of Kansas, said the news industry must immediately negotiate a new set of rules for covering war because “we are the only force out there to keep the government in check and to hold it accountable.” …

AP, the world’s largest newsgathering operation, is a not-for-profit cooperative that began in 1846 to communicate news from the Mexican War. Curley has been the company’s president and CEO since 2003.

He came to the University of Kansas to receive this year’s national citation for journalistic excellence from the William Allen White Foundation. Curley also won national awards in 2007 and 2008 for his work on First Amendment and open records issues. …

Full story


Security Developments in Iraq

Following are security incidents in Iraq on Feb. 7, 2009 as reported by Reuters:

KERBALA – Gunmen kidnapped Talib al-Masoudi, who ran in the Jan. 31 provincial elections as a candidate from the Shi’ite Fadhila party, from the Husseiniya neighborhood in Kerbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD – A roadside bomb in the Mansour neighborhood of western Baghdad wounded two policemen, police said.

MOSUL – A militant wounded a policeman when he hurled a hand-grenade at a police checkpoint in central Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL – Iraqi police arrested a gunman after clashing with him in western Mosul, police said.

BALAD – Iraqi police killed three militants including a Syrian national, and arrested another 13 suspected militants near Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

TAL AFAR – Gunmen in a speeding car opened fire and killed two civilians in Tal Afar, 260 miles northwest of Baghdad, on Friday, police said.

MOSUL – A roadside bomb wounded a soldier when it struck his patrol in eastern Mosul.

3 Responses to “Electric Sacrifice in Iraq”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Showers Put Troops in Harm’s Way Says:

    […] Electric Sacrifice in Iraq (Feb. 8, 2009) […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Shoddy Contracting Kills Troops Says:

    […] Electric Sacrifice in Iraq (Feb. 8, 2009) […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Afghan Spring Offensive Looms Says:

    […] Electric Sacrifice in Iraq […]

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