POGO writes to Secretary Clinton about US Embassy Kabul Guards

LettersImage by *madalena-pestana* via Flickr

And this is not/not a fan mail …

The Project On Government Oversight has posted online its letter to Secretary Clinton questioning the effectiveness of security at US Embassy Kabul. If you remember this was the subject of a congressional hearing back in June (see my post here). The POGO letter cited ineffectual oversight by the Department of State and serious security vulnerabilities such as the inability of guards to communicate, guard shortages causing chronic sleep deprivation and “supervisors engaging in deviant hazing and humiliation.” The letter says in part:

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) initiated an investigation after nearly one-tenth of the U.S./ex-pat 6 guards individually contacted us 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. 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.”7 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.
After extensive interviews with eyewitnesses, and examination of documents, photographs, videos, and emails, POGO believes that the management of the contract to protect the U.S. Embassy Kabul is grossly deficient, posing a significant threat to the security of the Embassy and its personnel—and thereby to the diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.
the extensive evidence provided to POGO of continued security problems at the U.S. Embassy Kabul …calls into question AGNA and Wackenhut‘s ability to provide effective security of the Embassy; and makes a clear case that the State Department has failed in its oversight of its security contractor.

POGO also says that “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.” The letter to the Secretary has five attachments available online (see links below) and 12 photographs (no visible POGO links online).

The letter ends with a 6-point recommendation including an “independent investigation of the U.S. Embassy Kabul security contract in order to hold corporations as well as individuals accountable for the above noted misconduct and contract violations,” “consider whether the security of an embassy in a combat zone is an inherently governmental function, and therefore not subject to contracting out,” and “initiating suspension and debarment proceedings against the companies ArmorGroup North America, Inc. (AGNA) and Wackenhut Services, Inc., as well as against any individual employees of these companies who were responsible for contract-related improprieties or abuses….”

Wikipedia links added above. Read the whole thing here. The PDF file of the letter is here. Links to the attachments cited in the letter are listed below.

Updated @ 08:49 AM:

The race is now on as to who can pen the most titillating headline out of the POGO report. The report currently pools 23 news items plus 20 more here as of this writing. That’s just in the last 24 hours since this story broke. By comparison news about “Afghanistan metrics” returns 105 news items for the whole year of 2009.

One of the attachments mentions a video. I don’t know if this is the one, but CBS News has obtained a video that shows alleged hazing practices by the security firm.

Gawker has posted eight graphic photos and has called the characters “Sexually Confused Frat Boys.”

Why post the links here? This is going to be around in the next several news cycle; you might as well see what this circus is about. The ArmorGroup will reportedly have a statement today. Also Congress returns next week … I’m sure a committee or two would want to wade into this issue. Just you wait.