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State Dept Investigation of US Embassy Contractor


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Filed: AOS (apr) Country: Vietnam

Watchdog questions security at U.S. Embassy in Kabul

Overwork, language barriers and obscene, drunken behaviour among guards at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan is causing a breakdown in discipline that is jeopardizing security, a watchdog group said on Tuesday. Skip related content

The nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight sent U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a letter documenting complaints about guards working for ArmorGroup, North America, and photos of nearly naked men behaving lewdly at their camp.

"These are very serious allegations and we are treating them that way," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said at a briefing, adding the issue had been turned over to the department's inspector general.

Kelly was unable to say if the State Department was satisfied with ArmorGroup's performance or when the documents were sent to the inspector general. He said the State Department had "zero tolerance for the type of conduct that is alleged in these documents."

Pictures obtained by POGO showed guards, barely dressed in G-string style outfits, dancing around a bonfire and urinating while others snapped photographs. Video showed them pouring alcohol down the bare backside of a new recruit and trying to drink it as it spilt from the recruit's buttocks.

ArmorGroup, North America, a subsidiary of Wackenhut Services Inc., had no immediate comment on the letter or the allegations. The firm employs 450 guards to provide security at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul under a five-year, $189 million (117 million pound) contract with the U.S. State Department.

About 150 guards are Americans or from other English-speaking countries. The remaining 300 are identified by POGO as Gurkhas from northern India and Nepal who speak little or no English. About 1,000 U.S. diplomats, staff and Afghan nationals work at the embassy.

The 10-page letter to Clinton cites several shortcomings with the security contractor, including 14-hour workdays and a rotating day and overnight shift schedule that leaves the guards exhausted and sleep-deprived.


It said the language barrier between English-speakers and Gurkhas was so severe it would be difficult for them to communicate in a crisis.

And it cited a "'Lord of the Flies' environment" among English-speakers at the camp where the men are stationed, marked by hazing of new recruits, drunkenness and lewd conduct.

Since the contract was awarded in 2007, the State Department has repeatedly warned ArmorGroup that it was failing to meet contractual requirements. A State Department inspection in March 2009 found at least 18 guards were absent from their posts due to supervisory negligence.

Despite the failings, the State Department agreed in June to extend the contract for the coming year, and Wackenhut Vice President Sam Brinkley told the Senate the embassy guard had been fully staffed since January 2009.

In its letter to Clinton, POGO challenged the notion of effective staffing and said it had spoken to about 10 percent of the expatriate guard force at the embassy, or 15 guards.

They provided "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," POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian said in the letter.

She added that annual turnover among the expatriate guard force in Kabul was as high as 100 percent and the guard force commander reported in a memo in April that chronic staff shortages were leading to sleep deprivation among the men.

Brian urged the State Department to put Kabul embassy security under military supervision and consider initiating suspension proceedings against ArmorGroup and Wackenhut.

(Editing by Paul Simao)


Embassy Investigation Video

"Every one of us bears within himself the possibilty of all passions, all destinies of life in all its forms. Nothing human is foreign to us" - Edward G. Robinson.

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Senator Barack Obama
Senate Floor Speech on Public Debt
March 16, 2006


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