During the first panel, Rep. Jim Moran interviewed Dutton and McDermott about the private contracting policy and the fraud and abuse going on in Iraq. Some highlights of their testimony:
- GAO found: inadequate competition, inadequate monitoring, increased chance of fraud and abuse.
- Majority of reconstruction effort in Iraq has been done by private contractors. Over 916 contractors have lost their lives.
- Audit of public health centers revealed that Parsons was paid $186 million to build 150 health clinics. A/o 4/30/07, 15 health clinics completed, only 8 are in use, open to the public. The Army is looking into sanctions against Parsons to possibly recover some of the wasted money.
- Contract for Baghdad police college: work supposed to have been done not completed. Poorly designed, poorly implemented by army corps of engineers to the extent that plumbing leaking on cadets in class. $2.5 million was spent to simply track progress. Contract for $73 million, paid $62 million. Contract was closed in 2004, continued to be paid for another 2 years.
- $183 billion spent on contracting services. GAO hasn't been able to get a list of the extent to which the war is being contracted out. # of contractors, sub-contractors, the cost. you have a situation, without the govt having insight into what services are they providing. In Iraq the use of contractors overwhelms any prior experience we've had.
- The money the Department of Defense spends on private contractors (everywhere, not jsut Iraq) increased by 78% from 1996 to 2006.
- DoD contractors in Iraq -- no good source for # of contractors or what they're doing for. "The State Department is even worse."
- Rep. Kingston (R-GA): How did a French company (Cidesco) come to get a contract to serve the US Marines? France = "A country that is not an ally of America so much of the time."
- If you eliminated contractors in Iraq, how many troops would you replace them with? "I don't know how many contractors there are and I don't know what they're doing."
Also, Rep. Marcy Kaptur dug into one contracting firm, Aegis, and asked forcefully:
Who in this government has signed a contract with that company? When was it signed? What are they doing? Who are they? How many are US citizens? Are they carrying weapons? Under whose command are they operating?
The only response she got was that they are doing "security for Corps of Engineers." She continued:
Under whose command are they operating? I'm old fashioned, I believe in the US military doing this work.
She told him she would be submitting 30 questions to him to find out the answers to and he promised to get her answers.
PANEL 2 (Greenwald and Scahill):
Scahill's opening remarks.
There are 126,000 private personnel. This private army essentially doubles the force.
770 contractors killed in Iraq and 7,700 wounded. These are not included in official numbers and masks the cost of the war.
Some contracctors make in a month what active duty military makes in a year.
What message is the US sending when the private sector has better vehicles, better protection, more money with corporate logos rather than the American flag?
Received phone calls from members from Congress asking HIM for documents on contractors, not the other way around.
Escalation of war is intimately linked to corporate profits. No incentive to reduce their footprint in Iraq and every incentive to increase it.
Greenwald's opening remarks:
He and his colleagues at Brave New Films spent a year interviewing hundreds of people impacted by privatization of war.
Something is seriously wrong with this policy. tax payer dollars are being abused on privatization and profiteering.
Picture yourself sitting next to someone who's doing exactly what you're doing but is getting paid 3x what you're making. In some cases, troops have to train the private contractors to replace them.
Our tax dollars are paying for Halliburton executives to stay at 5-star hotels.
Burn pits: in a pit the size of 15 football fields they'd burn material they weren't using or that was damaged instead of giving it to the military or Iraqis.
CACI and JP London were hired to conduct oversight over other contractors while they were under investifation themselves. Greenwald has evidence that CACI engaged in torture but the US justice department refuses to investigate.
Rep. Kingston is trying to impugn Greenwald's motives - listing his movies, saying he leans toward the Democrats. Now he's asking him how much money he's made on these films.
Greenwald: I volunteer my time. I don't make a dime.
Kingston: are you against profit? what would the fair market value be for a gallon of gas?
Greenwald: while our troops are getting killed, do we want the profit motive built into war? I'm not talking about the profit motive built into gas.
Kingston is now questioning Scahill about his partisan leanings. You're neither a Dem or a Rep.
Scahill is now saying Reid said the war is lost and then the Democrats went on to fund the war even more than Bush asked for.
Kingston to Scahill: when was the last time you were in Iraq?
Kingston: Then it's been a while then.
Scahill: I'm not sure your point.
Kingston: I'm saying the war has changed a lot since then.
Scahill: Yeah, the war has gotten a lot worse.
Jesus, Kingston is just wasting time. This is pathetic. "My Democrat friends." Shut up.
Greenwald: I'd be happy to take you up on your offer to talk to the troops. I woulld love to have that conversation with a huge number of troops and I hope that you, as a true conservative, will join us and see that there is a real problem.
OK, Moran just cut Kingston off. Good.
Marcy Kaptur is up.
[had to step away, arggh]
Kaptur: I've learned more from your paper, Mr. Scahill than I've learned from our own government. I've come to the conclusion that there is an absolute desire to obfuscate.
She just asked Scahill what exactly happened in Fallujah when the 4 private contractors were killed. He's describing the series of events.
Kaptur expressed concern about the transparency and called for a sort of Truman commission to look into private contractors.
Moran: It is unclear what law applies to contractors. It seems to be a relatively lawless zone.
Scahill: sever crises is not that there aren't laws on the books but the fact is if you don't have the political will to crack down on unaccountable private forces. I just got an email today from a translator for a special forces soldier -- the entire military hated the contractors. The locals don't know the difference b/w them and the military and the contractors swoop into villages undoing all the trust they'd built up.
Moran is asking Greenwald about the burn pits -- where they would destroy perfectly good equipment because they got paid for every piece of equipment ordered.
Greenwald: Soldiers felt the moral and patriotic duty to do something that was hurting the war effort but had no success addressing the issue with superiors -- that's why they talked to us. This was a direct function of cost-plus contract where they make more money every time we order another truck.
KBR was charging $50 for a sixpack of coca cola.
Rep. Dix: Tell us about these empty trucks (where trucks would drive on missions with nothing in them b/c they got paid per mission.)
Greenwald: once or twice you could say it was a mistake but we heard the story too many times to think it was just an accident.
Dix: Abu Ghraib and the use of contractors.
Greenwald: interviewed an interrogator, soldiers taking orders from private interrogators.
Dix: these were separate from CIA?
Greenwald: correct. soldiers were very clear that they were not CIA, they were CACI and Titan. we spoke to someone who was tortured by CACI. justice dept won't look into it. absolutely nothing has been done with regard to private contractors.
Kingston is back on, asking Scahill about his description of Blackwater's founder Erik Prince. Is it your premise that Blackwater contributed heavily to the president, that's the reason they got the job and there's no oversight.
Scahill: That's part of it. political connections and the type of services it provides. what I find concerning not only is Prince a contributor to Republicans in positions of power in a position to influence policy.
Kingston is just wasting time taking issue with Scahill's description of Erik Prince.
Scahill: I don't think the president should be able to deploy 130,000 of unaccountable forces. Particularly when they're working in our name and using our tax dollars.
Dix: Bremer granted blanket immunity to these corporations?
Scahill: yes, Order 17. We need to delink war from corporate profits. We need to pass anti-mercenary legislation. Let me ask you Mr. Kingston, do you think it's right for some of these private contractors should be making more money than the secretary of defense?
Kingston: believe it or not I believe those in government should not be in it for the money.
Kingston is going off on "liberal Hollywood." Greenwald slammed back: We are talking about war profiteering, not baseball or Hollywood. Kingston is trying to accuse Greenwald of being anti-capitalist yet living in a mansion in Hollywood. Jerk.
Kingston is an embarrassment.
Kaptur is back on. Re Abu Ghraib, who was running the operation? We don't know the whole truth, the American people don't know the whole truth. Aegis corporation has provided some info -- saved the US govt $30million over the years.
Greenwald: it's impossible to get hard consistent data on how many people are over there. I'm hoping our conservative friends will join us. it's no way to run a corporation and certainly no way to run a war.
Kaptur: I want to know what foreign workers are employed by our government. I want to know how much they are making and why they're making more than our military.
And with that, the hearing is over.
That was pretty weak. Kingston did a good job of sabotaging it. Greenwald and Scahill got some important information into the public record but there was no real substantive questioning done here. This will hopefully be the start of an ongoing process to get some oversight and accountability on the private workers employed by the Dept of Defense and Dept of State using our tax dollars yet without any accountability. Kaptur was the rock star of this hearing and it sounds like she'll be leading the way getting some answers.
UPDATE: Video of Chairman Moran's opening remarks:
Video of Greenwald re CACI:
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