Former Spy With Agenda Operates a Private C.I.A.

via Activist Post

Mark Mazzetti
New York Times

WASHINGTON — Duane R. Clarridge parted company with the Central Intelligence Agency more than two decades ago, but from poolside at his home near San Diego, he still runs a network of spies.

Over the past two years, he has fielded operatives in the mountains of Pakistan and the desert badlands of Afghanistan. Since the United States military cut off his funding in May, he has relied on like-minded private donors to pay his agents to continue gathering information about militant fighters, Taliban leaders and the secrets of Kabul’s ruling class.

Hatching schemes that are something of a cross between a Graham Greene novel and Mad Magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy,” Mr. Clarridge has sought to discredit Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Kandahar power broker who has long been on the C.I.A. payroll, and planned to set spies on his half brother, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, in hopes of collecting beard trimmings or other DNA samples that might prove Mr. Clarridge’s suspicions that the Afghan leader was a heroin addict, associates say.

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U.S. Contractor Accused Of Fraud Still Winning Big Projects In Afghanistan

WASHINGTON | On July 31, 2006, an employee of The Louis Berger Group, a contractor handling some of the most important U.S. rebuilding projects in Afghanistan, handed federal investigators explosive evidence that the company was intentionally and systematically overbilling American taxpayers.

Neither the whistle-blower’s computer disk full of incriminating documents nor a trail of allegations of waste, fraud and shoddy construction, however, prevented Louis Berger from continuing to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts.

In fact, two months after the government learned of the employee’s allegations, the U.S. Agency for International Development tapped Louis Berger — which has an office in Kansas City — to oversee $1.4 billion in reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan.

The decision to brush aside the allegations and the evidence and keep doing business with Louis Berger, underscores a persistent dilemma for the Obama administration in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Cutting ties with suspect war-zone contractors in Afghanistan would threaten the administration’s effort to rebuild the country and begin withdrawing some of the nearly 100,000 U.S. troops there next July. However, as the recession, unemployment and budget deficits prompt belt-tightening at home, the billions the administration is spending to try to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq are receiving increasing scrutiny from Congress and the public.

Louis Berger’s alleged overbilling, a practice that dates at to least the mid-1990s, swelled to tens of millions in lost tax dollars, according to a person familiar with the inquiry who spoke to McClatchy Newspapers on the condition of anonymity because the allegations are the subject of a sealed court case.

Court documents, however, reveal that the Justice Department is negotiating a deal that would “aid in preserving the company’s continuing eligibility to participate” in federal contracting in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Founded in 1953, The Louis Berger Group does engineering and construction-related work domestically and in about 80 countries worldwide, according to the company’s website. It has more than 5,000 employees and is based in Morristown, N.J.

Holly Fisher, a Louis Berger spokeswoman, said the investigation into the company’s pricing shouldn’t taint its work for the government.

“While its work in Afghanistan was covered by that methodology, it is the methodology that is in question, not the work in Afghanistan,” she said.

Fisher declined to answer additional questions about the investigation or to make any corporate officers available for interviews.

USAID officials acknowledged last year in an internal report that they’d lost confidence in Louis Berger to oversee projects under the latest, $1.4 billion Afghanistan contract, which is jointly held with Black & Veatch of Overland Park.

USAID, however, didn’t respond for three weeks to repeated requests for interviews about why it continued to award contracts to Louis Berger or about the ongoing criminal investigation or on contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Instead, the agency issued a statement pointing to its internal report about the joint venture.

“The assessment found vulnerabilities, and we immediately worked to address the identified issues,” USAID said.

The agency said it began to hold weekly meetings with company officials, assigned monitors to every site and changed personnel involved in the contract.

“USAID continues to take necessary actions to protect U.S. taxpayer funds in this matter,” the statement said. “We are engaged in ongoing dialogue with the Louis Berger Group, Inc. to ensure that the corporation is in full compliance with our contracts.”

However, Ashley Jackson, the head of policy in Afghanistan for the international aid organization Oxfam, said little has changed despite the Obama administration’s pledge to revamp the agency.

USAID hasn’t been an aggressive watchdog in Afghanistan, partly because it’s under political pressure to pump billions into the country without regard to the quality of the work, Jackson said.

“A system has emerged where USAID is basically like a pass-through for these contractors,” she said.

Source: Kansas City Star

Defense Contractor Money Fueling Push to Militarize the US-Mexico Border

After months of prodding from anti-immigration politicians, the entire US-Mexico border is now being watched by the Predator B unmanned surveillance aircraft commonly known as Predator drones. The news may comfort residents of border states where the details of Mexico’s brutal drug war continue to make headlines, but here’s some more comforting news: violent crime in US border states has decreased during the past decade, and some big border cities are the safest in the nation.

Read the story HERE

Another False Ending: Contracting Out the Iraq Occupation

Another false ending to the Iraq war is being declared. Nearly seven years after George Bush’s infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Obama has just given a major address to mark the withdrawal of all but 50,000 combat troops from Iraq. But while thousands of US troops are marching out,
thousands of additional private military contractors (PMCs) are marching in. The number of armed security contractors in Iraq will more than double in the coming months. While the mainstream media is debating whether Iraq can be declared a victory or not, there is virtually no discussion regarding this surge in contractors. Meanwhile, serious questions about the accountability of private military contractors remain. In the past decade, the United States has dramatically shifted the way in which it wages war – fewer soldiers and more contractors. Last month, the Congressional Research Service reported that the Department of Defense (DoD) workforce has 19 percent more contractors (207,600) than uniformed personnel (175,000) in Iraq and Afghanistan, making the wars in these two countries the most outsourced and privatized in US history. According to a recent State Department briefing to Congress’ Commission on Wartime Contracting, from now on, instead of soldiers, private military contractors will be disposing of improvised explosive devices, recovering killed and wounded personnel, downed aircraft and damaged
vehicles, policing Baghdad’s International Zone, providing convoy security and clearing travel routes, among other security-related duties.

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Blackwater guards indicted for murder

blackwater 070919 mn1 Blackwater guards indicted for murder

A federal grand jury has added an additional indictment to a former Blackwater empl

oyee involved in the murders of two Afghan civilians in May of 2009, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

Two Blackwater guards have been charged with second-degree murder for the fatal shootings.

The Virginian-Pilot reports,

[Christopher] Drotleff, of Virginia Beach, and [Justin] Cannon, of Corpus Christi, Texas, were working for a subsidiary of Blackwater, also known as Xe, to train the Afghan police force in Kabul. The indictment alleges they were drinking that day when they became involved in a traffic accident and began firing their weapons at another car.

Drotleff and Cannon say they fired in self-defense, in fear for their lives, at a car that was speeding toward them. The government counters that the victims were all shot from behind.

Source

US intelligence reliant on ‘contractors’

US intelligence agencies are dangerously dependent on contractors, with 30 per cent of the spy workforce potentially bound to shareholders more than the nation.

Despite a ban on private hands performing “inherently government functions”, 265,000 of the 854,000 people with top-secret clearance in the US are contractors, working in all the most sensitive areas, the Washington Post revealed yesterday. The claims came on the same day that President Barack Obama’s nominee to run US intelligence efforts, James Clapper, headed to Capitol Hill for a confirmation hearing.

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Paper: CIA now pretending contractors are CIA officers

The Washington Post’s Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Dana Priest drove another stake into the heart of the US military industrial complex in today’s Post: In June, a stone carver from Manassas chiseled another perfect star into a marble wall at CIA headquarters, one of 22 for agency workers killed in the global war initiated by the 2001 terrorist attacks. The intent of the memorial is to publicly honor the courage of those who died in the line of duty, but it also conceals a deeper story about government in the post-9/11 era: Eight of the 22 were not CIA officers at all. They were private contractors.

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