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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Whistleblowers Used to be Protected by the Government

Not any more. Especially when you fiddle with Halliburton or all those missing weapons. The following excerpts were taken from an article entitled Iraq Whistleblowers Punished on CommonDreams.org.

Here's an interesting fact to ponder:

  • Congress gave more than $30 billion to rebuild Iraq, and at least $8.8 billion of it has disappeared, according to a government reconstruction audit.
Some upstanding American citizens were concerned:
  • Navy veteran Donald Vance told the FBI about guns, land mines and rocket-launchers, sold illegally by the Iraqi-owned company he worked for, Shield Group Security Co., for cash, no receipts necessary. The buyers were Iraqi insurgents, American soldiers, State Department workers, Iraqi embassy and ministry employees. "It was a Wal-Mart for guns,” he says.
  • Bunnatine “Bunny” Greenhouse, as the highest-ranking civilian contracting officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, she testified before congress in 2005 about widespread fraud in multibillion-dollar rebuilding contracts awarded to former Halliburton subsidiary KBR."
  • Robert Isakson filed a whistleblower suit against contractor Custer Battles in 2004, alleging the company bilked the U.S. government out of tens of millions of dollars by filing fake invoices and padding other bills for reconstruction work.
  • Julie McBride testified last year that as a “morale, welfare and recreation coordinator” at Camp Fallujah, she saw KBR exaggerate costs by double- and triple-counting the number of soldiers who used recreational facilities. She also said the company took supplies destined for a Super Bowl party for U.S. troops and instead used them to stage a celebration for themselves.
Here's what happened to them:
  • Navy veteren Donald Vance: 97 days in an American military prison outside Baghdad that once held Saddam Hussein, classified as a security detainee. Also held was colleague Nathan Ertel, who helped Vance gather evidence documenting the sales, according to a federal lawsuit both have filed in Chicago, alleging they were illegally imprisoned and subjected to physical and mental interrogation tactics 'reserved for terrorists and so-called enemy combatants.'"
  • Bunnatine “Bunny” Greenhouse: "Greenhouse was demoted. She now sits in a tiny cubicle in a different department with very little to do and no decision-making authority, at the end of an otherwise exemplary 20-year career. People she has known for years no longer speak to her. ... In her demotion, her supervisors said she was performing poorly. 'They just wanted to get rid of me,' she says softly. The Army Corps of Engineers denies her claims."
  • Robert Isakson: He and his co-plaintiff, William Baldwin, pursued the suit for two years, gathering evidence on their own and flying overseas to obtain more information from witnesses. Eventually, a federal jury awarded a $10 million judgment against the now-defunct firm, which had denied all wrongdoing. It was the first civil verdict for Iraq reconstruction fraud. But in 2006, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III overturned the jury award. He said Isakson and Baldwin failed to prove that the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-backed occupier of Iraq for 14 months, was part of the U.S. government.
  • Julie McBride “After I voiced my concerns about what I believed to be accounting fraud, Halliburton placed me under guard and kept me in seclusion,” she told the committee. “My property was searched, and I was specifically told that I was not allowed to speak to any member of the U.S. military. I remained under guard until I was flown out of the country.” Halliburton and KBR denied her testimony. She also has filed a whistleblower suit. The Justice Department has said it would not join the action. But last month, a federal judge refused a motion by KBR to dismiss the lawsuit.

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