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KBR and Other Military Intelligence Companies Acting Without Repercussions

Le Monde Diplomatique recently released an article discussing the immense freedom private intelligence companies enjoy in maintaining extensive government contracts irrespective of the  activities in which they engage. The article provides that the need for accountability is at an all-time high and begins by discussing the conduct of Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR).

The first situation involves a 24 year-old Pennsylvania native. In 2008, this Green Beret, along with eighteen others, was killed after being electrocuted while showering on military bases in Iraq. These fully preventable deaths were due the improper wiring performed by KBR’s chosen subcontractor.

Four years after these electrocutions, KBR was found guilty of knowingly exposing twelve soldiers to sodium dichromate, scientifically accepted as one of the most potent cancer causing agents on earth, and an Oregon jury awarded the men, all represented by Doyle LLP, over $80 million in damages as a result of KBR’s misconduct. Two of the twelve Oregon National Guards have died as a result of the toxic exposure.   Last year, KBR was accused on human trafficking twelve men from Nepali, eleven of them were later beheaded. The one survivor is among the plaintiffs in a case currently filed in district court inTexas.

The article reveals that through it all, KBR has profited substantially from the governments “war on terror” in Iraq, to the tune of $39.5 billion over the last decade. The article interviewed Attorney Mike Doyle of Doyle LLP, lead attorney in the sodium dichromate case against KBR. Mr. Doyle explained that the generous limited liability stipulations make it easy for military contractors to profit while potentially shifting the majority of the responsibility for unlawful behavior back to the government

KBR is one of three private military contractors tried for similar civil and criminal offenses, each of which has had limited to no impact on their contractual relationships with the government.  In one example, CACI has been accused of misconduct in connection with Abu Ghraib, yet  the company was awarded 5 new or renewed government contracts just this year.  Additionally, PAE, Civilian Peace International, and Dyncorp are amongst the top companies to receive reconstruction money in Afghanistan and have all been accused of civil and criminal violations.

According to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), the legal authority that decides when a company is prevented from receiving government contracts, the government  still has the discretion to hire a contractor engaged in questionable conduct – as long as their benefit in service outweighs their behavior.

The article also points to language evidencing dependency on the contract between CACI and the U.S. Navy, in which the Navy states, “CACI Technologies is the only known company which currently possesses the knowledge and expertise to meet the Navy’s technical and schedule requirements to support.”

But is “knowledge and expertise” the only reason? Experts believe companies maintain these levels of significance by remaining close to our nation’s lawmakers and the Pentagon. Campaign contributions have also dramatically increased – around the year 2000, CACI and KBR contributed about $5,000, now those amounts have swelled to $210,000. The lobbying organizations for these military intelligence companies are now composed primarily of former members of the Department of Defense, the House of Representatives, the Navy, and the U.S. Coast Guard, which is another reason why changing the current situation may prove very difficult.

Despite the fact that it is legal for the government to overlook unlawful behavior in awarding contracts, some experts argue that it’s a problematic on a deeper level. We have laws and regulations in our government that prohibit business with foreign governments that are engaged in human rights violations, so why are we allowed to do so with these companies?

The article closes by concluding that both republicans and democrats have the agenda of protecting our nation against the threat of terrorism, but at what costs? Every corporation, especially those engaged in actions that negligently harm our nation’s our servicemen should be held liable and and have repercussions for their unlawful actions.