NEWS

Company Underbid Embassy Security Contract, Ignored Misconduct, Whistleblowers Say

By Matthew Harwood

The fallout from the scandal involving private security contractors protecting the U.S. Embassy Kabul continues to rise up the management ladder, according to allegations levied by two ArmorGroup North America (AGNA) whistleblowers.

According to the Associated Press:

James Gordon, former director of operations at ArmorGroup, and John Gorman, a former ArmorGroup manager in Kabul, told reporters they were forced out after trying to get the company to fix a long list of problems.

Gordon, who left ArmorGroup in February 2008, said he alerted the State Department to shortcomings in personnel, equipment and discipline that created security risks, but little changed.

In a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court, Gordon said ArmorGroup withheld from Congress information about employees who went to brothels in Kabul known to house trafficked women.

ArmorGroup's "goal was to maximize their profits, provide a fig leaf of security at the embassy, and pray to God that nobody got killed," Gordon said.

Last week, the Project on Government Oversight wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton detailing AGNA contract abuses, including bizarre booze-soaked sexual hazing, harsh working conditions, and language barriers among guards, that undermined security at the embassy. Graphic pictures of the hazing have been revealed on many Web sites, including this one.

Gormon told reporters that the company cut costs by extending shifts from 8 to 12 hours and by shortening the number of shifts from 5 to 4 days. He also alleged that the company did not properly vet the employees it hired, which helped contribute to abuses and misconduct.

Gordon, who is currently working for another security contractor in Kabul, has filed a whistleblower protection lawsuit against AGNA. He is suing for back pay and punitive damages, reports CNN.com.

Among the more shocking allegations, Gordon's lawsuit reveals one security contractor had to be forcibly removed from a brothel during working hours. Gordon unsuccessfully tried to get the employee fired. He failed, he said, because other guards, including an AGNA medic and supervisor frequented the same brothel—one that allegedly dealt in trafficked sex slaves. Guards' extracurricular activities also led to an outbreak of sexually transmitted diseases, Gordon alleges. In response to these incidents, Gordon tried to enforce a "no-brothels policy," which was met with "outright hostility" by the company, he said.

According to CNN.com, Wackenhut Services Inc., which owns AGNA, responded to Gordon's allegations, calling them "overstated, ill-founded, not based on any personal knowledge, or otherwise lacking in legal merit."


 ♦ Photo released by Project on Government Oversight

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