01 Sep

Clinton Told Of “Lord Of The Flies” Environment At Afghan Embassy

The State Department has been aware of ArmorGroup’s shortcomings, the letter says, but hasn’t done enough to correct the problems.



WASHINGTON — Guards hired by the State Department to protect diplomats and staff at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan live and work in a “Lord of the Flies” environment in which they are subjected to hazing and other inappropriate behavior by supervisors, a government oversight group charged Tuesday.

In a 10-page letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the independent Project on Government Oversight contended the situation has led to a breakdown in morale and leadership that compromises security at the embassy in Kabul where nearly 1,000 U.S. diplomats, staff and Afghan nationals work.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., on Tuesday called on the State Department to open an investigation into the performance and management of the contract with ArmorGroup North America. McCaskill, who chairs a Senate subcommittee on contracting oversight, said the new evidence calls into question the company’s ability to provide adequate security at a key facility.

In a letter to Patrick Kennedy, the undersecretary of state for management, McCaskill also demanded a slew of documents related to the contract, including any department reviews of alleged misconduct by ArmorGroup employees.

The nonprofit group’s findings are based on interviews with ArmorGroup guards, documents, photographs and e-mails that it says depict “Lord of the Flies” conditions. The reference is to the 1954 novel by William Golding about a group of British schoolboys who are stranded on a desert island and try, but fail, to govern themselves in a chaotic setting.

One e-mail from a guard describes lurid conditions at Camp Sullivan, the guards’ quarters a few miles from the embassy. The message described scenes of abuse including guards and supervisors urinating on people and “threats and intimidation from those leaders participating in this activity.”

Photographs show guards and supervisors in various stages of nudity at parties that took place from the housing of other supervisors.

Multiple guards say these conditions have created a “climate of fear and coercion.” Those who refuse to participate are often ridiculed, humiliated or even fired, they contended.
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ArmorGroup’s management is aware of the conditions but has not stopped it or disciplined those responsible, the letter says. Two supervisors alleged to be the worst offenders have been allowed to resign and may now be working on other U.S. contracts, the group said.

Wackenhut Services, ArmorGroup North America’s parent company, did not respond to a request for comment on the allegations…………………………………..

The group’s investigation found sleep-deprived guards regularly logging 14-hour days, language barriers that impair critical communications, and a failure by the State Department to hold the contractor accountable.

The State Department has been aware of ArmorGroup’s shortcomings, the letter says, but hasn’t done enough to correct the problems.

It cites a July 2007 warning from the department to ArmorGroup that detailed more than a dozen performance deficiencies, including too few guards and armored vehicles. Another “cure notice” was sent less than a year later, raising other problems and criticizing the contractor for failing to fix the prior ones.

In July 2008, however, the department extended the contract for another year, according to the notice. More problems surfaced and more warning notices followed. Yet during a congressional hearing on the contract in June, State Department officials said the prior shortcomings had been remedied and security at the embassy is effective.

The contract was renewed again through 2010……………………………

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