Friday, March 03, 2006

The Iraqi Morgue Reports: A Growing Cover-up

Two-part story here. First comes a story from March 1st about how Morgues in Iraq are being pressured not to investigate the soaring number of executions and torture in the country. It also shows how pressures from the insurgency, the ruling government, and America have created widely varying body counts from the attacks of the past few weeks:

Morgue pressed to stay quiet
Death toll since blast vigorously debated
The Washington Post

March 01. 2006 8:00AM

Officials overseeing Baghdad's morgue have come under pressure not to investigate the soaring number of apparent cases of executions and torture in the country, the former U.N. human rights chief for Iraq said yesterday.

John Pace, who left his post in Iraq earlier this month, spoke as Iraqi and U.S. officials offered widely varying numbers for the toll so far in the explosion of sectarian violence that followed last Wednesday's bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra.

Pace said the pressure had come from "both sides,"but declined to give further details. The statement appeared to refer to both the Shiite-led government and the Sunni insurgency fighting it.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari said yesterday that the death toll provided to The Washington Post by Baghdad morgue workers -more than 1,300 dead since last Wednesday - was "inaccurate and exaggerated."

Al-Jaafari said the toll was 379. Gen. Ali Shamarri of the Interior Ministry statistics department put the toll at 1,077.

U.S. and Iraqi officials offered figures yesterday both higher and lower than Al-Jaafari's count. The U.S. military said it had confirmed 220 deaths. Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman in Iraq, said the country's joint Iraqi-U.S. operations center reported receiving accounts of 365 civilian deaths, and said officials at the center believed the count could reach about 550.

Last week's bombing of the Askariya shrine, also known as the Golden Mosque, in Samarra unleashed the most intense burst of Shiite-Sunni violence since the U.S. invasion in 2003. Shiite religious militias, particularly the black-clad fighters of cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, deployed in their first wide-scale show of force since their battles with U.S. forces in 2004.

Now, the second part of this, which prompted me to post this entire thing. Yesterday The Guardian reported that the Baghdad official who revealed these tortures and executions to Pace has been forced to flee, adding a great deal of validity to the claims:

Baghdad official who exposed executions flees
Jonathan Steele
Thursday March 2, 2006
The Guardian

Faik Bakir, the director of the Baghdad morgue, has fled Iraq in fear of his life after reporting that more than 7,000 people have been killed by death squads in recent months, the outgoing head of the UN human rights office in Iraq has disclosed.

"The vast majority of bodies showed signs of summary execution - many with their hands tied behind their back. Some showed evidence of torture, with arms and leg joints broken by electric drills," said John Pace, the Maltese UN official. The killings had been happening long before the bloodshed after last week's bombing of the Shia shrine in Samarra.

Mr Pace, whose contract in Iraq ended last month, said many killings were carried out by Shia militias linked to the industry ministry run by Bayan Jabr, a leading figure in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri).

Mr Pace said records, supported by photographs, came from Baghdad's forensic institute, which passed them to the UN. The Baghdad morgue has been receiving 700 or more bodies a month. The figures peaked at 1,100 last July - many showing signs of torture.

Reports of government-sponsored death squads have sparked fear among many prominent Iraqis, prompting a rise in the number leaving the country. Mr Pace said the morgue's director had received death threats after he reported the murders. "He's out of the country now," said Mr Pace, adding that the attribution of the killings to government-linked militias did not come from Dr Bakir.

"There are other sources for that. Some militias are integrated with the police and wear police uniforms," he said. "The Badr brigade [Sciri's armed wing] are in the police and are mainly the ones doing the killing. They're the most notorious."

Some Iraqis accuse the Mahdi army militia, linked to the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, of seizing and killing people. But Mr Pace said: "I'm not as sure of the Mahdi army as I am of the others."

Posted by crimnos @ 9:05 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Congressional Probe of NSA Spying Is in Doubt

Great news.

Congressional Probe of NSA Spying Is in Doubt
White House Sways Some GOP Lawmakers

By Charles Babington

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Congress appeared ready to launch an investigation into the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program last week, but an all-out White House lobbying campaign has dramatically slowed the effort and may kill it, key Republican and Democratic sources said yesterday.

The Senate intelligence committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a Democratic-sponsored motion to start an inquiry into the recently revealed program in which the National Security Agency eavesdrops on an undisclosed number of phone calls and e-mails involving U.S. residents without obtaining warrants from a secret court. Two committee Democrats said the panel -- made up of eight Republicans and seven Democrats -- was clearly leaning in favor of the motion last week but now is closely divided and possibly inclined against it.

They attributed the shift to last week's closed briefings given by top administration officials to the full House and Senate intelligence committees, and to private appeals to wavering GOP senators by officials, including Vice President Cheney. "It's been a full-court press," said a top Senate Republican aide who asked to speak only on background -- as did several others for this story -- because of the classified nature of the intelligence committees' work.

Lawmakers cite senators such as Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) to illustrate the administration's success in cooling congressional zeal for an investigation. On Dec. 20, she was among two Republicans and two Democrats who signed a letter expressing "our profound concern about recent revelations that the United States Government may have engaged in domestic electronic surveillance without appropriate legal authority." The letter urged the Senate's intelligence and judiciary committees to "jointly undertake an inquiry into the facts and law surrounding these allegations."

In an interview yesterday, Snowe said, "I'm not sure it's going to be essential or necessary" to conduct an inquiry "if we can address the legislative standpoint" that would provide oversight of the surveillance program. "We're learning a lot and we're going to learn more," she said.

She cited last week's briefings before the full House and Senate intelligence committees by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and former NSA director Michael V. Hayden.

"The administration has obviously gotten the message that they need to be more forthcoming," Snowe said.

Before the New York Times disclosed the NSA program in mid-December, administration briefings regarding it were highly secret and limited to eight lawmakers: the top Republican and Democratic leader of the House and Senate, respectively, and the top Republican and Democrat on the House and Senate intelligence committees.

The White House characterized last week's closed-door briefings to the full committees as a significant concession and a sign of the administration's respect for Congress and its oversight responsibilities. Many Democrats dismissed the briefings as virtually useless, but senators said yesterday they appear to have played a big role in slowing momentum for an inquiry.

John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), the Senate intelligence committee's vice chairman, has drafted a motion calling for a wide-ranging inquiry into the surveillance program, according to congressional sources who have seen it. Rockefeller declined to be interviewed yesterday.

Sources close to Rockefeller say he is frustrated by what he sees as heavy-handed White House efforts to dissuade Republicans from supporting his measure. They noted that Cheney conducted a Republicans-only meeting on intelligence matters in the Capitol yesterday.

Senate intelligence committee member Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) said in an interview that he supports the NSA program and would oppose a congressional investigation. He said he is drafting legislation that would "specifically authorize this program" by excluding it from the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which established a secret court to consider government requests for wiretap warrants in anti-terrorist investigations.

The administration would be required to brief regularly a small, bipartisan panel drawn from the House and Senate intelligence committees, DeWine said, and the surveillance program would require congressional reauthorization after five years to remain in place.

Snowe said she is inclined to support DeWine's plan. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who also signed the Dec. 20 letter seeking an inquiry, said yesterday that the FISA law should be amended to include the NSA program and to provide for congressional oversight.

As for Rockefeller's bid, Hagel said: "If some kind of inquiry would be beneficial to getting a resolution to this issue, then sure, we should look at it. But if the inquiry is just some kind of a punitive inquiry that really is not focused on finding a way out of this, then I'm not so sure that I would support that."

Posted by crimnos @ 12:57 PM :: (0) comments

Raped by dad? You still have to tell him you're getting an abortion

Go, go gadget Utah!

Senate: Incestuous dad knows best
Lawmakers block exception from abortion consent bill

By Rebecca Walsh
The Salt Lake Tribune

Incest is no exception to a father's right to know what's going on in his daughter's life.

That was the message from Utah lawmakers who refused Monday to make an exception for incest victims in a proposed law that would require parental consent and notification before a girl's abortion.

"There is a life inside of this life. And how that life is taken care of is very important to me," said Sen. Darin Peterson, R-Nephi.

Current Utah law - which was adopted in 1974 - requires doctors to notify a girl's parents before ending her pregnancy. HB85, sponsored by Ogden Republican Rep. Kerry Gibson and Peterson, would change state code to require doctors to get at least one parent's permission 24 hours before the procedure. Doctors could proceed without consent in medical emergencies or to protect the health of the mother.

The bill would allow girls to ask a judge to bypass the parental consent requirement if she fears abuse or is pregnant as a result of incest. At the same time, the legislation still would require a doctor to notify a girl's parents of the abortion, effectively nullifying the judicial bypass.

Salt Lake City Democratic Sen. Scott McCoy tried to amend the bill Monday to grant an exception to the notification requirement in "very narrow situations" where a girl's father also is the father of her baby.
Peterson argued that parental notification "hasn't been a problem" for 30 years. Why would notification after a judicial bypass be a problem? "What we're trying to do is allow a parent a say in what happens in this youth's life," he said.

But Sen. Patrice Arent said Peterson was closing his eyes to the "real world." The Murray Democrat said Utah lawmakers are setting up a situation where a girl who has been raped by her father would go to court to avoid telling her parents of her abortion. But the doctor still would notify one or both of those parents, who could be complicit in the incest.

"That doesn't make sense," Arent said. "This poor girl has gone through enough already."

Senators rejected the amendment on a voice vote.

Of about 3,300 abortions performed in Utah two years ago (the most recent data available), 195 were for girls under 18. According to statistics from the Utah Department of Health, 24 of those girls were younger than 15, and 171 were 15 to 17 years old.

The bill will have another hearing in the Senate, but is tabled with a $31,500 fiscal note based on estimates of extra court costs.

Conservative senators said the legislation is a test of their morals.

West Jordan Republican Sen. Chris Buttars scoffed at McCoy's suggestion that the legislation might force teens to other states for abortions or into their bathrooms to attempt the procedure on themselves.

"Abortion isn't about women's rights. The rights they had were when they made the decision to have sex," Buttars said. "This is the consequences. The consequence is they should have to talk to their parents."
And Peterson said restricting access to abortion sends a message.

"I'm not sure we should run away from the morals we have," he said. "We're told we can't teach abstinence in our schools. We're told to keep our religion out of our schools. I'm not sure we shouldn't stand on our morals and yell them from the mountaintops."

Posted by crimnos @ 9:45 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Guantanamo: Old and Busted; Bagram: New Hotness

Wow, you know you've got a hit on your hands when you're rated worse than Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. This is from Monday's Democracy Now...since there have been some legal victories over the concentration camp in Gitmo, people are instead being routed to Kabul and Bagram for detaining without charges, torture, rape and all those other things that make America the shining bastion of freedom.

Courtesy of the Something Awful Forums, some excerpts from the segment:

AMY GOODMAN: Now, can you, though, explain? I mean, it sounds like the reason Bagram is growing is because of all of the international outcry around Guantanamo, but also Guantanamo's legal relationship with the United States on a U.S. air base in Cuba. Can you explain the legality of Afghanistan, where Bagram is and Guantanamo, these two detention camps?

MICHAEL RATNER: Well, both Clive and I were in the early case about Guantanamo, in which the U.S. tried to say Guantanamo was like Bagram, that there were no legal rights there. You couldn't go to court for people in Guantanamo. They had no constitutional rights, and the U.S. said it could do what it wanted to people at Guantanamo. We won a big case in the Supreme Court, the Rasul case in June of 2004, that opened the courts to people at Guantanamo and opened them so people like Clive and Center lawyers could go to Guantanamo.

Even with that, those set of rights, the administration, in the Graham-Levin Bill and the Detainee Treatment Act, is trying to eliminate even those rights we won in the Supreme Court. But as far as Bagram is concerned, the legal position of the administration is similar to what it was about Guantanamo. There are no legal rights, but they have the additional argument, that they would make, that because it’s not on a U.S. permanent military base like the one in Cuba, that there’s even fewer rights.

I don't think they're correct. I think that any person detained anywhere in the world has a right to go into a court, has a right to be visited by an attorney, but the administration's view is whatever Guantanamo rights are, the rights at Bagram are nil, absolutely none, and so what they did, according to the Times report, was a few months after we won the Rasul case, they said they stopped sending people to Guantanamo and started to send them to other places – Bagram is the one that we know the most about at this point – because the administration's view is that no court, no lawyer, no one, has any right to visit anyone in Guantanamo -- anyone in Bagram, and that nobody --and that the people at Bagram have no legal rights at all. An extraordinary statement in today’s world.

quote:AMY GOODMAN: Clive Stafford Smith, I wanted to ask you about a piece that appeared in a paper in your country in the Guardian by Suzanne Goldenberg and James Meek. It says, “New evidence has emerged that U.S. forces in Afghanistan engaged in widespread Abu Ghraib-style abuse, taking trophy photographs of detainees and carrying out rape and sexual humiliation. Documents obtained by the Guardian contain evidence that such abuse took place in the main detention center at Bagram, near the capital, Kabul, as well at a smaller U.S. installation near the southern city of Kandahar. A thousand pages of evidence from U.S. Army investigations released to the ACLU after a long battle, made available to the Guardian.”

And then inside, it says, “The latest allegations from Afghanistan fit a pattern of claims of brutal treatment made by former Guantanamo Bay prisoners and Afghans held by the U.S. In December, the U.S. said eight prisoners had died in custody in Afghanistan,” and this is according to you, “A Palestinian says he was sodomized by American soldiers in Afghanistan. Another former prisoner of U.S. forces, a Jordanian, describes a form of torture which involved being hung in a cage from a rope for days. Hussein Abdelkader Youssef Mustafa, a Palestinian living in Jordan, told Clive Stafford Smith he was sodomized by U.S. soldiers during detention at Bagram in 2002. He said, ‘They forcibly rammed a stick up my rectum – excruciatingly painful. Only when the pain became overwhelming did I think I would ever scream, but I could not stop screaming when this happened.’”

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Yeah, you know, Hussein Mustafa, I met with him in Jordan, and he was an incredibly credible person. He is a dignified older gentleman, about now 50 years old, and he wanted to talk about what had happened to him, but he really didn’t want to talk about that sexual stuff, and in the end, you know, I said to him, “Look, you don’t have to, but it’s very important if things happened, that the story get out, so they don't happen to other people,” and in the end he did, and it was in front of half a dozen people who were just transfixed as he described how four soldiers took him, one on each shoulder, one bent down his head and then the fourth of them took this broomstick and shoved it up his rectum.

Now there was no one in that room -- and they were from a variety of places -- who didn't believe that what this man was saying was true, but I am afraid, I’ve got to tell you, that that’s far from the worst that’s happened. When you talk about Bagram, when you talk about Kandahar, those aren’t the worst places the U.S. has run in Afghanistan. The dark prison, sometimes called “Salt Pit,” in Kabul itself, which is separate from Bagram, has been far worse than that, and I can tell you stories from there that just make your skin crawl.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, why don't you tell us something about this place?

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Yeah, I'll tell you some of the ones, for example, that Binyam Mohammed told me. He was the man who had the razor blade taken to him. He was then taken, and again, we can prove it. We’ve got the flight logs. He was taken on January 25, 2004, to Kabul, where he was put in this dark prison for five months, and he was shackled. You just get this vision of the Middle Ages, where he’s shackled on the wall with his hands up, so he can't quite sit down. It’s totally dark in that place.

When the U.S. says that people are being treated nicely in Bagram, you’ve got to be kidding me. It’s the middle of winter, and they're freezing to death, and this man was in this cell, no heating, absolutely freezing, no clothing, except for his shorts, totally dark for 24 hours a day with this howling noise around him. They began with Eminem music, interestingly enough; they played him Eminem music for 24 hours a day for 20 days. Seems to me Eminem ought to be suing them for royalties over that, but then it got worse and they started doing these screeching noises, and this is going on 24 hours a day, and in the mean time they would bring him out very briefly just to beat him, and this is to try to get this man to confess to stories that they now want him to repeat in military commissions in Guantanamo, and they want to say, “Oh, everything's nice now.”

And what he went through, he said, was far worse than the physical torture, this psychological torture that some pervert was running in the dark prison in Kabul was worse to him, and he still suffers from it day in, day out, because of what it has done to his mind, and this is the – what we have to remember is there is someone out there who is thinking this stuff up and who is then saying that we need to do it, and this isn’t some lowly guard who loses control and does something terrible that’s physical. I mean, that’s awful. But you’ve got someone out there who is thinking through how we’re going to torture these people with this excruciating noise and these other things, and they're doing this very, very consciously, and the story has a long way before it’s going to be out fully.

quote:AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to talk about this article in the New Yorker that Jane Mayer had written about Colonel Louie Morgan Banks, a senior Army psychologist who played a significant advisory role in interrogations at Guantanamo Bay. Asked to provide details of his consulting work, he said, quote, “I just don't remember any particular cases. I just consulted generally on what approaches to take. It was about what human behavior in captivity is like.”


MICHAEL RATNER: Well, what’s remarkable about Banks is he also consulted on Guantanamo. So here you have this guy who is a psychologist, consulting really on how to break people through psychological -- psychological torture is what I would call it, and then he goes from Guantanamo to Bagram. This is not chance. This is not a few bad apples. This is high-level military people working with our military, our C.I.A., in how to break people through torture.

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: When you're talking “break people,” and I think that’s a very important word. You know, people bang on about whether it’s torture or whether it’s coercion. Well our highest officials have said that the purpose of all of this is to, quote, “break” somebody, and we get people to confess to stuff that’s absolute drivel. You take, for example, Binyam Mohammed, again. You have a razor blade taken to you, you have the psychological stuff, you’re going to say anything.

They got Binyam Mohammed to confess that he had dinner with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramsey bin al-Shaid, Abu Zubaydah, Sheikh al-Libbi, and Jose Padilla all together on April 3, 2002, in Pakistan. Well, you know, quite apart from anything else, two of them, Abu Zubaydah and Sheikh al-Libbi were in U.S. custody at the time when he confessed to that and at the time that he was meant to be having dinner, and you know, this is a guy that didn’t speak Arabic who was meant to be hobnobbing with half of al-Qaeda. You get this total drivel out of this breaking of people, and yet, for some reason, the people who are designing Guantanamo think we should carry on breaking them, as did the Spanish Inquisition. It’s very odd.


CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Don’t you think though, Michael – I tell you, I think there’s a slightly bigger danger here, which is the people who are doing this abuse believe the stuff they get. This is what’s frightening to me, that we end up making decisions based on this nonsense.

MICHAEL RATNER: You know, it’s true. They do believe it. I think, when you talk to your clients or we talk to ours, the people who are interrogating them actually believe what they're telling them, even though it’s utterly and complete drivel.

Posted by crimnos @ 3:26 PM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Republicans Unfit to Adopt

Thanks to John for catching this one! Great stuff...I'd vote for it on a referendum.

Bill Robinson: Republicans Unfit to Adopt

Bill Robinson Fri Feb 24, 5:57 PM ET

If Ohio State Sen. Robert Hagan's proposal becomes law, Republicans would be barred from adopting. Wednesday night, Hagan wrote a mock proposal to counter one introduced by State Rep. Ron Hood (R-Ashville) aimed at banning gay adoption.

Hagan said that "credible research" shows that adopted children raised in Republican households are more at risk for developing "emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities."

For his part, Rep. Hood's legislation, backed by eight other conservative Republican lawmakers, would prefer 22,000 Ohio children to languish in foster care than be adopted or fostered by gay parents.

What is it about Ohio and Florida? There's always trouble brewing. As we know, they've got lots of problems with their voting machines, lots of dead white people who vote and lots of living black people who aren't allowed to. But now they have something else in common: the irrational-- and probably insincere-- fear of gay adoption.

Coincidence? No, rather, as USA Today managed to observe between colorful pie charts, "the second front in the culture wars that began in 2004." These closely divided states barely handed W. the election in 2000 and 2004, and it was in large part due to the gay marriage issue on the ballot, which got the faithful out of their trailers and into the polls. This election year, however, they've got a new tactic-- stop the gays from helping unwanted children.

Actually, Florida's had that covered since 1977, thanks to the Anita Bryant Law. But this week Ohio joins 15 other states by introducing this kind of homophobic, Republican base-baiting measure. In fact, the backers have said that if it fails in the assembly, which it will, they will fight to get it on the fall ballot. Never mind the fact that there are virtually no credible studies that show adverse effects in gay adoption or parenting, Ron Hood wants to save the children of Ashville, Ohio!

And who is Ron Hood? He's a no neck, proudly flashing his 3 month old daughter on his "pro-family" website. He's endorsed by the NRA (they loved his voting against the proposal to have gun owners lock up firearms at home, and his voting to allow concealed weapons anywhere); he's against abortion and the
RU-486 pill, anti-union, and he has voted to repeal the minimum wage in Ohio. His background is in construction. Needless to say, he won the Outstanding Young Conservative Award in 2000.

Ron Hood is up for election and he's learned the lesson of Ohio: Wedge Issue. He's playing hateful politics, and he's done nothing in his decade in the state house to help children, except ensure more of them are born to parents who don't want them, with the hope that they will grow up working for less than minimum wage before being shot with a concealed weapon.

Ron Hood would deny homes to children who need them, he would deny children to families who want them. He is the bastard spawn of the last two Rove campaigns. He is emblematic of the future of the shrewdly divisive republican party. He is the face of evil, minus the neck.

And his email is:

As a 43 year old lesbian mom in Ohio told the Cincinnati Enquirer, "It's like having someone put a KKK cross in your front yard. In someones opinion, you're not right. The crazy thing is they're the ones that have the hatred in their heart. They're they ones that have the fear in their heart. I'm just raising kids and paying taxes."

According to the latest ABC poll, most Americans believe allowing gays to adopt is a good idea. But what most Americans want never stops the cynical, political forces at work in Ohio during an election year. And, as we've learned the hard way, the rest of us can never afford to overlook what happens in Ohio.

Posted by crimnos @ 10:21 AM :: (0) comments

Monday, February 27, 2006

Army to Pay Halliburton Unit Most Costs Disputed by Audit

Hooray, the corruption never ends. And check out this contract!:

Under the type of contract awarded to the company, "the contractor is not required to perform perfectly to be entitled to reimbursement,"

Man, I need one of those. I seem to remember, during my time as a contractor, work was expected to be pretty damn flawless, or there were all kinds of different contract vehicles that could be used to smack us down. That doesn’t apply, of course, if the VP owns the company. Hah, oh, yeah, and how about this one:

…questionable business practices by the subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, had in some cases driven up the company's costs. But in the haste and peril of war, it had largely done as well as could be expected

Nice! Really, really nice. Forget about accountability.

Army to Pay Halliburton Unit Most Costs Disputed by Audit

The Army has decided to reimburse a Halliburton subsidiary for nearly all of its disputed costs on a $2.41 billion no-bid contract to deliver fuel and repair oil equipment in Iraq, even though the Pentagon's own auditors had identified more than $250 million in charges as potentially excessive or unjustified.

The Army said in response to questions on Friday that questionable business practices by the subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, had in some cases driven up the company's costs. But in the haste and peril of war, it had largely done as well as could be expected, the Army said, and aside from a few penalties, the government was compelled to reimburse the company for its costs.

Under the type of contract awarded to the company, "the contractor is not required to perform perfectly to be entitled to reimbursement," said Rhonda James, a spokeswoman for the southwestern division of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, based in Dallas, where the contract is administered.

The contract has been the subject of intense scrutiny after disclosures in 2003 that it had been awarded without competitive bidding. That produced criticism from Congressional Democrats and others that the company had benefited from its connection with Dick Cheney, who was Halliburton's chief executive before becoming vice president.

Later that year auditors began focusing on the fuel deliveries under the contract, finding that the fuel transportation costs that the company was charging the Army were in some cases nearly triple what others were charging to do the same job. But Kellogg Brown & Root, which has consistently maintained that its costs were justified, characterized the Army's decision as an official repudiation of those criticisms.

"Once all the facts were fully examined, it is clear, and now confirmed, that KBR performed this work appropriately per the client's direction and within the contract terms," said Cathy Mann, a company spokeswoman, in a written statement on the decision. The company's charges, she said, "were deemed properly incurred."

The Pentagon's Defense Contract Audit Agency had questioned $263 million in costs for fuel deliveries, pipeline repairs and other tasks that auditors said were potentially inflated or unsupported by documentation. But the Army decided to pay all but $10.1 million of those contested costs, which were mostly for trucking fuel from Kuwait and Turkey.

That means the Army is withholding payment on just 3.8 percent of the charges questioned by the Pentagon audit agency, which is far below the rate at which the agency's recommendation is usually followed or sustained by the military — the so-called "sustention rate."

Figures provided by the Pentagon audit agency on thousands of military contracts over the past three years show how far the Halliburton decision lies outside the norm.

In 2003, the agency's figures show, the military withheld an average of 66.4 percent of what the auditors had recommended, while in 2004 the figure was 75.2 percent and in 2005 it was 56.4 percent.

Rick Barton, co-director of the postconflict reconstruction project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said despite the difficulties of doing business in a war zone, the low rate of recovery on such huge and widely disputed charges was hard to understand. "To think that it's near zero is ridiculous when you're talking these kinds of numbers," he said.

The Halliburton contract is referred to as a "cost-plus" agreement, meaning that after the company recovers its costs, it also receives various markups and award fees. Although the markups and fees are difficult to calculate exactly using the Army figures, they appear to be about $100 million.

Posted by crimnos @ 9:10 AM :: (0) comments

Iran: We Will Attack Dimona in Response to U.S. Attack

Boy, the end-timers must be giddy with this. I know, I know, Iran most likely couldn’t strike with a conventional air force, and of course Israel has its ABM, but maybe…just maybe…what if they have a way to get a nuke to that reactor?

…naaaah. This was just the Iranian president's weekly inflammatory statement.

"If the United States launches an attack on Iran, the Islamic republic will retaliate with a military strike on Israel's main nuclear facility.

Dr. Abasi, an advisor to Iran's Revolutionary Guard, said Tehran would respond to an American attack with strikes on the Dimona nuclear reactor and other strategic Israeli sites such as the port city of Haifa and the Zakhariya area.

Haifa is also home to a large concentration of chemical factories and oil refineries.

Zakhariya, located in the Jerusalem hills is - according to foreign reports - home to Israel's Jericho missile base. Both Israeli and international media have published commercial satellite images of the Zakhariya and Dimona sites.

Abasi, a senior lecturer at Tehran University, was quoted in the Roz internet news site, identified with reform circles in Iran."

Posted by crimnos @ 8:59 AM :: (0) comments