Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pentagon probes $6 billion in contracts

This ain't two-for Tuesday, but it feels like it. See the previous post about Blackwater and read this one to understand what I mean.

Pentagon probes $6 billion in contracts
By RICHARD LARDNER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Federal investigators are examining allegations of criminal misconduct related to $6 billion worth of contracts for equipment and services needed in Iraq and Afghanistan, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday.

he financial scope of the inquiries was provided during a congressional hearing at which Defense Department representatives were criticized for moving too slowly to deal with a growing number of cases of contract fraud and abuse.

Following the testimony from Thomas Gimble, the Pentagon's deputy inspector general, members of the House Armed Services Committee questioned whether a "culture of corruption" had consumed the military's system for buying the gear the troops need to fight.

No, said the witnesses. In addition to Gimble, they included Lt. Gen. N. Ross Thompson, a top Army acquisition official, and Shay Assad, director of defense procurement.

They attributed the impropriety to a handful of "bad apples," a lack of stringent accounting controls, too few properly trained contracting personnel and the demands of wartime operations.

"This sickens me, when there is even one case of an officer or a noncommissioned officer who is involved in case of fraud or accepting a bribe," Thompson said. But he said there was no "widespread conspiracy."

Added Assad: "We did not properly train our officers and enlisted (personnel) to work in the environment."

But Gimble's public remarks, which came after committee members received a classified briefing on the investigations, did little to assure the lawmakers that the problems are not deeper.

Gimble said his office has 225 people working on 90 investigations and 29 audits stemming from the hundreds of billions dollars spent on the wars thus far.

About half the investigations are for procurement fraud, a category that includes undelivered or defective products, overcharges and false claims, according to Gimble's testimony.

An additional 26 inquiries involve public corruption, which covers bribery and conflicts of interest, Gimble said. There are 16 linked to the theft of money or property and violations of U.S. export rules.

Just over 50 investigations originated in Iraq and 22 started in Kuwait, the site of an Army contracting office that service officials had previously said was a source of many flawed contracts.

Targets of the investigations include military and civilian government personnel, and contractors from the United States and other countries, according to Gimble's testimony.

Agents from the inspector general's office, FBI, Army, Air Force and Navy criminal investigative services, the Internal Revenue Service and Scotland Yard are engaged in the investigations.

Democrats and Republicans on the committee, often divided over the direction of the Iraq war, were united in their displeasure over what Gimble told them.

"This is a sad day for the United States," said Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, the committee's top Republican. "Dishonesty is not a function of manning levels."

Assad pointed to the formation in early 2005 of a joint contracting command for Iraq and Afghanistan as a positive step toward more visibility over the huge amounts of money are spent. The command has close to 200 contracting officers at locations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a separate but related subject that also is under investigation, an Iraq expert from the Defense Department acknowledged that oversight of American weapons bound for Iraqi forces have been so lax that no one knows for certain where all the guns and ammunition wound up.

"There was an imperative to get this equipment out to the fighting forces as quickly as possible," said Peter Velz, a foreign affairs specialist for Iraq.

Velz said the U.S.-led command training Iraqi forces did not have enough people in Iraq to properly catalog the thousands of weapons flowing into the country. As a result, the Pentagon does not know if the number of weapons that were destined for the Iraqis "were in fact transferred," he said. The issue first surfaced in May when Pentagon officials learned that Turkish officials were concerned that American-issued weapons were being used in violent crimes in their country. In July, Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent the Pentagon's top lawyer, William Haynes, to Turkey to hear the concerns.

Pentagon Inspector General Claude Kicklighter was subsequently directed to investigate the failures that led to the distribution problems. Gimble said that inquiry is one of his office's "highest priorities."

Although the subjects are serious ones, only about a dozen of the committee's 61 members attended the hearing. By the time it ended, the witnesses outnumbered the lawmakers. Just the committee chairman, Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., remained.

(This version CORRECTS the day of the hearing to Thursday, not Wednesday.)

Blackwater Black Market?

When news broke that Blackwater's armed security firm (ex-military, ex-domestic police, and ex-CIA, etc) would have forces commissioned to provide "security" in Iraq, some of us suspected that Blackwater's tenure there would not end without some kind of controversy. Blackwater insiders in Iraq may have proven our suspicions accurate.

US Federal prosecutors have targeted Blackwater in a black market arms probe. Blackwater is believed to be involved in smuggling arms into Iraq and selling them to accused terrorists that have used them in attacks against Iraqis and US troops.

According to the Associated Press, "The U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh, N.C., is handling the investigation with help from Pentagon and State Department auditors, who have concluded there is enough evidence to file charges, the officials told The Associated Press. Blackwater is based in Moyock, N.C."

The investigation was reportedly heightened after Blackwater contractors attacked eleven Iraqis while escorting "diplomats" visiting Iraq. The Iraqi government recently ordered Blackwater security forces out of Iraq.

The whole report and reference link appear below:
Feds target Blackwater in weapons probe
By Matthew Lee, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Federal prosecutors are investigating whether employees of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, officials said Friday.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh, N.C., is handling the investigation with help from Pentagon and State Department auditors, who have concluded there is enough evidence to file charges, the officials told The Associated Press. Blackwater is based in Moyock, N.C.

A spokeswoman for Blackwater did not return calls seeking comment Friday. The U.S. attorney for the eastern district of North Carolina, George Holding, declined to comment, as did Pentagon and State Department spokesmen.

Officials with knowledge of the case said it is active, although at an early stage. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, which has heightened since 11 Iraqis were killed Sunday in a shooting involving Blackwater contractors protecting a U.S. diplomatic convoy in Baghdad.

The officials could not say whether the investigation would result in indictments, how many Blackwater employees are involved or if the company itself, which has won hundreds of millions of dollars in government security contracts since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, is under scrutiny.

In Saturday's editions, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that two former Blackwater employees — Kenneth Wayne Cashwell of Virginia Beach, Va., and William Ellsworth "Max" Grumiaux of Clemmons, N.C. — are cooperating with federal investigators.

Cashwell and Grumiaux pleaded guilty in early 2007 to possession of stolen firearms that had been shipped in interstate or foreign commerce, and aided and abetted another in doing so, according to court papers viewed by The Associated Press. In their plea agreements, which call for a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the men agreed to testify in any future proceedings.

Calls to defense attorneys were not immediately returned Friday evening, and calls to the telephone listings for both men also were not returned.

The News & Observer, citing unidentified sources, reported that the probe was looking at whether Blackwater had shipped unlicensed automatic weapons and military goods to Iraq without a license.

The paper's report that the company itself was under investigation could not be confirmed by the AP.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ordered a review of security practices for U.S. diplomats in Iraq following a deadly incident involving Blackwater USA guards protecting an embassy convoy.

Rice's announcement came as the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad resumed limited diplomatic convoys under the protection of Blackwater outside the heavily fortified Green Zone after a suspension because of the weekend incident in that city.

In the United States, officials in Washington said the smuggling investigation grew from internal Pentagon and State Department inquiries into U.S. weapons that had gone missing in Iraq. It gained steam after Turkish authorities protested to the U.S. in July that they had seized American arms from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, rebels.

The Turks provided serial numbers of the weapons to U.S. investigators, said a Turkish official.

The Pentagon said in late July it was looking into the Turkish complaints and a U.S. official said FBI agents had traveled to Turkey in recent months to look into cases of missing U.S. weapons in Iraq.

Investigators are determining whether the alleged Blackwater weapons match those taken from the PKK.

It was not clear if Blackwater employees suspected of selling to the black market knew the weapons they allegedly sold to middlemen might wind up with the PKK. If they did, possible charges against them could be more serious than theft or illegal weapons sales, officials said.

The PKK, which is fighting for an independent Kurdistan, is banned in Turkey, which has a restive Kurdish population and is considered a "foreign terrorist organization" by the State Department. That designation bars U.S. citizens or those in U.S. jurisdictions from supporting the group in any way.

The North Carolina investigation was first brought to light by State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard, who mentioned it, perhaps inadvertently, this week while denying he had improperly blocked fraud and corruption probes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Krongard was accused in a letter by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, of politically motivated malfeasance, including refusing to cooperate with an investigation into alleged weapons smuggling by a large, unidentified State Department contractor.

In response, Krongard said in a written statement that he "made one of my best investigators available to help Assistant U.S. Attorneys in North Carolina in their investigation into alleged smuggling of weapons into Iraq by a contractor."

His statement went further than Waxman's letter because it identified the state in which the investigation was taking place. Blackwater is the biggest of the State Department's three private security contractors.

The other two, Dyncorp and Triple Canopy, are based in Washington's northern Virginias suburbs, outside the jurisdiction of the North Carolina's attorneys.


Associated Press writers Mike Baker in Raleigh and Desmond Butler and Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington contributed to this report.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Progressively Treva Blog is Back

I now have a new account at where Progressively Treva has relocated at:

At the time of this writing I'm waiting for Keith to restore my posts and, if possible, other content. There's a long list of other former members that are also waiting for their content, too.

I've been keeping an eye on the efx2blogs homepage and members' blogrolls and comments section to see which members of the former community have found the new efx2 location, registered and got their blogs going. Although, it's a relief that we can use pre-designed templates, I'll be glad when we are able to have more control of our designs, assuming that we will. It's my understanding that Keith is, or plans on looking into customizing things to offer more member control over our own designs.

I'm just glad that Keith was able to get efx2 running again this quickly. I'm sure, he, and possibly Martin, have really worked hard and spent a lot of time to enable us to get our efx2 blogs back. I just hope, all members are able to find the new efx2 location. If they think to search technorati and sites like that they're more likely to catch up with the rest of us sooner than they might if they tried to use search engines, like Google and Yahoo.

I'll be updating links lists to also include any mirror blogs on this blog and on my efx2 blog. I'll do the same if I create another mirror blog. I hope, in the future people will bookmark mirrored versions and additional blogs if they want to keep in touch with their owners. That's how I was able to find Libertine's mirror.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

EFX2blogs Online

Scottitude Reports efx2 is back online. The new URL is Keith left a message on the main page, some of which Scottitude relayed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Is EFX2 About to Return Online?

I acted out of curiosity to see if I might get new results by trying to access the page. For the past couple of days, I got the Page Not Found message. A few minutes ago I tried again and read the following message:

This is the placeholder for domain If you see this page after uploading site content you probably have not replaced the index.html file.

This page has been automatically generated by Plesk.

Is this a positive sign for Keith and the displaced blogging community? Does it mean that we might get our beloved blogs back? Do we dare have hope in being reunited with friends that haven't found us at our alternative blogs, who didn't have other means for us to keep in touch?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Carlyle Group Buys Home Depot Supplier

The following was reported in the Washington Post on Sunday. (Source Link):

By Thomas Heath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 26, 2007; 7:34 PM

Home Depot has reached a deal with a consortium of private-equity firms headed by Carlyle Group to sell its supply arm, HD Supply, for $8.5 billion, down from its original price of $10.3 billion, according to sources close to the negotiations.

The deal was reached Sunday after weekend-long negotiations between District-based Carlyle Group, Home Depot and several banks, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.

Home Depot, the world's largest home-improvement store chain, had said last week that it was talking with the buyers about restructuring the agreement, which was expected to result in a lower price because of recent turmoil that has gripped the credit markets since the deal's announcement in June.

Related info about Carlyle Group at this blog:

War Profiteers Sell Bloody Fortune,

Bush Sr. Resigns From Senior Position at Carlyle Group.