Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Reversing denials, Pentagon says Blackwater mercenary contract hidden in Halliburton deal

Blackwater 'contractors' over Baghdad

WASHINGTON: After numerous denials, the Pentagon has confirmed that a North Carolina company provided armed security guards in Iraq under a subcontract that was buried so deeply the government could not find it.

The secretary of the Army on Tuesday wrote two Democratic lawmakers that the Blackwater USA contract was part of a huge military support operation by run by Halliburton subsidiary KBR.

Vice President Dick Cheney ran Halliburton before he became vice president.
Several times last year, Pentagon officials told inquiring lawmakers they could find no evidence of the Blackwater contract. Blackwater, of Moyock, North Carolina, did not respond to several requests for comment.

The discovery shows the dense world of Iraq contracting, where the main contractor hires subcontractors who then hire additional subcontractors. Each company tacks on a charge for overhead, a cost that works its way up to U.S. taxpayers.

"This ongoing episode demonstrates the Pentagon's complete failure to safeguard taxpayer dollars," said Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, one of the lawmakers who had asked about the Blackwater contract and received denials.

"They continue to look the other way in the face of overwhelming evidence that Halliburton was charging taxpayers for unauthorized security services," Van Hollen said.

The hidden contract not only cost taxpayers money, it also might have been illegal. The Halliburton subsidiary's main contract for military support services prohibited hiring subcontractors to provide armed security. That job is left to the U.S. military, unless the theater commander decides otherwise.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

Related Link:
Petraeus: Mercenaries vital part of effort