Memos May Link Cheney to No-Bid Iraq Contract
I recently examined some 100 pages of documents that detail the multi-billion-dollar, no-bid contract awarded in 2003 by the U.S. Army to Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton Co.
Heavily redacted and often written in maddeningly abstruse government legalese, the documents were released by the Department of the Army on orders of U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo M. Urbina to Judicial Watch, the public interest watchdog that flags and prosecutes government corruption.
Several documents suggest that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may have lied publicly about the involvement of the vice president's office in awarding the contract. It will be remembered that Vice President Dick Cheney was chairman and CEO of Halliburton from 1995-2000.
In an e-mail dated April 22, 2003, Carol Sanders of the Army Corps writes, "Mr. Robert Andersen, Chief Counsel, USACE, participated in a (CBS) 60 Minutes interview today in New York regarding the sole source award of the oil response contract to Kellogg, Brown and Root. ... Mr. Andersen ... was able to make many of the points we had planned."
Sanders subsequently provided sound bites from the interview, including, "There was no contact whatsoever (with the vice president's office)."
This directly contradicts another e-mail uncovered by Judicial Watch in 2004. The e-mail, dated March 5, 2003, sent by an official of the Army Corps whose name was redacted, stated, "We anticipate no issue (with the KBR deal) since the action has been coordinated with the V.P.'s office."
The newly released documents also prove the Department of the Army abused the Freedom of Information Act process by improperly invoking exemptions. One document, for example, includes a frank admission by an Army Corps official:
"I am copying you on this crap since I honestly believe the competitive procurement will never happen."
The Army attempted to withhold this embarrassing document even though no appropriate exemption applied. It took the intervention of a federal district judge to force the Army to release the document.
"These new documents raise questions about the involvement of the vice president's office in the controversial KBR deal. One has to wonder whether the Army was being forthright about the issue," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
Noting Cheney's prior (and perhaps ongoing but oblique) relationship with Halliburton, Judicial Watch filed its FOIA request to obtain documents pertaining to the lucrative no-bid contract. The vice president's associations with Halliburton "raise concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest or favoritism," Judicial Watch argued, "particularly since the contract was awarded to KBR without a bidding process and because the contract was not announced to the public until after it was approved."
In a carefully worded letter dated May 14, 2003, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote to Lt. Gen. Robert B. Flowers, U.S. Army Chief of Engineers:
"Earlier this year, the Department of Defense awarded a sole-source contract to KBR ... for the reconstruction of the Iraqi oil industry. I understand that this contract was awarded as a short-term 'bridge' contract, with the expectation that a follow-up contract will be awarded later this year on the basis of full and open competition.
"I would appreciate additional information on the 'bridge' contract awarded to KBR. In particular, I would like copies of both the contract itself and each of the work orders issued under the contract to date. I understand this information is classified."
A record of a response to Levin's request could not be obtained.
Another caustic memo in which the dates and sender's and recipient's names are blanked out reads:
"Why don't you Army people understand we administer our own contracts? Your bunch mentions DCMA (Defense Contract Management Agency) administration of the contract everytime (sic) we meet/talk. Is there a hidden agenda that we should be made aware of? If not, please explain your ASAALT (Assistant Secretary of the Army Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) reluctance for us to administer our own contracts? Wasn't cradle-to-grave the latest 'fad' you all were pushing last time I read your webpage (sic)?"
This is yet another example of the arrogance and self-granted dictatorial powers wielded by the Bush administration.
Police and other law enforcement agents no longer have to knock before barging in someone's home. Radio and TV stations can now be fined absurd amounts for airing what the White House-governed FCC deems indecent language. The communications of private citizens can be intercepted and scrutinized. People dubbed "enemy combatants" can be arrested without charge, secretly relocated abroad and detained indefinitely without trial. Banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States are being covertly mined.
With Judicial Watch's findings and revelations, we now learn that the very underpinning of American labor law - open, competitive bidding on government contracts - can be flouted and violated with shameless impunity.
Aldous Huxley and George Orwell must be smiling in their sleep.
address: The Signal - Santa Clarita Valley
add a comment on this article
discussion from this article