The Contractors Causing Chaos but Not Out and Out Corruption

I’m beginning to agree with Rayne’s comment of the other day that the only explanation for the length of the WaPo series on contractors is to please the Pulitzer committee. The other most (perhaps more) likely explanation for the style of the piece is that editors have tried so hard not to piss off the security establishment–and to stop short of voicing the conclusions that Dana Priest and William Arkin’s work support–that they’ve turned Priest and Arkin’s work into a bunch of disembodied fluff.

Take a look at the logic of this passage–which points out the drawbacks of using contractors–to see what I mean:

Since 9/11, contractors have made extraordinary contributions – and extraordinary blunders – that have changed history and clouded the public’s view of the distinction between the actions of officers sworn on behalf of the United States and corporate employees with little more than a security badge and a gun.

Contractor misdeeds in Iraq and Afghanistan have hurt U.S. credibility in those countries as well as in the Middle East. Abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, some of it done by contractors, helped ignite a call for vengeance against the United States that continues today. Security guards working for Blackwater added fuel to the five-year violent chaos in Iraq and became the symbol of an America run amok.

Contractors in war zones, especially those who can fire weapons, blur “the line between the legitimate and illegitimate use of force, which is just what our enemies want,” Allison Stanger, a professor of international politics and economics at Middlebury College and the author of “One Nation Under Contract,” told the independent Commission on Wartime Contracting at a hearing in June.

Misconduct happens, too. A defense contractor formerly called MZM paid bribes for CIA contracts, sending Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who was a California congressman on the intelligence committee, to prison. Guards employed in Afghanistan by ArmorGroup North America, a private security company, were caught on camera in a lewd-partying scandal.

It starts with a classic “on the one side, on the other” piece of cowpie: a sentence that even linguistically refuses to take sides. Contractors, you see, are extraordinary in all ways!!!

Then watch the shift into an almost agent-less soft-pedaling of the problems contractors have caused. Abuse of prisoners happened. But apparently, only at Abu Ghraib, not at Bagram, not at Gitmo, not at firebases where detainees died. And the names of those contractors? Their role in the abuse? The WaPo stops short of telling you, for example, that a CACI interrogator was the one instructing the grunts at Abu Ghraib to abuse detainees. The WaPo also doesn’t tell you the CACI contractors never paid any price for doing so. The WaPo doesn’t mention that DOD believed they had no way of holding  contractors accountable for such things (though the case of David Passaro, in which a detainee died, of course proved that contractors could be prosecuted).

Then there’s Blackwater. What’d they do? Why they, “added fuel to the five-year violent chaos in Iraq and became the symbol of an America run amok.” No mention of Nisour Square. No mention of the Iraqi Vice President’s murdered security guard.  No mention of the contractors killed in Fallujah–who were left exposed by Blackwater. No mention of the illegal gun smuggling. And definitely no mention of the most recent allegations that Blackwater has been involved with assassination squads. Instead, we get Allison Stanger’s quote–alluding to contractors doing the actual killing, but never actually spelling that out for those who don’t read Jeremy Scahill (or, frankly, Erik Prince).

And then, after alluding to the CACI interrogators who avoided the legal consequences the Abu Ghraib guards paid, after alluding to Blackwater’s fueling of chaos but not mentioning its many legal problems, only then does this story say,

Misconduct happens, too.

Which, grammatically and logically, suggests the CACI and Blackwater crimes were not actually misconduct.

And even here there’s some real fudging. According to the WaPo, there was only one contractor involved in the Duke Cunningham story: MZM. (And even there, WaPo makes no mention of MZM’s involvement in CIFA’s spying on American citizens.) No mention of the other contracting scandal exposed in the Duke Cunningham case, wherein the third most senior guy at CIA, Dusty Foggo, went to jail for sending contracts to his childhood buddy Brent Wilkes in exchange for prostitutes and–possibly–a plush job after he left the CIA. That kind of revolving door corruption is one of the real and repeated problems with reliance on contractors. The such a senior person at CIA sold out security for an expensive whore ought to serve as a cornerstone for this morality tale. But according to the WaPo, it didn’t happen.

And that’s how the miracle of modern MSM editing presents the downsides of contractors as largely disembodied chaos rather than security contracts getting doled out for reasons that have nothing to do with security, rather than contractors abusing their quasi-immune status to engage in really counterproductive crimes.

Dusty Foggo’s Girlfriend, John Rizzo, and the Salt Pit

The AP story on the Salt Pit death makes it clear that–at a time when Dusty Foggo was Executive Director of CIA–he was involved in an internal review of the death.

The current U.S. official insisted that the case was adequately scrutinized. The official also said a CIA accountability review board was held in connection with the death.

The CIA declined to discuss whether the two agency officers cited in the inspector general’s report were punished.

But when the case was put before Kyle D. Foggo, the CIA’s third-ranking officer at the time, no formal administrative action was taken against the two men, said two former intelligence officials with knowledge of the case.

This review must have happened some time after fall 2004, when Foggo started in the ExDir position (it seems to have been a follow-on to the CIA IG Report). That means that Foggo’s decision not to act against any of the people in the Salt Pit killing came at around the same time that his girlfriend was hired at CIA’s Office of General Counsel over the objections of staffers within OGC. That’s significant because among the people in the chain of authorization between the Bybee Memo and the torture was then OGC head John Rizzo, who intervened to make sure Foggo’s girlfriend got and stayed hired.

Details of how Foggo got his girlfriend hired appeared in the sentencing documents for his conviction in the Brent Wilkes/Duke Cunningham case (they were included not just to show Foggo’s corruption, but also because, over the course of the case, Foggo had repeatedly claimed to be happily and faithfully married).

As William Mitchell of the CIA Inspector General’s office described, Foggo’s girlfriend, ER, was at first rejected by OGC because she had previously been investigated for having an affair with her boss (elsewhere the sentencing materials include Foggo’s claim that “she didn’t fuck him”), and then destroyed evidence to cover up the affair. But after OGC rejected her application, Foggo harassed the Managing Associate General Counsel of CIA, who then passed on Foggo’s concern to then Acting General Counsel John Rizzo.

Read more

Duke Cunningham Bribery Ring: Two Down, Two to Go

Tommy K has now joined Duke Cunningham in prison, with Tommy K being sentenced
to more than eight years and more than a million dollar fine. That leaves Dusty Foggo–presently due to be tried for bribery and then some in the fall in Virginia and currently squabbling over discovery with the government. And Brent Wilkes, who is trying to negotiate bail while he prepares to appeal his conviction.

These guys were all indicted for the gaming of our defense and intelligence contracts using bribes. But the housing crisis has added a nice touch of irony to the equation. Brent Wilkes has had trouble making bail because his southern California real estate has declined in value so much it’s no longer enough to back the $2 million he originally posted for bail.

Burns reinstated the $2 million bail, but wanted current appraisals of any real estate Wilkes would put up to secure $1.4 million of that amount.

Wilkes was short about $600,000 at first. The crash in the real estate market had devalued property previously used to secure the bail.

And Judge Larry Burns was none too happy that–after Tommy K signed a plea deal with the government–he continued to engage in massive mortgage fraud.

Burns also took into account that Kontogiannis continued breaking the law after he pleaded guilty.

“Here you are with your rear end on fire over this Cunningham thing, and you’re out there making bad loans?” Burns said. “I think that’s just brazen.”

So two and a half years after this little bribery ring first became public, its perpetrators are beginning to go to jail.

Howie’s got a good post on the secrecy surrounding Tommy K’s sweet plea deal. Like Howie, I hope that we begin to learn why the government almost gave Tommy K a pass on bribing a Congressman because–they claim–he was cooperating on some counter-terrorism investigation. We saw how Chiquita Bananas similarly got a pass on their crimes, courtesy of Michael Chertoff. I just wonder how many of the folks ripping off middle class home owners in the last several years will, like Tommy K almost did, similarly get a pass.


Shew! I did it! I survived for a full week without WiFi or wireless.

And it was nice.

A million thanks to bmaz for watching the blog this week–looks like you guys had a lot of fun without me. And a million thanks for the birthday wishes.

I’ll post more substantively once I wade through the accumulated emails and posts and news. But for now I’ve got the following questions as I read through what you’ve guys have been reading through.

  • If the White House destroys hard drives of people who move on, and the people from whom we wanted email in January 2006 included three people who had already left OVP (Cathie Martin, Jenny Mayfield, and Scooter Libby), then does that mean we still don’t have emails from the relevant period for these three people (particularly the last two)?
  • If Brent Wilkes’ complaints about improper leaks of his impending indictment win him a get out of jail free card, does that mean Eliot Spitzer is out of all legal danger (even while the DA is making it known that he suspects Spitzer perjured himself)?
  • What does Eric Lichtblau mean when he refers to Dick Cheney’s tense relations with the NYT in December 2005?

As New York Times Editor Bill Keller, Washington Bureau Chief Phil Taubman, and I awaited our meeting, we still weren’t sure who would make the pitch for the president. Dick Cheney had thought about coming to the meeting but figured his own tense relations with the newspaper might actually hinder the White House’s efforts to stop publication. (He was probably right.)

After all, this meeting took place just a month after Cheney’s Cheney had been indicted for lying to cover up Cheney’s apparent order to leak Valerie Wilson’s identity to Judy Miller. That indictment came after the NYT made an ill-advised attempt to protect Libby–even after they knew Judy’s testimony was proof that Libby lied under oath. After having been served so well by his selective A1 cutout leaks to the NYT, why was he so cranky right after Libby was indicted?

More Charges for Dusty Foggo?

The government has agreed to move the Dusty Foggo trial–the last remaining indictment from the Duke Cunningham scandal–to Eastern District of VA to make it easier for the CIA and its friends to testify in the trial (h/t chrisc). But the really interesting part of the news is the indication that prosecutors have found more potential charges against Foggo at precisely the same time as they announce they’re dropping charges against Brent Wilkes in the same case.

Federal prosecutors agreed Thursday to move the corruption case of former Central Intelligence Agency official Kyle “Dusty” Foggo to Virginia and hinted he will face more charges in the future.

In addition, prosecutors said they will drop charges in that case against Foggo’s lifelong friend and co-defendant, former Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes.


For the past several months, Foggo’s Washington, D.C.-based lawyers have asked Burns to transfer the case out of California. They said it made sense because 90 percent of the actions alleged in the complaint took place in that area and not in Southern California, and virtually all the witnesses and documents are based there.

While Burns agreed the case should be moved, both prosecutors and Wilkes balked. But on Feb. 1, Wilkes dropped his objections to the move.

The government followed suit Thursday. In a brief court filing they said that “the government has recently uncovered evidence to support additional charges” against Foggo.

Call me crazy, but it sure looks like–faced with the possibility of a 60 year jail sentence–Brent Wilkes all of a sudden remembered some evidence against Foggo that he had previously forgotten.

Duke Cunningham. The gift that keeps on giving.

Update: I’m wrong–it doesn’t look like Wilkes flipped. Perhaps Michael did, but not Wilkes.

What’s happening is a big game over venue. Foggo originally asked for venue in ED VA. The court never finally ruled on that. But then Foggo switched his request, asking that it be moved to DC. Here’s why:

Defendants Kyle Dustin Foggo and Brent Roger Wilkes have jointly moved for transfer of venue in this case to the District of Columbia, on the basis of convenience to the parties pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 21(b). Defendant Wilkes has also moved for transfer pursuant to Fed. R. P. 21(a). Defendant Foggo previously filed a motion to transfer the case to the Eastern District of Virginia (“EDVA”), which was denied without prejudice, and then renewed that motion, Read more

Brent Wilkes “The Leader of a Criminal Enterprise”

Duke Cunningham, who is none too bright, is looking pretty smart for pleading guilty and taking his eight year sentence for accepting bribes. Compared to the sixty years the Probation Office has recommended for Brent Wilkes, after all, those eight years look like child’s play (h/t chrisc).

Federal probation officials are recommending that Brent Wilkes, the Poway defense contractor who was convicted of bribing former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, should be sentenced to 60 years in prison, according to court records.

Apparently, the Probation Office calculated that everything Brent Wilkes’ company did for the government was criminal.

The specific reasons behind the probation recommendation are not known, because the reports are not publicly available. However, in a court filing last week, Geragos referred to sections of the report and his objections to them.


The lawyer said he would challenge that calculation. In an interview he said probation officials appeared to have totaled up all the federal work ADCS got from the government and attributed all of it to criminal behavior.


Geragos also said in the court filing that probation officials said Wilkes’ sentence should be increased because he was an organizer or leader of a criminal enterprise.

I’m not much interested in Wilkes’ sentence–I’d just like them to get started with the Dusty Foggo side of the case. But I am interested in how this sentence (assuming Judge Burns gives Wilkes anything close to that) affects all the other bribe-givers and -takers’ behavior. You think maybe this will get John Dootlittle’s or William Jefferson’s attention? You think this will get the attention of all the Bush cronies who are still actively bribing Congressmen to get contracts?