Afghan embassy scandal compared to Abu Ghraib

WASHINGTON - Scandalous photographs of contractors at the US embassy in Kabul Monday could hurt US interests in the same way as images of abuse in Iraqi prisons, the head of a US investigating panel said Monday.
"This is the equivalent of Abu Ghraib," said Dov Zakheim, who chairs the Congress-appointed commission on war-time contracts, referring to the notorious photos of abuse at the US-run jail in Baghdad, which emerged in 2004.

Afghan embassy scandal compared to Abu Ghraib
Samuel Brinkley, the vice-president of Wackenhut Services, appeared before investigators to explain photos showing embassy security staff in various states of undress and inebriation, but said he would not try to justify their conduct.
"Let me say that I am not here to defend the indefensible," Brinkley told the panel.
"I am personally embarrassed by their misbehavior and I am embarrassed to be here speaking about their poor judgment and inappropriate actions," he said.
Employees of the Wackenhut subcontractor ArmorGroup are accused of undermining security at the embassy by engaging in a series of hazing rituals and offending local customs.
The State Department's head of management, Patrick Kennedy, told the commission that US diplomats should have done more to monitor the contractors' behavior.
"There's no question that we could have done more," he said.
"As the department's senior management officer, I take responsibility for having failed to prevent them and for having not uncovered them earlier."
Meanwhile, panel commissioner Linda Gustitus urged officials to end ArmorGroup's contract to send the message that such behavior would not be tolerated.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters that 165 employees of ArmorGroup had been interviewed during the investigation, adding that 12 guards had either been removed or had resigned.
"As you know, alcohol has been banned there," Kelly said, adding that a US embassy security officer had also been assigned to oversee the contractor's camp.
Kelly said Kennedy's briefing had stressed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, and senior State Department leadership "were outraged by the misconduct of these contractors, and of course, they have ordered... immediate and strong action."
But he added the State Department had not uncovered any security breaches despite the contractor behavior, and that department employees in Kabul had not been put at risk.

Tuesday, September 15th 2009

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