Help Defend The Government And The Government'll Make You Suffer

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Many times, the only people who know about acts of government agency or private company fraud are the people who work for those entities. When they gather up enough evidence and courage, they step forward and become whistleblowers. For this brave action in service to their country, they get to watch their lives be ruined.

Donald Vance, a Navy veteran and then-employee of Iraqi-owned Shield Group Security Co., stepped forward to tell the FBI that his company was selling all manner of arms (RPGs, mines, guns) to any private buyer, be they insurgent, American soldier, or contract worker, for cash, without any records. For his service to two countries, he was locked up in Camp Cropper, an American military prison, for 97 days as a "security detainee" with a colleague who helped him gather the evidence he presented. In a lawsuit filed by the two, they allege that they were illegally imprisoned and subjected to physical and mental interrogation tactics (that's "torture" to you and me). These two Americans are just the latest entry in an incredibly depressing list of people who have stepped forward to expose corruption in the Iraqi rebuilding efforts--and get crushed for their efforts.

Some of you may remember Bunnatine "Bunny" Greenhouse, who despite having a funny name, was the highest-ranking civilian contracting officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (who have been having a bad couple of decades). Ms. Greenhouse testified before Congress to expose widespread fraud in multi-billion dollar contracts awarded to Halliburton (whose most famous ex-employee is the Great White Satan himself). For her troubles, Bunny has been demoted and works in a different department within the Corps with no decision-making authority. In her demotion, her supervisors claimed she was "performing poorly." The government never followed up on the corruption charges.

We can do this all day--there's the case of Robert Isakson, a man associated briefly with Custer Battles (what kind of name is that for a company involved in wartime matters? Honestly.) in 2004. Mr. Isakson and co-plaintiff William Baldwin, a former employee of the firm, filed their own suit against the company alleging that they (the firm) had defrauded the government (the government) for tens of millions of dollars (a lot of money) by faking invoices or padding bills. Pursuing the case for more than two years, Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Isakson actually won their case and a grand jury awarded a $10 million judgement against the now-defunct company. This was to be the first and last (as of now) civil verdict for fraud in Iraqi reconstruction. Of course it didn't stick--U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III overturned the jury award in 2006. The judge said that the two "failed to prove that the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-backed occupier of Iraq for 14 months, was part of the U.S. government."

But let us get back the the first story of Navy vet Donald Vance. After contacting the FBI, Mr. Vance and Nathan Ertel (the man who helped him gather the evidence) were stripped of their security passes and confined to the company compound. Vance called the U.S. Embassy, where hostage experts on the phone told him to lock themselves in a room with as many weapons as they could. The military sent special forces in to rescue the two men and they thought that they were finally safe. Not! The men were hooded, cuffed, and driven to the military prison, where they were kept for more than three months. With no explanation as to why, Vance was dumped at the Bagdhad International Airport 97 days later. When he got home, he cut off all contact with the government, and has not talked to the FBI since.

Don't you feel safer knowing the government is taking steps to end fraud and punishing anyone who reports them?




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