Why We Will Continue to Lose Wars and Fail at Occupations
I don't claim to be an expert, but I do know a couple of basic things about intelligence. The first rule is that a successful intelligence community is one made up of, well, intelligent people. People with advanced training in the regions they study, who are fluent in the languges of the area, and who have a demonstrated record of proven results. In other words, not these people:
Several Titan employees have been implicated in the Abu Ghraib scandal where they translated for the interrogators. A report by Major General George Fay cited one detainee's charge that an interpreter "allegedly raped a 15-18 year old male detainee." According to the report, this same interpreter was also allegedly "present during the abuse of detainees depicted in photographs." A detainee told investigators that this interpreter "hit him and cut his ear, which required stitches."
U.S. Army records show that, of 15 Titan or SOS translators working at Abu Ghraib prison last fall, only one held a security clearance. Most had no military background at all. Khalid Oman WAS a hotel manager in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Emad Mikha, a Chaldean from Basra, managed the meat department at a supermarket in Pontiac, Michigan, before signing on for Iraq.
Remember kids, I can't get a security clearance because I'm queer. Never mind fluency in several Semitic languages or eight years of graduate study in the region. Meat department managers rejoice.
A Titan supervisor in the Sunni Triangle, interviewed by CorpWatch, says that contract translators underwent little or no background checking and their qualifications varied. "I'd say most of them were just there for the pay check and should never have been involved in military operations because they were incompetent or unqualified. Many of them did a terrible job," the former U.S. soldier said.
Another Titan translator says that the company hired mostly Shiite Muslims and sent them to work for the military where they would interview detainees who were primarily of Sunni heritage, causing potential conflicts.
The media have exposed several examples of Titan's problem hires. The Orlando Sentinel reported that Titan hired an Egyptian, Ahmed Fathy Mehalba, who had flunked out of Army interrogation school and been placed under surveillance by Massachusetts police. He was later arrested with what authorities said appeared to be classified information about Joint Task Force-Guantanamo, the secret detention-and-interrogation operation at the U.S. Navy base on Cuba's southern coast.
Another Titan employee who worked for an intelligence group in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq allegedly faked his name and birth date, according to Army Times. Calling himself Noureddine Malki, he claimed was single and that his parents and siblings had been killed by shelling in Lebanon. The FBI arrested him and said he was Moroccan and married.
The article is long and well worth the read. Let's all try to remember that cronyism and corruption don't lead to successful military operations, of any kind.
Within eight years, this new company had ousted other older companies including General Electric from the list of top ten military contractors. In the last few years, L-3 has been aggressively taking over prime contracts, especially in the field of intelligence. In 2005 alone it won $4.7 billion in Pentagon contracts.
Border Failure, Iraq Bonanza
Along with success has come a record of badly completed projects that makes L-3 an odd choice for intelligence gathering in Iraq. Only three months before the government awarded it the huge $426.5 million contract, it busted the company not once, but twice, for supplying faulty surveillance electronics.
In April 2005, the Pentagon placed L-3 subsidiary Interstate Electronics Corporation under criminal investigation for concealing test failures and providing flawed parts for emergency radios used by Special Forces and Air Force teams in Iraq and elsewhere. The investigation is ongoing.
Congressman Mike Rogers, a Republican from Alabama, and chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Management, Integration and Oversight, conducted a hearing on June 16, 2005, to probe why L-3 has botched a key border surveillance project.
"In 1998, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service launched the Integrated Surveillance Intelligence System, known as ISIS. This system was originally designed to detect illegal aliens and drug traffickers crossing our borders.
"A major component of the system is the Remote Video Surveillance Program. This network integrates multiple color, thermal and infrared cameras, which are mounted on 50- to 80-foot poles along the borders, into a single remote-controlled system.
"In December 2004, the inspector general of the General Services Administration issued an audit. This report found numerous problems with the Border Patrol's contract for the Remote Video Surveillance Program. (download report here)
"For example, the initial $2 million award was made to the International Microwave Corporation, known as IMC, without documented evidence of a competition. Interestingly, however, one year later IMC received a $200 million extension for many of the tasks that had fallen outside the scope of the original contract.
"GSA also found problems with the equipment. At the Border Patrol location in Blaine, Washington, for example, auditors found cameras and other pieces of equipment that did not work. Some needed frequent repair.
"At three other locations, including Detroit, auditors found surveillance sites where no equipment had even been delivered and no work was underway. At other sites in New York, Arizona and Texas, some equipment had been installed, but was not operational.
"GSA also noted these deficiencies: 60-foot poles that were paid for but never installed; sensitive equipment that failed to meet electrical codes; an operations center where contractors, and government employees did little or no work for over a year; and, not surprisingly, numerous cost overruns.
"In September 2004, GSA abruptly halted extending the contract, leaving approximately 70 border sites without monitoring equipment. It also forced the contractor to ship truckloads of equipment back to the Border Patrol. Today, that equipment is gathering dust in a warehouse.
"What we have here, plain and simple, is a case of gross mismanagement of a multimillion dollar contract. This agreement has violated federal contracting rules. And it has wasted taxpayers' dollars.
"Worst of all, it has seriously weakened our border security."
Despite the sub-committee hearing last year, the investigation has since been dropped. Robert Samuels, a spokesman for the General Services Administration, emailed an update to CorpWatch: "The results of the investigation were not sufficient, however, to pursue further legal action."
It might just be coincidence but the manager of the border security project was Rebecca Reyes, who is now director of policy, procedures and administration at L-3 subsidiary, MPRI. She also happens to be the daughter of Silvestre Reyes, a member of the U.S. Congress from Texas, a former Border Patrol agent who is now a senior member of both the Armed Services and Select Intelligence Committees of the House of Representatives.
Then on June 16, 2005, Joe Saponaro, then the head of GSI, was hauled before a Congressional committee to testify about the company's $257 million contract to install cameras and sensors for the Border Patrol along remote areas of the Mexican and Canadian borders. The project not only cost a fortune but the system didn't work. In 2004 for example, investigators found that at three sites on the U.S.-Mexico borderâ€“Naco, Nogales, and Tucson, not one of GSI's remote surveillance systems was functioning properly. (see box)
Nonetheless, on July 8, 2005, three weeks after Saponaro testified to Congress, L-3 subsidiary GSI sealed a contract worth $426.5 million over four years for intelligence support in Iraq. The paperwork on the contract was not signed in either the United States or Iraq, but, in a move that made the deal harder to track, by Cindy Higginbotham, operations chief of Division B of the United States Army Contracting Agency office at the Amelia Earhart hotel in Wiesbaden, Germany.
As long as these people are basically functioning as our military, we'll never see any "success" in Iraq, or any place else they're allowed to spend your tax dollars.