The watchdog organization Project On Government Oversight (POGO) revealed Thursday that a whistleblower who disclosed to the group the deviant behavior carried out by U.S. Embassy guards stationed in Kabul was forced to resign from the security firm that employed him and the guards he exposed.
The unnamed whistleblower worked for ArmorGroup, a firm hired by the State Department to protect diplomats and embassy staff. POGO’s investigation uncovered widespread debauchery committed by embassy guards who worked for the company.
POGO obtained photographs showing the guards partying with hookers and in various stages of undress. POGO said the guards live and work in a “Lord of Flies” environment, referring to the 1954 novel about British adolescents stranded on an island. The photographs can be accessed here.
According to a letter POGO sent Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Tuesday:
POGO initiated an investigation after nearly one-tenth of the U.S./ex-pat 6 guards individually contacted us to express concerns about and provide evidence of a pattern of blatant, longstanding violations of the security contract, and of a pervasive breakdown in the chain of command and guard force discipline and morale. This environment has resulted in chronic turnover by U.S./ex-pat guards. According to the State Department, “nearly 90% of the incumbent US/Expats left within the first six months of contract performance.”7 According to POGO sources, the U.S./ex-pat guard turnover may be as high as 100 percent annually. This untenable turnover prevents the guard force from developing team cohesion, and requires constant training for new replacement recruits. The guards have come to POGO because they say they believe strongly in the mission, but are concerned that many good guards are quitting out of frustration or being fired for refusing to participate in the misconduct, and that those responsible for the misconduct are not being held accountable…
Multiple guards say this deviant hazing has created a climate of fear and coercion, with those who declined to participate often ridiculed, humiliated, demoted, or even fired. The result is an environment that is dangerous and volatile. Some guards have reported barricading themselves in their rooms for fear that those carrying out the hazing will harm them physically. Others have reported that AGNA management has begun to conduct a witch hunt to identify employees who have provided information about this atmosphere to POGO.
The guards who engaged in such activities will be dismissed from their posts, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday.
According to POGO, ArmorGroup North America, “came to believe that [the whistleblower] had reached out to D.C. for assistance. The company told POGO that the whistleblower’s resignation was voluntary.”
But “information obtained by [POGO] strongly suggests he was pressured into resigning to avoid being fired, an action often referred to as constructive dismissal,” the watchdog group said in a news release.
“POGO is deeply concerned about the action allegedly taken against the whistleblower. He is being forced out at a time when three of the supervisors responsible for allowing the misconduct at Camp Sullivan have been allowed to quietly resign and escape accountability.
The group called on the State Department to “take immediate action to protect both the physical and employment security of whistleblowers who have stepped forward with allegations of serious misconduct involving ArmorGroup, North America and others.”
In response to POGO’s revelations, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Wednesday, “there were some things going on in Kabul which we were not aware of, but frankly, we should have been aware of.”
“I’d like to stress, though, that all along, any problems that we did discover throughout this contract, we did promptly raise with the contractor, and they were immediately addressed,” Kelly told reporters. “And you saw some of these deficiencies, of course, in the report of the – of POGO regarding some of the communications we’ve had with the contractor.”
Kelly added that the State Department has already “documented a number of management concerns through our ongoing oversight of this particular contract” and “a senior team from Diplomatic Security and our Bureau of Management, some contracting officials, will be going to Kabul in the coming days to investigate.”
However, neither Kelly nor anyone else at the State Department responded Thursday to the allegations that ArmorGroup forced the whistleblower to resign.
The Public Record reported Wednesday that Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, called on the State Department to launch a probe into the performance and management of the ArmorGroup contract. She sent a letter Monday to Patrick Kennedy, the undersecretary of state for management, demanding documents related to ArmorGroup’s contract and any previous State Department reviews that may exist alleging previous misconduct by the firm’s guards.