What can you glean from a big story?

Sometimes the Big Story of the day is interesting enough on its own, as the turtle media pokes its head out of its shell once in a while:

A hidden world, growing beyond control

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

And while the story itself promises to go down a lot of big and interesting rabbit holes:

Thank You - A Sliver of Justice

Back in March of 2007, ePluribus Media published the first article in a three-part series which I wrote, Iraq, Contingency Contracting and the Defense Base Act. In part, the article highlighted the situation of the von Ackermann family and the lack of insurance benefits they received after Kirk von Ackermann, a civilian contractor, disappeared in Iraq in October of 2003. (Kirk von Ackermann is now the longest missing American in Iraq today.)

Von Ackermann's employer at the time, Ultra Services of Istanbul Turkey, did not carry Defense Base Act insurance, similar to workman's compensation for overseas contractors. The Defense Base Act pays benefits if a contractor is killed, injured or missing. Claims under the Defense Base Act are administered by the Department of Labor.

As a result of that series, an attorney retired from the Department of Labor contacted me with questions about the article and in particular, the plight of the von Ackermann family. I pointed him to the Missing in Iraq blog and as Megan has noted at her blog, he went on to eventually take on their case. 

Greed, Murder and Cowardice: The Pillars of Democracy?

(Cross posted at The National Gadfly)

“The true strength of rulers and empires lies not in armies or emotions, but in the belief of men that they are inflexibly open and truthful and legal. As soon as a government departs from that standard, it ceases to be anything more than “the gang in possession,” and its days are numbered.” (H. G. Wells, as quoted in the Gravel Edition of the Pentagon Papers.)

Iraq Contractors - Raw Data From CENTCOM - Pt II -- Discussion

(click to enlarge)

promoted by roxy - orginally published 2008-10-3 17:27:22 -1000

In October 2008, ePluribus Media received new census data from Central Command (CENTCOM) in response to an FOIA request filed back in August of 2007. The data provides an overview of the number of contractors working in Iraq: nationalities, agencies they work, approximate number of employees, contract end date, etc. Most of the contracts continue to fall under Department of Defense and defense related agencies as was evidenced in the Census data released in 2007.

Iraq Contractors: Raw Data From CENTCOM Part II
By Susie Dow, ePluribus Media, October 30, 2008


Unintelligence in Federal Intelligence Agencies

Unintelligence in Federal Intelligence Agencies

Joel S. Hirschhorn

The Bush administration has found yet another way to waste taxpayer money while providing huge sums to private contractors. According to a survey of activities in 2007 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, about a third of the federal professional intelligence workforce now consists of contractors, mostly in the Washington, DC area.

Standard Forms and Missing Persons in Iraq

Originally posted 2008-07-27 12:33:36 -0600, bumping for the front page - standingup

To be honest, I'm just not sure what to make of this.

I've stumbled across an inconsistent application of casualty definitions within the Department of Defense while researching the Missing Persons Act and how it pertains to civilian contractors working in Iraq.

The Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness distributes what's known as an instruction that "provides uniform official casualty terms and definitions." The relevant Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) is DoDI 1300.18 - "Personnel Casualty Matters, Policies, and Procedures." The most recent version was issued in January 2008.

The instruction provides a chart and definitions used for casualty reporting. So every time some one is injured or killed in Iraq, paperwork is filed. This paperwork in turn sets in motion a variety of actions through different agencies and departments, for instance alerting the Casualty Assistance Center to get in touch with next of kin, etc.

But here's the thing. The status of "Missing," as in missing person, is itself missing from one of the casualty reporting forms.

Contractors killed in Iraq

Civilian employee from Wauconda killed in Iraq
Associated Press, June 25, 2008

Slain Guthrie Man Remembered For Dedication To Others
KOCO News, June 24, 2008

At least two contractors were among ten people who died when a hidden bomb detonated in a meeting room in Sadr City.

Nicole Suveges, 38, of Wauconda, IL was a political scientist for BAE Systems.

Hearing on Defense Base Act

originally posted 2008-05-26 08:09:49, bumped

On May 15, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on the Defense Base Act. As some of you know, the DBA is a subject near and dear to my heart, that is, if such a thing could be possible.

Committee Holds Hearing on Defense Base Act Insurance

The hearing examined allegations of waste and abuse in the procurement of Defense Base Act (DBA) insurance, the workers’ compensation insurance required for all federal contractors working overseas. Contractors obtain DBA insurance from private insurance companies, and these costs are included in the price of the contract and passed on to taxpayers.

Several items of note below the fold.

Iraq: Remains identified - 1 still missing

Bumped. -- GH

Six civilian contractors, kidnapped at two different times, were held together in Iraq.

Paul Johnson Reuben kidnapped on November 16, 2006
Jonathon Cote kidnapped on November 16, 2006
Joshua Munns (also spelled Munz) kidnapped on November 16, 2006
John Roy Young kidnapped on November 16, 2006
Bert Nussbaumer kidnapped on November 16, 2006 (Austrian)
Ronald Withrow kidnapped on January 5, 2007

Fingers of 5 of them were delivered to the US military in Iraq several weeks ago. Remains of 2, Ronald Withrow and John Roy Young, were found March 17. Several days later, the remains of 3 more contractors were found, of which 2 were identified as Paul Johnson-Reuben and Joshua Munns.

Last night, the third was identified as Bert Nussbaumer of Austria.

Iraq: 5 Years - 5 Hostages - 5 Fingers

originally posted - 2008-03-14 08:54:56 -1100

Deeply disturbing news released in Austria on Wednesday that 5 severed fingers belonging to a group of missing contractors were delivered to the US Army in Iraq.

The missing contractors are:

Jonathon Cote, 25, of Getzville, New York
Joshua Munns, 25, of Redding, California
Bert Nussbaumer, 26, of Austria
Paul Reuben, 41, of Andover, Minnesota
Ronald Withrow, 40, of Lubbock, Texas

Jurisdiction Question in Contractor Court Case

There's a very interesting court case currently making its way through the courts. The case is Baragona v. Kuwait & Gulf Link Transport Co.

On his way to a base in Kuwait, an Army Lt. was killed in a vehicular accident involving a trucking contractor. An Army investigation of the accident determined that the KGL driver's negligence caused the accident and Baragona's death, according to court records in the case.[ref]

His parents sued the contractor, and won. Now the contractor is appealing the case on jurisdictional grounds.

I think it's worth keeping an eye on.

Civilian Contractors in Iraq - Hostage Reporting

Between January 2006 and January 2007, a new Hostage Reporting contract clause was added to Joint Contracting Command (JCC) Acquisition Instructions. The JCC is "the procurement arm of Multi-National Forces – Iraq."

While the Defense Base Act, first established in 1941, provides the means for contractors to provide benefits for employees killed, injured or missing working on or near the battlefield, published procedures for actually getting those benefits remain sorely wanting. In some cases, insurance companies behave as HMOs, flatly denying benefits, forcing contractors to sue just to receive appropriate medical care.

Until the creation of the Hostage Working Group (HWG) in the summer of 2004 at the US Embassy, families of missing contractors had quite literally no one to turn to. Comprised of representatives from the FBI, the Defense Department, the State Department and the Iraqi government, the HWG meets weekly. But an unfortunate weakness of the HWG is that personnel routinely rotate in and out, creating gaps in case knowledge.