Patrick Leahy to Introduce War Profiteering Prevention Act

I spent much of this year working with Brave New Films providing research assistance for “Iraq for Sale“, and excellent film that shows exactly what the Bush Administration is allowing corporations and contactors to get away with in Iraq.

Throughout the research stage, one name continuously popped up – someone that was striving to make sure these contractors were held accountable for putting our soldiers in harm’s way: Senator Patrick Leahy (D – VT). During the 109th Congress, Leahy attempted to introduce legislation to provide oversight and strict penalties for contractors in Iraq that are ripping off the American people, while hurting the troops. The Republican controlled Congress shot him down more than once.

With the Democratic majority taking over Congress last week, Patrick Leahy, now head of the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced the “War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007”:

“Many Democratic Senators joined Leahy in reintroducing a bill creating criminal penalties for war profiteers and cheats who would exploit taxpayer-funded efforts in Iraq and elsewhere around the world. The War Profiteering Prevention Act of 2007 builds on earlier efforts by Leahy, who is also a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, to crack down on this type of rampant fraud and abuse. It is similar to legislation Leahy introduced in 2003, that was subsequently passed by the Senate as part of an appropriations bill but later torpedoed by the White House and the House Republican leadership, which stripped out the Leahy provision.”

According to a press release issued by Leahy, the bill will include the following provisions:

Ҥ Criminalizes war profiteering, which is defined as materially overvaluing any good or service with the specific intent to excessively profit from the war and relief or reconstruction activities

§ Statute would strengthen the tools available to federal prosecutors to combat war profiteering by providing clear authority for the Government to seek criminal penalties and to recover excessive profits for war profiteering overseas.

§ Prohibits any fraud against the United States, Iraq, or any other foreign country involving a contract for the provision of any goods or services in connection with a war, military action, or relief or reconstruction activities.

§ Subjects violators to up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine not to exceed the greater of $1,000,000 or twice the amount of any illegal gross profits, or both.

§ Prohibits making a false statement in any matter involving a contract for the provision of any goods or services in connection with a war, military action, or relief or reconstruction activities.

§ Subjects violators of this provision to up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine not to exceed the greater of $1,000,000, or twice the amount of any illegal gross profits, or both.

§ Creates extraterritorial jurisdiction over offenses committed overseas, and covers any person in the United States or abroad who violates its provisions.”

After a year of reading stories about what these contractors did to our troops and our nation, it’s an amazing feeling to finally see something done about it. Director Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films are owed a huge debt for getting this story out to the American people, and making it an issue everyone can understand and relate to.

As for Leahy, after his 2004 dust up with Vice President and Halliburton lover, Dick Cheney, he can finally respond back with the same phrase used by Cheney, “go fuck yourself!”

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Mike McConnell’s Firm in Charge of SWIFT/TFTP?

President Bush announced today that Retired Vice Admiral John “Mike” McConnell will be replacing John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence.

McConnell, who served under both Bush 41 and Clinton as the head of the NSA, left politics in 1996 to become a Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., “a prominent defense and intelligence consulting and engineering firm.”

During the summer of 2006, The New York Times reported on an “international financial surveillance program” run by the Bush Administration, referred to as “TFTP” (Terrorist Finance Tracking Program) in which the United States received banking information through SWIFT, “a worldwide financial messaging network by which messages concerning financial transactions are exchanged among banks and other financial institutions.”

According to Wikipedia:

“A series of articles published on June 23, 2006, by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times revealed that the Treasury Department and the CIA, United States government agencies, had a program to access the SWIFT transaction database after the September 11th attacks called the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program. The Belgian government said in September 2006, that the SWIFT dealings with the US government authorities were in breach with Belgian and European privacy laws.”

After an international outcry, the United States government hired an outside contractor to monitor the transactions and to ensure that the access to SWIFT was not abused.

And who exactly was the contractor hired to monitor for abuse? McConnell’s very own Booz Allen Hamilton.

Bush Administration Helping Defraud Taxpayers in Iraq?

In 2003 a small, private military contracting company opened its doors just in time to feel the boon that would be the war in Iraq. Custer Battles, run by Mike Battles, a former CIA agent and failed Republican Congressional candidate, along with his partner Scott Custer, had zero experience in the security industry when it received one of the very first contracts issued in Iraq.

In the spring of 2003, after the fall of Saddam Hussein and around the time that President Bush declared “Mission Accomplished”, Custer Battles was presented with a whopping $16 million no-bid contract to secure the airport in Baghdad. This contract was the first of many.

During Custer Battles’ tenure in Iraq, the company was flooded with allegations of unrestrained force, fraud and over billing of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Retired Brigadier General Hugh Tant III said Custer Battles’ fraud, “was probably the worst I’ve ever seen in my 30 years in the Army.”

Custer Battles was eventually kicked out of Iraq and forced to face fraud charges back in the United States, despite objections from the Bush Administration.

According to Newsweek, the Bush Administration “…has argued privately that the occupation government, known as the Coalition Provisional Authority, was a multinational institution, not an arm of the U.S. government. So the U.S. government was not technically defrauded. Lawyers for the whistle-blowers point out, however, that President George W. Bush signed a 2003 law authorizing $18.7 billion to go to U.S. authorities in Iraq, including the CPA, ‘as an entity of the United States government.’ And several contracts with Custer Battles refer to the other party as ‘the United States of America.'”

In March of 2006 a jury found Custer Battles guilty, but that verdict was overturned shortly thereafter due to the supposed ambiguous nature of the structure of the CPA. The judge that overturned the verdict did admit however, that “U.S. taxpayers ultimately footed the bill.” In the end, the Bush Administration’s argument shielded Custer Battles from refunding stolen U.S. taxpayer dollars.

According to Custer Battles’ owners, the company was sold to a Romanian firm, Danubia Global Inc. At the time of the sale, Danubia was owned by Security Ventures International Ltd, a British Virgin Islands firm.

“Battles and Custer, through a spokesman, said they sold the remaining Iraqi assets of Custer Battles – including vehicles, computers and intellectual properties – to Danubia early this year. Several former Custer Battles employees have joined the Romanian firm. But the contractors refused to name the employees, or to identify Danubia’s owners.”

PR Newswire reported in May 2005 that Danubia had been bought out.

“Windmill International Limited, the American company, has a 15-year presence in Romania and recently acquired a major shareholding in Danubia Global Inc. (DGI), a global logistics and security provider headquartered in Bucharest which is currently providing security and logistics services in Iraq.”

The Board of Directors of Windmill include a wide variety of who’s who in the Republican party, including:

James Gilmore *: former RNC chair and Governor of VA

Hansford Johnson *: Acting Secretary of the Navy under George W. Bush – 2/03 – 10/03

Michael Ussery *: former State Department official and Ambassador to Morocco

Douglas Combs *: “Combs was acting undersecretary of the Navy from 1999 to 2003 and made frequent trips to Iraq during that period and worked with contractors and military advisers there. He also was a special assistant to Johnson, who was acting secretary of the Navy, the service’s top civilian position, in 2003.”

Ronald Dwight *: An assistant attorney general in Rhode Island, who later worked on Mike Battles failed congressional campaign.

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(John Warner, Douglas Combs and Dick Cheney)

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(Douglas Combs and George H.W. Bush) *.

Ronald Dwight, a personal friend and former co-worker of Mike Battles’, was on the board of directors of the company that purchased a controlling share in Danubia Global, which had shortly before purchased much of Custer Battles’ assets.

Also, Dwight briefly served as a legal adviser in the Iraqi Transportation Ministry around the time in which Custer Battles was receiving contracts throughout Iraq.

Recently, members of Windmill International’s board of directors were accused “of scheming with a banned American contractor to get lucrative rebuilding contracts in Iraq.”

According to the AP, “The current suit names former acting Navy Secretary Hansford Johnson, former acting Navy Undersecretary Douglas Combs and Custer Battles LLC officials including founders Scott Custer and Mike Battles, who were barred in 2004 after billing the government for work that was never done and for padding invoices by much as 100 percent.

Also named were six companies connected to the contracting firm, including Windmill International Ltd., a worldwide contractor run by Combs and Johnson, and a Romanian company, Danubia Global, which bought Custer Battles in 2005.

The new lawsuit contends Custer and Battles, both Army veterans with Washington political connections, tried to get around the suspension order by plotting with Johnson and Combs ‘to set up sham companies (thereby) concealing their ownership and control of those entities.'”

A lawyer for Windmill International does acknowledge that Combs partook in a business meeting with Scott Custer in 2004.

Most of the players in this suit are in some way tied to the Bush Administration, either as a personal friend or having served at some level in the Administration itself. With the Administration’s Justice Department arguing so vehemently in favor of Custer Battles’, could Bush/Cheney, etc. actually be involved in assisting these contracting companies in defrauding the U.S. taxpayers?

*All photos and information on Board Members were originally hosted on Windmill International’s website, which is no longer in operation.

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