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"All American corporations were prohibited from selling equipment to Iraq.  Halliburton sidestepped these restrictions and enjoyed millions in profit by end-running the sales through French companies.”


Transportation Security Abominations

Posted January 11, 2004 thepeoplesvoice.org

By: Ted Lang

As if the continuing swirl of corruption surrounding Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney, and a growing number of Bush administration connections and officials weren’t enough, more and more examples of outright executive branch malfeasance are surfacing on a daily basis.

The Halliburton fiasco first appeared as a sole source closed bid anomaly for Bechtel, Parsons, Fluor and the like, a handful of corporations very tightly aligned financially with the Bush administration.  These companies are all heavy donors to the Republican Party.  Cheney was Secretary of Defense under Bush I, and then became CEO of Halliburton.

Restrictions were placed upon equipment sales to Iraq as part of the economic sanctions against Saddam and Iraq resulting from the first Gulf War.  All American corporations were prohibited from selling equipment to Iraq.  Halliburton sidestepped these restrictions and enjoyed millions in profit by end-running the sales through French companies.  This travesty has once again come up, and right on the heels of Halliburton’s price gouging on gasoline sales to the American military forces stationed and fighting in Iraq.  And within the context of the alleged scam, two Halliburton executives admitted skimming millions of taxpayer dollars.

In the February 2004 issue of Government Executive, Amelia Gruber’s article entitled, “Gunning for Halliburton,” suggests that legal sanctions against the “embattled” company may be premature.  She offers, “Late last year and early this year, Halliburton became the largest federal contractor to get flogged in the public square, amid allegations of price-gouging on contracts to import oil into Iraq.  The talk soon turned to whether the company ought to be barred from government work.  Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., said the potential cost overruns raised ‘serious questions’ about whether Halliburton ‘should be considered for suspension or debarment proceedings.’”

Citing an alternate view, Gruber quotes a former assistant counsel at the Pentagon, a lawyer now in private practice.  She writes that the lawyer, a Sam Gdanski, states that even if the price-gouging allegations were true, “a mere dispute over pricing” shouldn’t preclude Halliburton from government contracting.  Clearly, these assessments were recorded prior to the information involving the revelation of the Halliburton executive malfeasance, as well as before the latest resurrected charges against Vice President Cheney.

After Gruber quotes Gdanski’s position that “a criminal indictment or conviction doesn’t make suspension or debarment an automatic thing,” she quotes an opposite view:

“‘Several large contractors have escaped contracting bans despite repeated allegations or court findings of misconduct,’ says Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight [POGO], a non-profit watchdog group.  ‘Let’s get those guys first,’ she says.”

And on the heels of the continuing Transportation Security Agency debacle, where this Bush-created agency continues to defy the will of both the Congress and the people to allow the very necessary and immediate protection of the flying public, the very same Project on Government Oversight published some interesting facts almost exactly two years ago.  The occasion was The Paul Revere Forum: National Security Whistleblowers Speak, held on February 27, 2002, in Washington, D.C.  POGO was a joint sponsor of the conference along with another public watchdog group, the Government Accountability Project and the Patrick Henry Foundation.

In a paper posted on the POGO website entitled, “Statement of Darlene Catalan, Former U.S. Customs Special Agent,” the weakness of American railroad security was discussed.  Catalan writes, “In 1998 I was running a railroad smuggling investigation. This investigation was being managed under a large scale, multi-agency operation with the Union Pacific Railroad Police, the Burlington Northern Railroad Police, The San Bernardino Police Department, and Customs. This operation had received OCDTF status from the U.S. Attorney's office, Los Angeles. OCDTF- is a fancy government acronym for Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. In this operation, we had very high-level information that tons of narcotics were entering the U.S. via pressurized rail tanker cars. We learned that there was a large rail yard in Guadalajara, MX that was controlled by the Arellano-Felix Cartel, and this yard was one of the Cartel's largest narcotics distribution points. In this yard, hundreds of these cars are loaded with narcotics each week destined for the U.S.”

As is becoming more and more typical with the Bush administration, the more professional and competent an agency becomes, or at least as concerns individual government employees within these agencies, the more evidence emerges that their dedication and competence is met head-on by obstruction from supervisors and managers.  This smacks of the same incompetence exposed just prior to 9-11, when an FBI field office and some of its operatives tried desperately to notify D.C. headquarters of their discovery of illegal aliens of suspicious national origin taking truncated flying lessons.  The FBI Director’s “golden boy” who thwarted that miraculous investigative work and made 9-11 possible, not only received a huge bonus from the American taxpayer, but was promoted as well!

Catalan describes her frustration: “Our information turned out to be very accurate. In April 1998, we seized a pressurized tanker car concealing 8 thousand lbs. of marijuana & 34 kilos of cocaine. Subsequent to making this seizure, this large, successful rail operation and the two criminal investigations under its umbrella were immediately torpedoed by Customs management. An attempted controlled delivery of the seized narcotics was thwarted, my help was pulled, & my partner Ruben Sandoval and I came under immediate pressure, retaliation, and intimidation tactics when we refused to shut down this operation and cease to do our job.”

Catalan persisted, along with other loyal government employees.  Eventually, she relates, her career and that of those government workers that tried to do their jobs had their careers, reputations and personal lives ruined.  She writes, “What does this have to do with National Security?”

She explains: “These tanker cars are the perfect instruments for a terrorist attack against the U .S. As our narcotics smuggling investigation revealed to us, anyone with cash and phony identification can lease or sublease these cars using a front company as the importer/exporter of record. We were shocked as to just how easy it was for the narco-traffickers to do this. Knowing the relationship that the terrorists have with the narco-smuggling cartels, it is not a quantum leap to think that terrorists could easily copy the same modus operandi used by the narco-traffickers. The terrorists would simply lease/sublease a tanker car and pay cash to set up an account with any of the major railroads. The railroad and Customs brokers aren't trained -AT 'ALL - to look for any type of terrorist profiles. This is a customer service industry, pure and simple. The railroad employees taking these orders for accounts make minimum wage, and they are simply ‘customer service reps.’ The Customs brokers aren't much different. They are required to check almost nothing, have no training in this arena, and have no requirements to fully identify any of their customers.”

She details why these tank cars are dangerous: “Now, for those of you that have the press packets, take a good look at the photo of the tanker car indicated on the cover. What do you have when you fill one of these cars up with 10 thousand lbs of ammonium nitrate, 100 lbs of C-4, a shape charge, and place this container under pressure? The world’s largest pipe bomb.”

Another paper, posted on the website of the Government Accountability Project, one of the watchdog organizations involved with Catalan’s forum, tells the tale of yet another U.S.Customs agent, Diane Kleiman.  “In 1999, Diane Kleiman was a Special Agent with U.S. Customs assigned to JFK International Airport. While investigating a drug smuggling case she observed and reported serious security breaches by airlines employees. Her supervisors feared the information, [that] if it got out, [it] would embarrass the Agency. They ordered Kleiman not to speak to anyone about what she knew, and even to lie to the grand jury considering indictments in her investigation.”

“In February 1999 Kleiman was assigned to an investigation of smuggling involving airlines employees,” the article continues.  “She was referred to a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent in Florida who informed her that he had made numerous drug arrests in Florida over a two year period for smuggling with the aid of American Airlines employees. The DEA agent informed her that couriers would travel within a row or two of an American Airlines employee, usually baggage handlers. Airline employees can travel for free when seats are available, so an airline employee who frequently traveled would not raise any suspicions. The airline employee would choose flights at obscure times whereby the planes would usually dock at more remote gates with less security. Upon arrival at the gate, the employee would escort the courier beyond the gate, bypassing Customs thus allowing the drugs to enter the country. The DEA agent also informed her of another way that drugs were smuggled into the country, whereby after the passengers disembarked from the aircraft, the baggage handlers would remove the drugs from areas of the plane where they are secreted by airline employees prior to the plane leaving from its place origin.”

Kleiman relates the specifics in terms of an arrest she made, and the unbelievable lessons she learned relative to the extremely lax airport security procedures within the airport operations themselves, not the passenger processing areas where TSA harassment is so notorious.  The article continues, “Six months prior to the attacks on September 11th, Kleiman had warned the US Attorney's office that a tragedy would occur because of the lack of security at American Airlines. She told them that if the employees had such easy access to the planes, they could place bombs and weapons on the planes. She further informed them that American Airlines was not doing background checks on its employees, and [that] many were illegal aliens. Those employees were given ramp passes [allowing] them access to the ramps from public streets. With this access, employees could do surveillance observing the schedules of when planes landed and departed, and observing the security in the airport. The US Attorney's Office dismissed her by saying they would look into it and never got back to her. Customs fired Kleiman for raising these issues.”

In another article posted on Government Executive’s website on August 29, 2002 entitled, “Technology firms await homeland security spending boom, writer Shane Harris states, “Angela Styles, head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget, has railed against the improper use of government-wide technology contracts, popular deals that are pre-awarded to companies and then opened up for all agencies to use.  Styles says that contracting officers need to relearn the ‘acquisition basics’ after reports by some agency inspectors general found that acquisition personnel often don’t conduct full competitions on the contracts.”

Most notable in this regard are recent revelations from the continuing inspector generals’ investigations involving misappropriation of technology acquisition funds at the General Services Administration, or GSA.  GSA is supposedly the government’s top-notch procurement agency, whose primary function is arranging cost saving procurement contracts throughout the federal government.  To date, $40 million has been misappropriated.

In an article posted September 3, 2002, GovExec.com in an article entitled, “Business band to launch homeland security association,” written by Bara Vaida and originally appearing in National Journal’s Technology Daily offers, “The homeland security arena has grown to the point that dozens of businesses will launch the Homeland Security Industries Association on Wednesday.  Two executives from security firms – Bruce deGrazia, vice president of Springfield, Va.-based Versar, and Joseph D’Agostino, executive vice president of Haynes Security in Newark, N.J. – have spearheaded creation of the group.  Its mission is to provide a mechanism for the government to coordinate with the private sector on homeland security issues, including uses of information technology for homeland security.”

The September 2002 article innocently promotes this beneficial partnership between government and the private sector, and beams, “On Wednesday, seven companies will present position papers on port security, airport security, information technology security, physical infrastructure protection, information-sharing technology, best business practices, and bioagent, radiological and nuclear security.” [Emphasis added]

Later, the article offers, “For example, Haynes Security is well known in the New York metropolitan area…” Last week, CBS News’ Randall Pinkston did a story on Haynes Security.  New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey announced that a corruption investigation resulted in an indictment being handed up to Mercer County Superior Court Judge Linda R. Feinberg, the Assignment Judge of the State Grand Jury, on February 2nd.  Haynes Security is charged with bribing contracting officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Continental Airlines, and Public Service Electric and Gas. [Emphasis added]

Additionally, Haynes was charged with employing as security guards individuals with criminal records, and doing so by failing to forward background reports and fingerprints to the New Jersey State Police as required by a state law.  It is noteworthy that this indictment was as a result of a state investigation, and not one initiated by the federal government itself.

It is becoming increasingly apparent, that whether an unjust war initiated against a defenseless Third World dictatorship, or a small conglomerate of rich corporations noted for their donations to the Republican Party, only the very rich and their rich corporations become important considerations for this administration.  Reconstruction profiteers, airlines, oil companies and homeland security private sector partners, are the only ones deriving benefit from both 9-11 and the Iraqi invasion, as well as Israel.  And all have been financed by our hard-earned tax dollars.


© Copyright THEODORE E. LANG 2/09/04 All rights reserved. Ted Lang is a political analyst and a freelance writer.



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