Zebra 3 Report by Joe Anybody
Friday, 6 March 2009
Bad Monkey Business - Lets make It Stop - Get Active!
Now Playing: Is your taxes going to monkey abuse - and what are you doing about it?
End the Use of Chimps in Research
Watch Our Video, Then Take Action
VIDEO LINK - PLEASE WATCH.
A nine-month-long undercover investigation by The HSUS has exposed the mistreatment of nearly 300 chimpanzees and other primates at the New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) in Louisiana. These chimps, living lives of deprivation and misery, are among the more than 1,000 chimps languishing in laboratories across the United States. Chimps, our closet genetic relative, are complex, social, and long-lived creatures. Many chimps currently warehoused in research facilities have lived for decades behind bars. Especially heartbreaking are stories of the 26 elder chimps at NIRC, who were taken from their mothers in the wild.
The Great Ape Protection Act (H.R. 1326) has just been re-introduced in Congress. This legislation aims to end invasive research on the chimpanzees remaining in laboratories, retire the approximately 500 federally-owned chimpanzees to permanent sanctuary (including the elder chimps at NIRC), and make the recent decision by the National Center for Research Resources (part of the National Institutes of Health) to stop funding the breeding of federally-owned chimpanzees permanent. TAKE ACTION
Please make a brief, polite phone call to urge your U.S. Representative to co-sponsor The Great Ape Protection Act. Call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 or click here to look up your Representative and the Capitol office phone number.
After you make your call, fill in and submit the form at the right to automatically send a message to your U.S. Representative. Your legislators receive a lot of email, so it is important to personalize the subject line and text below to make your message stand out and have a greater impact.
Sample Letter from link
Dear [ Decision Maker ],
As your constituent, I am asking you to co-sponsor the Towns-Reichert Great Ape Protection Act, H.R. 1326, which was recently re-introduced. This legislation phases out the use of chimpanzees in invasive research and retires the estimated 500 federally-owned chimpanzees to permanent, suitable sanctuary
ABC News: Nightline aired the story of the more than 300 chimpanzees at the New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) in Louisiana. The footage of NIRC was taken from a nine-month-long undercover investigation by The Humane Society of the United States.
Among these chimps are 26 elders who were taken decades ago from the wild. It's time to give these animals the sanctuary they deserve.
At any given time, the vast majority of chimpanzees in laboratories are simply being warehoused, and not actually used in research. The approximately $20-25 million in taxpayer dollars per year spent to house, care for, and experiment on this endangered species could be better spent on other, more useful research endeavors.
I am very concerned about the use of these endangered animals for research which causes them considerable harm. In addition to being highly social and emotional beings, chimpanzees have been shown to have amazing mental abilities such as tool use and problem solving skills. Given what we know about them, confinement in a laboratory is simply no place for a chimpanzee.
The United States is the only country, besides Gabon, that still uses chimpanzees in invasive research. The United Kingdom, Japan, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain have all banned or severely restricted the use of chimpanzees. Please help the U.S. join this list of nations by co-sponsoring The Great Ape Protection Act.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 3:17 PM PST
Updated: Friday, 6 March 2009 9:04 PM PST
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
private viewing at Mr Darksides place of the 92 missing Torture Tapes
Now Playing: 92 USA torture tapes ...have been destroyed (or have they?)
Hey Now Z3 Readers here is a stomach aching torture file blog. Seems Mr Darkside (war criminal cheney the dick) has been hiding the facts again.
Gee Mr Darkside, could it be the 92 tapes you had destroyed? What we have known for years here at Z3 headquarters is this type of criminal activity has been going on day and night and with no one holding these evil doers accountable.
Give me a break!
They must think we are stupid.
Well John Q Public may be ignorant and naive but the Z3 Report readers know all to well what is going on in them dark dank holes that fly USA flags over the entrance while they do the bidding for Mr Darkside and use criminal tactics in the name of justice.
I bet those 92 tapes contained some filthy shit. And it probably had a 'made in the USA' stamp on the box. Actually smooth dick probably has them at home in his family room for viewing privately.
Posted March 2, 2009 | 06:53 PM (EST)
92 Destroyed Tapes: A Need to Shed Light on Cheney's "Dark Side"
By: Coleen Rowley
When I first posed these hard questions in the NY Times about the C.I.A. torture tapes, we were all under the belief that only two tapes had been destroyed. Now that we know it was ninety two tapes, all kinds of further questions emerge. But the most pressing is this one: how can this still be swept under the rug?! Sweeping dark things under the rug is never the answer. And despite the crude attempt to avoid accountability by shredding the evidence, I can't imagine a time there was such a need for an independent prosecutor to shed light on what Cheney once termed "the dark side".
Published in NY Times: December 11, 2007
To the Editor:
Re ''C.I.A. Destroyed 2 Tapes Showing Interrogations''
(NY Times front page, Dec. 7):
You don't need to have worked as an F.B.I. agent for 24 years as I did to know that shredding the evidence is always a clue. What's the common thread underlying the C.I.A.'s destruction of videotaped harsh interrogations in the midst of ongoing legal inquiries; President Bush's last-minute commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence; the millions of White House e-mail records missing in violation of the Presidential Records Act; and the administration's current push to give immunity to the telecommunication companies suspected of engaging in illegal eavesdropping and surveillance of Americans?
Clearly, the only way the Bush gang can protect itself now from accountability is to suppress the truth. To do so, officials must destroy hard evidence and, at the same time, protect and immunize those who followed their illegal orders.
Their contempt for the rule of law cannot get much worse. They learned from Nixon's Watergate, and they're trying not to leave any Oval Office tapes around. Coleen Rowley
Apple Valley, Minn., Dec. 7, 2007
I noted that interrogators used the Abu Zubaydah torture tapes to intimidate other interrogation subjects.
I should have noted that even showing the torture tapes to captives would have been a violation of the Geneva Conventions.
I see three possibilities:
First, maybe interrogators were authorized to use tapes of Abu Zubaydah being tortured as an interrogation tool.
Second, maybe interrogators were not authorized to use the tapes of Abu Zubaydah as an interrogation tool, and were doing so on their own authority.
Third, maybe the tapes were a ruse de guerre, starring actors, who play-acted brutal torture. I believe that the use of tapes that realistically faked the depiction of torture would also be a violation of the Geneva Conventions.
The fourteen captives transferred from CIA custody in 2006 weren't the only captives who had been in CIA custody prior to being sent to Guantanamo. Several other former CIA captives were transferred to Guantanamo in 2003 and 2004. It is possible the torture tapes were only used on captives in CIA custody.
CIA Director Michael Hayden claimed that the torture tapes were recorded "for training purposes". It seems what he meant this was interrogators showed the tapes to other captives, to show them how far interrogators would go to get the answers they wanted.
Way back in 2004, when Guantanamo captive Ibrahim Mahdi Achmed Zeidan testified before his Combatant Status Review Tribunal he described the role the Abu Zubaydah torture tapes played in other captives' interrogations.
Back in 2004 the Guantanamo captives knew that Abu Zubaydah's torture sessions had been recorded -- because their interrogators had shown them those tapes. Meanwhile the Bush administration hid the existence of the tapes from Congress and the American people.
Here is a link to where Zeidan talks about Abu Zubaydah's torture. http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/761-ibrahim-mahdi-achmed-zeidan/documents/search?document_query=torture&x=19&y=10
Can we expect government to police itself...recent information including the destruction of 92 tapes indicate that there are no oversights in place to allow for an indepentent examination of apparent illegal and criminal behavior. I would so like to see justice done in what use to be the American way...but I am fearful that those days are gone.
With Obama in office I thought we would see a casting of light into dark places and an outcry regarding the dirt it uncovered....instead I'm still waiting for the 'change'. I know the economy is melting down and therefore takes the most focus, but unless we exam the behavior that lead us to this point, there can be no resolution or accountability. How much longer are we expected to wait? Until all documentation is destroyed?
As if America didn't have enough evil to account for in its history of bigotry and witchburning. Now we are dishonored even further. Thanks a lot, Dubya, Cheney, the CIA and anyone else who contributed to this kind of sneaky, unlawful, rule-breaking thuggery that made the world hate us. I want to see them on trial yesterday.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 7:54 PM PST
Updated: Friday, 6 March 2009 9:06 PM PST
Monday, 2 March 2009
The Downlow on Plastic Water Bottles
Now Playing: New study finds "Plastic Water Bottles" are not good for the environment
Hello my friendly concerned Z3 Readers,
I just found this tid-bit of information through my email from
"Mother Jones Magazine" here is the URL link:
Your Water Bottle Is One-Quarter Full Of Oil
Still want to drink it? Because the truth is that bottle of water is up to 2,000 times more energy intensive than just turning on the tap. No one really knew that until now.
Researchers at the Pacific Institute in Oakland California ran the numbers and found that bottle production alone wastes 50 million barrels of oil a year (that's 2.5 days of US oil consumption). Add to that energy the energy needed to process the water, label the bottles, fill the bottles, seal the bottles, transport the bottles, cool them prior to sale… well, you get the idea.
Bottom line: Bottled-water drinkers in the US alone in 2007 squandered the equivalent of 32 to 54 million barrels of oil. Triple that number for worldwide use. For perspective, imagine each bottle is one-quarter full of oil.
As reported at Treehugger: Bottled-water drinkers are the new smokers.
Since oil and water don't mix, turn on the tap. Still want a container? Try reusable Nalgene or stainless steel. Not without impact but durable at least. Traveling overseas to the lands-of-unclean waters? Pony up for a Katadyn bottle/filter combination. I can personally attest that this all-in-one system is a miracle worker of good intestinal and environmental health.
Concerned about the one in six humans who must live in the lands-of-unclean waters? Consider tossing a doubloon or two at the LifeStraw people who've found a nifty and inexpensive way to survive deadly water supplies.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 2:05 PM PST
Updated: Monday, 2 March 2009 2:09 PM PST
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
Abu Ghraib to Reopens (shhhhh! it has a new name)
Now Playing: Abu Ghraib new name is Baghdad Central Prison.
Abu Ghraib to Reopen
- complete with children's playground -
Published on 02-22-2009
Welcome back - Abu Ghraib's bad old days are over, claim jailers.
Now, nearly five years after its role in one of the world's biggest human rights abuse scandals, Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail has re-opened with a promise of decent conditions for inmates - including a gym, computer chatroom and hair salon.
The prison, which earned global notoriety in 2004 after US jailers filmed themselves tormenting and sexually abusing Iraqi prisoners, was shut down two years ago when America handed control of it to the new Iraqi government. Iraqi and US officials, who believed its closure would end what had become a symbolic rallying point for the anti-US insurgency, moved its inmates to another facility on the Kuwait border.
But yesterday, after a fresh lick of paint and extensive refurbishing, it officially opened its doors again, purporting to offer conditions more familiar to inmates of a prison in Scandinavia. As well as modern medical and dental facilities, there is a courtyard for visiting families that contains a children's playground and water fountain. Inmates also have a mosque, and will be able to sew their own clothes in a small sewing factory. Mindful of its fearsome reputation, Iraqi officials in charge of the makeover have even changed its name from Abu Ghraib to Baghdad Central Prison.
"The prison is officially open and we have received inmates. Hundreds are present," said prison director general Alsharif al-Murtadha Abdul al-Mutalib, who yesterday invited reporters to tour the jail, which is set behind watchtower-guarded walls in one of Baghdad's western suburbs. It will eventually be home to around 14,000 prisoners.
In all, 11 US soldiers were convicted of breaking military laws and five others were disciplined over the torture allegations in Abu Ghraib. American authorities implemented a series of reforms in the aftermath, although they still faced complaints about prolonged detentions without charges.
Conditions were far harsher there during Saddam's time, however, when the double gallows in the jail's execution chamber was in regular use, and cells were so over-crowded that inmates used to have to take turns to sleep. Just ahead of the US invasion in 2003, Saddam granted an amnesty to some 60,000 inmates that it was then holding, adding greatly to the law and order problems that beset Baghdad when his government finally fell.
Under a bilateral security agreement that calls for a full US withdrawal by the end of 2011, American commanders have to hand over around 14,000 Iraqis that they are still detaining as suspected insurgents or militia members.
Most of those detainees are expected to be freed without charge, but some will face trials under Iraqi law. Despite the promises made by Iraqi officials during yesterday's re-opening ceremony, human rights groups say prisoners in Iraqi custody are frequently beaten, abused and denied due process.
Last year, the Iraqi government said it would turn a section of the 280-acre prison into a museum documenting Saddam's crimes, but not the abuses committed by US guards.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 2:32 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 24 February 2009 2:46 PM PST
Protests Ramping up ...well I do think so
Now Playing: Londons Calling
Published on 02-22-2009
Britain faces summer of rage - police
Scenes such as those seen in London in January when protestors clashed with mounted riot police at a protest over Israel's action in Gaza could become more common sights in the UK. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images Police
are preparing for a "summer of rage" as victims of the economic downturn take to the streets to demonstrate against financial institutions, the Guardian has learned.Britain's most senior police officer with responsibility for public order raised the spectre of a return of the riots of the 1980s, with people who have lost their jobs, homes or savings becoming "footsoldiers" in a wave of potentially violent mass protests.Superintendent David Hartshorn, who heads the Metropolitan police's public order branch, told the Guardian that middle-class individuals who would never have considered joining demonstrations may now seek to vent their anger through protests this year. He said that banks, particularly those that still pay large bonuses despite receiving billions in taxpayer money, had become "viable targets". So too had the headquarters of multinational companies and other financial institutions in the City which are being blamed for the financial crisis.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 2:31 PM PST
Monday, 23 February 2009
Sick Attack on Gaza Leaves "437 Dead Children" as well as1,330 adults
Now Playing: Medea Benjamin tells us 437 children were recently killed
Z3 Readers This is a descouraging report from Gaza. Thank God for good people like Medea Benjamin who brings this shocking sick news from Gaza.
437 Dead Palestinian Children
When I traveled to Gaza last week, everywhere I went, a photo haunted me. I saw it in a brochure called "Gaza will not die" that Hamas gives out to visitors at the border crossing. A poster-sized version was posted outside a makeshift memorial at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. And now that I am back home, the image comes to me when I look at children playing in the park, when I glance at the school across the street, when I go to sleep at night.
It is a photo of a young Palestinian girl who is literally buried alive in the rubble from a bomb blast, with just her head protruding from the ruins. Her eyes are closed, her mouth partially open, as if she were in a deep sleep. Dried blood covers her lips, her cheeks, her hair. Someone with a glove is reaching down to touch her forehead, showing one final gesture of kindness in the midst of such inhumanity.
What was this little girl's name, I wonder. How old was she? Was she sleeping when the bomb hit her home? Did she die a quick death or a slow, agonizing one? Where are her parents, her siblings? How are they faring?
Of the 1,330 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military during the 22-day invasion of Gaza, 437 were children. Let me repeat that: 437 children -- each as beautiful and precious as our own.
As a Jew, an American and a mother, I felt compelled to witness, firsthand, what my people and my tax dollars had done during this invasion. Visiting Gaza filled me with unbearable sadness. Unlike the primitive weapons of Hamas, the Israelis had so many sophisticated ways to murder, maim and destroy -- unmanned drones, F-16s dropping "smart bombs" that miss, Apache helicopters launching missiles, tanks firing from the ground, ships shelling Gaza from the sea. So many horrific weapons stamped with Made in the USA. While Hamas' attacks on Israeli villages are deplorable, Israel's disproportionate response is unconscionable, with 1,330 Palestinians dead vs. 13 Israelis.
If the invasion was designed to destroy Hamas, it failed miserably. Not only is Hamas still in control, but it retains much popular support. If the invasion was designed as a form of collective punishment, it succeeded, leaving behind a trail of grieving mothers, angry fathers and traumatized children.
To get a sense of the devastation, check out a slide show circulating on the internet called Gaza: Massacre of Children (here). It should be required viewing for all who supported this invasion of Gaza. Babies charred like shish-kebabs. Limbs chopped off. Features melted from white phosphorus. Faces crying out in pain, gripped by fear, overcome by grief.
Anyone who can view the slides and still repeat the mantra that "Israel has the right to self-defense" or "Hamas brought this upon its own people," or worse yet, "the Israeli military didn't go far enough," does a horrible disservice not only to the Palestinian people, but to humanity.
Compassion, the greatest virtue in all major religions, is the basic human emotion prompted by the suffering of others, and it triggers a desire to alleviate that suffering. True compassion is not circumscribed by one's faith or the nationality of those suffering. It crosses borders; it speaks a universal language; it shares a common spirituality. Those who have suffered themselves, such as Holocaust victims, are supposed to have the deepest well of compassion.
The Israeli election was in full swing while was I visiting Gaza. As I looked out on the ruins of schools, playgrounds, homes, mosques and clinics, I recalled the words of Benjamin Netanyahu, "No matter how strong the blows that Hamas received from Israel, it's not enough." As I talked to distraught mothers whose children were on life support in a bombed hospital, I thought of the "moderate" woman in the race, Tzipi Livni, who vowed that she would not negotiate with Hamas, insisted that "terror must be fought with force and lots of force" and warned that "if by ending the operation we have yet to achieve deterrence, we will continue until they get the message."
"The message," I can report, has been received. It is a message that Israel is run by war criminals, that the lives of Palestinians mean nothing to them. Even more chilling is the pro-war message sent by the Israeli people with their votes for Netanyahu, Livni and anti-Arab racist Avigdor Lieberman.
How tragic that nation born out of the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust has become a nation that supports the slaughter of Palestinians.
Here in the U.S., Congress ignored the suffering of the Palestinians and pledged its unwavering support for the Israeli state. All but five members out of 535 voted for a resolution justifying the invasion, falsely holding Hamas solely responsible for breaking the ceasefire and praising Israel for facilitating humanitarian aid to Gaza at a time when food supplies were rotting at the closed borders.
One glimmer of hope we found among people in Gaza was the Obama administration. Many were upset that Obama did not speak out during the invasion and that peace envoy George Mitchell, on his first trip to the Middle East, did not visit Gaza or even Syria. But they felt that Mitchell was a good choice and Obama, if given the space by the American people, could play a positive role.
Who can provide that space for Obama? Who can respond to the call for justice from the Palestinian people? Who can counter AIPAC, the powerful lobby that supports Israeli aggression?
An organized, mobilized, coordinated grassroots movement is the critical counterforce, and within that movement, those who have a particularly powerful voice are American Jews. We have the beginnings of a such a counterforce within the American Jewish community. Across the United States, Jews joined marches, sit-ins, die-ins, even chained themselves to Israeli consulates in protest. Jewish groups like J Street and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom lobby for a diplomatic solution. Tikkun organizes for a Jewish spiritual renewal grounded in social justice. The Middle East Children's Alliance and Madre send humanitarian aid to Palestine. Women in Black hold compelling weekly vigils. American Jews for a Just Peace plants olive trees on the West Bank. Jewish Voice for Peace promotes divestment from corporations that profit from occupation. Jews Against the Occupation calls for an end to U.S. aid to Israel.
We need greater coordination among these groups and within the broader movement. And we need more people and more sustained involvement, especially Jewish Americans. In loving memory of our ancestors and for the future of our -- and Palestinian -- children, more American Jews should speak out and reach out. As Sholom Schwartzbard, a member of Jews Against the Occupation, explained at a New York City protest, "We know from our own history what being sealed behind barbed wire and checkpoints is like, and we know that 'Never Again' means not anyone, not anywhere -- or it means nothing at all."
On March 7, I will return to Gaza with a large international delegation, bringing aid but more importantly, pressuring the Israeli, U.S. and Egyptian governments to open the borders and lift the siege. Many members of the delegation are Jews. We will travel in the spirit of tikkun olam, repairing the world, but with a heavy sense of responsibility, shame and yes, compassion. We will never be able to bring back to life the little girl buried in the rubble. But we can -- and will hold her in our hearts as we bring a message from America and a growing number of American Jews: To Gaza, With Love.
For information about joining the trip to Gaza, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 5:50 PM PST
Friday, 20 February 2009
H-2B just a nice present from Bush to help screw over foreign workers
Now Playing: How to Rip Off Foreign Workers by using H--2B
Topic: FAILURE by the GOVERNMENT
In its final days, the Bush administration gave a gift to U.S. corporations by rewriting little-known rules that allow them to "import" foreign workers to fill jobs here.
Bush's changes make it even more attractive for businesses to hire foreign guestworkers — undercutting wages, opportunities and working conditions for all workers. This is especially troubling in today's economy.
These changes shred the few protections for H-2B guestworkers. And they're already taking a toll. Just last week, an appellate court in New Orleans cited the new regulations when ruling that an employer did not have to reimburse guestworkers for thousands of dollars in fees they paid to obtain low-wage, temporary jobs.
Foreign guestworkers don't have the same protections as U.S. workers, so they are vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers. In fact, they are routinely cheated out of their wages, and some are treated as modern-day slaves.
This abuse must stop!
We're working through the courts to stop the exploitation of guestworkers. But we need broader reforms that can only come from the federal government.
Please contact President Obama today and urge him to overturn the Bush rules and reform this program from top to bottom.
White House website
President Obama, please rewrite the rules for the H-2B guestworker program. This fundamentally flawed program results in the systematic exploitation of workers and gives incentives to U.S. businesses to bring in vulnerable foreign workers, undercutting wages, opportunities and working conditions for all workers.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 6:49 PM PST
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
Free video chat for PC
Now Playing: Make sure you have your clothes on ..or not
Here is a website that I didnt read or look at
But I thought it would be
a good rainy day project to read up on...
For my distant friends and relatives, free videoconferencing software is a wonderful gift that allows us to chat face-to-face although we may be thousands of miles apart. A few weeks ago
, Jessica Dolcourt reported on the most recent update to free video chat client Skype
, which expanded the video window and improved audio reception.
This week, Jessica is back with a slide-show comparison
of six popular free video-chat applications: Skype
, Camfrog Video Chat
, Yahoo Messenger
, and Windows Live Messenger
. If you prefer talking to contacts without showing your face, don't worry. All of the programs let you perform audio-only calls as well.
Give these free video-chat apps a try and let us know what you think. If you have another favorite program that you use to video chat, tell us about it in the blog.
Voice chat for free on your PCVisit Download.com
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 9:29 PM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 17 February 2009 10:04 PM PST
Where is all the missing billions of dollars in Iraq
Now Playing: Hell...the money was "given away to war profiteers"
Topic: BIG MONEY PLAYERS
Fellow Z3 Readers ... we knew this was happening years ago.
My cousin in 05 said it was greed and corruption.
Now 6 years latter "we dont know where the monesy went?"
Give me a break! The cheating lieing war machine stole it all!
Wake up and swallow the shame, which we here at the Z3 Report were all very aware of .....years ago!
Billions Wasted In Iraq?July 9, 2006
(CBS) This story originally aired on Feb. 12, 2006.
The United States has spent more than a quarter of a trillion dollars during its three years in Iraq, and more than $50 billion of it has gone to private contractors hired to guard bases, drive trucks, feed and shelter the troops and rebuild the country.
It is dangerous work, but much of the $50 billion, which is more than the annual budget of the Department of Homeland Security, has been handed out to companies in Iraq with little or no oversight.
Billions of dollars are unaccounted for, and there are widespread allegations of waste, fraud and war profiteering. As 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft first reported in February, only one case, the subject of a civil lawsuit, has been unsealed. It involves a company called Custer Battles, and provides a window into the chaos of those early days in Iraq.
When U.S. troops entered Baghdad in the spring of 2003, there was no electricity, widespread looting and little evidence of postwar planning. With the American military stretched to the limit, the Pentagon set up the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to govern the country under Ambassador Paul Bremer, who began hiring private companies to secure and rebuild the country.
There were no banks or wire transfers to pay them, no bean counters to keep track of the money. Just vaults and footlockers stuffed with billions of dollars in cash.
"Fresh, new, crisp, unspent, just-printed $100 bills. It was the Wild West," recalls Frank Willis, who was the No. 2 man at the Coalition Provisional Authority’s Ministry of Transportation.
The money was a mixture of Iraqi oil revenues, war booty and U.S. government funds earmarked for the coalition authority. Whenever cash was needed, someone went down to the vault with a wheelbarrow or gunny sacks.
"Those are $100,000 bricks of $100 bills and that’s $2 million there," Willis explains, looking at a photo of brick-shaped stacks of money wrapped in plastic. "This, in fact, is a payment that we made on the 1st of August to a company called Custer Battles."
Willis says the bricks of money were also sometimes referred to as footballs, "… because we passed them around in little pickup games in our office," he says laughing.
Asked if he has any evidence that the accounting system was a little loose, Willis says, "I would describe it as nonexistent."
The $2 million given to Custer Battles was the first installment on a contract to provide security at Baghdad International Airport. The company had been started by Scott Custer, a former Army Ranger and Mike Battles, an unsuccessful congressional candidate from Rhode Island who claimed to be active in the Republican Party and have connections at the White House. They arrived in Baghdad with no money. Yet within a year they landed $100 million in contracts.
"They came in with a 'can do' attitude whether they could or not. They always said yes," Willis says.
Did they have any experience?
"They were not experienced. They did not know what they were doing," Willis says.
Complaints about Custer Battles performance at the airport began almost immediately. Col. Richard Ballard, the top inspector general for the Army in Iraq, was assigned to see if the company was living up to its contract, such as it was.
"And the contract looked to me like something that you and I would write over a bottle of vodka," Ballard says. "Complete with all the spelling and syntax errors and annexes, to be filled in later. They presented it the next day, and they got awarded a — about a $15 million contract."
Custer Battles was supposed to provide security for commercial aviation at Baghdad airport, including personnel, machinery and canine teams to screen passengers and cargo. But the airport never re-opened for commercial traffic.
Instead of canceling the contract or requiring Custer Battles to return the money, the Coalition Authority instead assigned them to operate a checkpoint outside the airport.
Asked how they did on that job, Ballard says, "They failed miserably."
Was anybody paying attention to this money and where it was going?
"There was significant concern," Ballard says. "But there just were not the people in theatre to monitor that kind of thing on a day-to-day basis."
The basic answer to the question, Ballard acknowledges, is "no."
As for the bomb sniffing canine teams, Ballard says, "I eventually saw one dog. The dog did not appear to be a certified, trained dog. And the dog was incapable of operating in that environment."
Asked what he meant by "incapable of operating in that environment," Ballard says: "He would be brought to the checkpoint, and he would lie down. And he would refuse to sniff the vehicles."
The handler, Ballard says, "had no certificate and no evidence."
"So neither the dog nor the handler were qualified?" Kroft asked.
"I think it was a guy with his pet, to be honest with you," he replied, laughing.
In a memo obtained by 60 Minutes, the airport's director of security wrote to the Coalition Authority: "Custer Battles has shown themselves to be unresponsive, uncooperative, incompetent, deceitful, manipulative and war profiteers. Other than that they are swell fellows."
"I would agree with most of that," says Frank Willis.
"Even the 'war profiteers?' " Kroft asks.
"I think that what they were doing was of the nature of what I understand war-profiteering to be about — which is to get into a chaotic situation and milk every penny out of it you can, as fast as you can, before the opportunity goes away," Willis says.
The Coalition Authority not only refused to throw Custer Battles off the airport job, it wrote them a glowing review and continued to give them contracts including one to supply logistical support for a massive program to replace Iraq’s currency.
How did Custer Battles perform that contract?
"Absolutely abysmally. I mean, it was beyond a joke," says British Col. Philip Wilkinson.
Wilkinson was a colonel in the British Army and was assigned to the Coalition Authority’s Ministry of Finance and charged with providing security to convoys that traveled all over Iraq, loaded with $3 billion in cash. The trucks were supplied by Custer Battles.
"And you can imagine, open trucks with that sort of money on the back, was just a red hot target for not only terrorists, but criminals," Wilkinson says. "And, therefore, we needed trucks that were going to work. When those trucks were delivered to us, some of them were physically dragged into our compound."
Wilkinson says some of the trucks "were towed into the camp."
And Custer Battle’s response?
"When questioned as to the serviceability of the trucks was, 'We were only told we had to deliver the trucks.' The contract doesn't say they had to work," Wilkinson says. "Which, I mean, when you're given that sort of answer, what can you do?"
How did they get away with it?
"Oh," says Wilkinson laughing, "I really don't know. I mean it was just a joke. The assumption that we had was that they had to have high political top cover to be able to get away with it. Because it was just outrageous: their failure to deliver that which they were contracted to do."
In fact, the company continued to work in Iraq for another year, even after Robert Isakson, one of Custer Battles' major sub-contractors, went to federal authorities with allegations of criminal misconduct. Isakson and another whistleblower claim Custer Battles bilked the government out of $50 million, and they're suing the company on behalf of U.S. taxpayers to recover some of the money.
"Well, they approached me three times to participate in a — defrauding of the United States government," Isakson says. "They wanted to open fraudulent companies overseas and inflate their invoices to the United States government."
Asked if the fraud actually took place, Isakson says, "Two weeks later, apparently, I heard they began exactly the fraud they described to me."
According to a subsequent investigation by the U.S. Air Force, Custer Battles set up sham companies in the Cayman Islands to fabricate phony invoices that it submitted to the Coalition Authority with the intention of fraudulently inflating its profits.
According to a Custer Battles spreadsheet, which was left behind after a meeting with U.S. officials, the company submitted invoices on the currency contract totaling nearly $10 million, when its actual costs were less than $4 million.
Electricity costs of $74,000 were invoiced to the Coalition Authority at $400,000. And those trucks that didn’t work were bought on the local market for $228,000 and billed to the Coalition Authority for $800,000.
Mike Battles and Scott Custer are currently under federal investigation by the Department of Justice and declined to be interviewed for this story. But in videotaped depositions for the whistleblower lawsuit, Custer disavowed any knowledge of the phony invoices.
"Would you agree with me that it is highly improper for a contractor working under a time and materials contract to simply fabricate invoices and then hand them in for payment?" attorney Alan Grayson asked during the deposition.
"Yes, the short answer, I am not a government or legal expert, but I would think it is improper to fabricate anything you would know to be true," Custer replied.
Custer and Battles blame their problems on former employees, competitors and the bureaucratic incompetence of the CPA.
"I know we were supposed to do one thing for a certain amount of money and by the time it was said and done they asked us to do many, many more things for a different, a greater amount of money," Battles said in deposition.
To date, the only action taken against them has been a one-year suspension from receiving government contracts; it has since expired.
"I think what’s happening over there is an orgy of greed here with contractors," says North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan.
He is the chairman of the Democratic Party Policy Committee, and says Custer Battles is small potatoes compared to behemoths like Halliburton and its subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), who have collected half of all the money awarded to contractors in Iraq, and, according to Department of Defense auditors, have over-billed taxpayers more than a billion dollars.
Dorgan’s committee has held hearings and heard testimony that Halliburton has overcharged for meals, and fuel and gouged taxpayers on items like hand towels.
"Instead of buying a white towel, which would be $1.60, this company said, 'No, no, no. Put, embroidery our logo on it. Five bucks,' " says Dorgan. "So, what's the difference? Well, the American taxpayer's gonna pay the bill."
Halliburton says the towels were embroidered to keep them from being stolen or lost, and that allegations it over-billed by a billion dollars are exaggerated. But Dorgan says none of this is being seriously investigated.
"Let me tell you that there’s very little oversight by anybody on anything in this Congress. We have a president and a Congress of the same party. They have no interest in doing any aggressive oversight," Dorgan says.
The only one really looking into it is Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, a position created by Congress in 2004 to monitor construction and development projects to rebuild Iraq.
Asked how he would describe the oversight early on with the CPA, Bowen says, "It was relatively non-existent."
In two lengthy reports, Bowen’s staff outlined suspected fraud and incompetence of staggering proportions. Like the $8.8 billion dollars that the coalition seems to have lost track of.
Bowen says that money is "not accounted for" and acknowledges that nobody really knows exactly where it went.
Some of the money Bowen says was spent on projects it was intended for. It’s just that there are no receipts. But some of it, like the funds to buy books and train personnel at a library in Karbala, simply vanished.
Four people have already been arrested on bribery and theft charges and more arrests will follow.
Bowen says he there are nearly 50 investigations going on right now, involving suspected "fraud, kickbacks, bribery, waste."
"Involving American companies?" Kroft asks.
"That's right," Bowen replies.
Shortly after this story aired, a federal jury found Custer Battles guilty of 37 separate fraudulent acts. It demanded the company repay $10 million dollars in damages and penalties to the U.S. government and whistleblowers.
The Air Force debarred the company from receiving government contracts until March 2009. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has kept busy too. He arrested another person for fraud and is now investigating more than 70 cases of abuse in Iraq.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 10:52 AM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 17 February 2009 10:58 AM PST
Monday, 16 February 2009
Dahr Jamail send a report back from Iraq Feb 16 2009
Now Playing: http://dahrjamailiraq.com/boys-with-toys (re-post)
Boys With Toys
“Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.”
-John F. Kennedy
It is not the threat of violence that weighs on the people of Iraq. It is the omnipresent occurrence of violence that has resulted in the desperate nation wide chant, “We are tired. All we want is for normal life to return.”
Recently, an eight-year-old Iraqi girl was shot by US soldiers when their convoy ran into a crowd of Shiite pilgrims traveling to the holy city of Karbala in southern Iraq.
Sunday, a week ago, three explosions echoed across Baghdad, leaving one person dead and wounding another 20.
The very next day, a suicide car bomber struck a US patrol in the northern city of Mosul, killing four American soldiers and their Iraqi interpreter. It was the single deadliest attack on US forces in nine months. Two days later, an off-duty security guard of Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi was wounded along with a pedestrian when a bomb attached to his car detonated. On the same day, back in Mosul, a car bomb targeting a police patrol wounded three Iraqi policemen.
Wednesday, at least 12 people were killed and 40 wounded in bombings across Baghdad targeting Shia pilgrims. The next day, in an attack also targeting pilgrims, eight people were killed and another 56 wounded. Friday, a female suicide bomber killed 40 and wounded 84 others in yet another attack on Shia pilgrims south of Baghdad, who were flocking to a religious festival.
Mile after mile of concrete walls segregate erstwhile mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad. This prodigious Balkanization of the capital city has had the twin effect of attenuating violence and displacing every fourth resident from their homes.
There are times when I feel quite relaxed, going around in the end winter mild temperatures. Unlike during previous trips, when the specter of violence was impossible to ignore, today I am able to choose to not pay attention to imminent threats. Invariably, I’m yanked back to the reality of existence in Baghdad where “normal” comprises fatal currents of danger streaming indiscriminately through the course of each life.
Driving slowly towards the main exit area of a locality where we had been conducting interviews, our interpreter Ali, my colleague and I found the usually clogged roadway completely empty. “What’s going on here,” Ali asked incredulously. On looking out, I found both sides of the street blocked by the police and armed forces. Coincidentally, the car bomb I mentioned earlier had exploded in this very area and the fact was not lost on any of us as we grimly acknowledged the stark reminder that there was no escaping the game of chance in this benighted country.
Hulking Ford pickup trucks full of Iraqi police toting AK-47s and mounted in the back with heavy caliber machine guns prohibited access to the main road. Through the traffic snarl, we cautiously inched our way back to a side street, joining a crawling row of cars, hoping to circumnavigate the cordoned section. Unfortunately for us, our effort failed and we were forced back toward the dreaded area. Since we were unaware of the cause of the crisis, we hoped to somehow exit unscathed as the vehicles were actually moving.
The hope proved quite fanciful as our car approached and moved past the reason for the blockade. Across the median from us was a suspected car bomb in an abandoned jeep in front of an Iraqi police compound. Clad in heavy armor, an ambling green beetle of a bomb expert sifted through the innards of the vehicle that had all its doors open. Iraqi police guarding the road a block away on either side watched with apprehension.
Our procession, with no option but forward, took us within 30 yards of the suspected bomb. The mood inside the car was taut and thick with tension fit to be sliced as gingerly we made our way further from the jeep.
Such abrupt and frequent reminders that anywhere in the city, any car could be a bomber, result in an all pervasive condition of stress, inconceivable for people living in normal places where normal residents like G.W. Bush, who engineer such conditions in far off lands, can glibly inform an overly gullible normal public that … it’s all aimed at achieving peace.
Meanwhile, in this less than normal place where our former resident strove so hard to bring peace, it is impossible to move for ten minutes in any direction without encountering Iraqi police in pickup trucks, their sirens blaring to push traffic to the brink as they plow their way through to some crisis area. Traffic in Baghdad is notoriously frustrating at the best of times without the added delays that these convoys cause.
“Boys with toys,” says Ali, and we both laugh as yet another police convoy with blaring sirens roared past. Inventing humor has been the most effective coping mechanism in Iraq for decades. Rather than letting the countless impediments paralyze them, Iraqis have taught themselves to negotiate the uphill struggle to survive through humor and laughter.
Like every man in Iraq, Ali has done his time in the military. He fought in the Iran/Iraq war during the 1980s and in the subsequent invasion of Kuwait, during which he earned ten Medals of Honor for saving as many Iraqi lives as a medic.
As my colleague Jason and I sat with him to lunch in the gentle warmth of the sun, Ali started to tell us some of his stories.
“I was attached to an artillery battery during the al-Faw campaign against the Iranians. We shot six shells a minute at them, as did the hundreds of other artillery.”
Al-Faw is a small port on the al-Faw Peninsula in Iraq near the Shatt al-Arab River, a few kilometers from the Persian Gulf.
“The Iranians had been occupying it for over a year, but in 1988 we launched a surprise attack and drove them back,” he continued, “Can you imagine hundreds of artillery batteries, all shooting six shells per minute, for hours? Literally every square meter had a crater from one of our shells. The place looked like the moon.”
To my query about the number of Iranians killed, Ali responded after the briefest pause, “Impossible to count. There were bodies everywhere. I could tell you endless stories about the things I’ve seen.”
Like most Iraqis I know, Ali, too, managed to change the topic gracefully. He narrated a “funny” story about the invasion of Kuwait, “We drove into Kuwait like tourists,” he recollected. “We had people asking us what we were doing. They invited us to join them for kebabs and tea. It was very pleasant, actually. It stayed that way for one week, until an armed resistance began shooting at us; then it grew ugly.”
When food arrived, Ali declared war, “Now it’s time for me to invade my shawarma!” We laughed heartily.
He described an occasion when he had been rocketed by a US F-16. “I was manning an artillery gun on a ridge when I saw the jet turning and launching the missile. The next thing I knew, my gun and I were blown into the air and landed upside down.”
“Were you hurt?” I asked.
“No … just shaken up a bit,” he chuckled.
The stories continued as we dove into our lunch and sipped our sodas. For the briefest spell, it almost felt as if we were three friends enjoying a normal late afternoon lunch and each other’s company.
The spell broke when a convoy of several lumbering pickup trucks full of Iraqi police drove past us on the busy street adjoining the pavement restaurant where we sat. The sirens and the gruff voice ordering cars out of their way did not interrupt the conversation and our mood. It merely planted us back to a normal day in Iraq.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 1:31 PM PST
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