WASHINGTON — KBR employees working in Iraq stole weapons, artwork and even gold to make spurs for cowboy boots, two former company workers told Senate Democrats on Monday.
Appearing before a Democrats-only panel looking into allegations of contracting abuses in Iraq, the witnesses accused their former co-workers of widespread improper activity.
Linda Warren, former employee of KBR, shows the flag she brought back from Iraq during testimony on Capitol Hill on Monday. Warren said many of her colleagues stole numerous items while doing reconstruction work in Iraq.
SUSAN WALSH: ASSOCIATED PRESS
KBR spokeswoman Heather Browne said the company would not comment at length because the claims are part of ongoing lawsuits.
“The witnesses who testified today raised claims that KBR has previously addressed. The government has reviewed the claims and refused to join lawsuits asserting them,” Browne said.
Linda Warren, a 50-year-old Abilene woman who worked as a laundry foreman and recreation director for the Houston-based contracting giant in Iraq, told the Senate Democratic Policy Committee Monday that some of her American colleagues doing construction work in Iraqi palaces and municipal buildings took woodcarvings, tapestries and crystal “and even melted down gold to make spurs for cowboy boots.”
Her allegations could not be independently verified.
Warren leveled her allegations in early 2004 after being reprimanded by a supervisor for giving water to Iraqi workers laboring in a sweltering laundry building when their own water supply was undrinkable.
Warren said the supervisor reminded her she had signed a confidentiality agreement and then threatened her by suggesting an American woman “wouldn’t last very long on the streets of Baghdad.”
That evening, with company managers present, she called KBR’s ethics hot line in Houston to report her allegations. She eventually was escorted out of Baghdad by company security after KBR officials intercepted a threatening e-mail, Warren said.
Frank Cassaday, a former KBR ice plant operator, told lawmakers that a KBR foreman tried to take military equipment, including two rocket launchers, detonators and ammunition.
When he confronted the foreman, Cassaday said, “he told me to mind my own business.”
Cassaday then told the camp manager. A military investigation confirmed his allegations, Cassaday said, but he did not elaborate on how the matter was resolved.
A third worker, Barry Halley, a former security manager for CAPE Environmental Management, alleged that after raising complaints with CAPE management, he was held in a room for several days by private security guards.
Les Flynn, Atlanta-based CAPE’s chief operating officer, said that while some of Halley’s allegations Monday were new, the company’s insurance company had investigated his allegations.
“It appears they were found to be untrue,” Flynn said.
The witnesses appeared at the Democratic Policy Committee’s 13th hearing on contracting activities in Iraq. While Congress has had some bipartisan hearings regarding KBR, many of the allegations have come from this series of Democrats-only sessions.
Congressional investigations of KBR’s activities in Iraq are almost invariably colored by politics, in no small part because Vice President Dick Cheney once headed KBR’s former parent company, Halliburton Co.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Army Sustainment Command reaffirmed its selection of KBR to participate in the 10-year logistical support contract valued at up to $150 billion.
Source: Houston Chronicle