After millions of tax dollars were spent investigating how Halliburton ended up being awarded billions of dollar worth of no-bid contracts in Iraq, the Government Accounting Office determined that the company should never have been awarded the contracts in the first place.
In response to those findings, Cheney and Bush both, as much as thumbed their noses at taxpayers as if to say “so what, what are you going to do about it?” Well, it's beginning to look like they were right, there is nothing we can do about it.
According to the GAO's report, Rebuilding Iraq: Fiscal Year 2003 Contract Award Procedures and Management Challenges, contracts worth billions of dollars were awarded without full and open competition, including Halliburton’s oil infrastructure contract.
The GAO found that the Bush Administration violated procurement law when it issued various task orders under existing contracts. Of the eleven task orders examined, more than half were awarded outside the scope of their contracts, according to the report.
As an example of the inept procurement process, the GAO told how “a military review board approved a six-month renewal contract with Halliburton worth $587 million in just ten minutes and based on only six pages of documentation,” the report said.
Once and For All -- How Did Halliburton Get Those Contracts?
Remember back when Cheney appeared on NBC's Meet the Press on Sept 14, 2003 and said, “And as vice president, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government.”
And remember when he was asked whether he had known about Halliburton's noncompetitive contract, and he said, “I don't know any of the details of the contract because I deliberately stayed away from any information on that.”
Those statements were proven false by a June, 2004, article in Time Magazine entitled, “The Paper Trail: Did Cheney Okay a Deal?” As it turns out, Bush and Cheney both were informed that Halliburton would get the contract before it was awarded. Time quoted an email sent by the Army Corps of Engineers, that said the contract for construction of oil pipelines was approved by Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith “contingent on informing WH tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP’s [Vice President’s] office.”
This email totally contradicts Cheney's nationally televised assertion that he had no involvement in Halliburton’s contracts whatsoever. It proved once and for all that Cheney and the White House had played a key role in making Cheney's ex-employer the number one war profiteer in Iraq.
The email was dated March 5, 2003, and Halliburton was awarded the contract three days later without any bids by other companies.
The administration tried to dismiss the email by saying the employee at the Corp was just trying to give the Vice President's office a heads-up on the process. Now I suppose opinions on what the email mean could differ. However, people's opinions on what it means are likely based on what their definition of co-or-di-na-ted IS.
No Political Appointees Involved -- None
Some people may recall the news conference where State Department spokesman Richard Boucher explained who makes the decisions on contracts. “The decisions are made by career procurement officials. There's a separation, a wall, between them and political-level questions when they're doing the contracts,” he maintained. Boucher lied.
Then there was the time that the chief counsel of the Army Corp of Engineers appeared on 60 Minutes and denied that there was any involvement by political appointees in the Halliburton contract. He specifically said: “The procurement of this particular contract was done by career civil servants.” Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this guy is a liar too.
Major Joseph Yoswa, a Department of Defense spokesman, also claimed safeguards existed to insure that the process was free of favoritism. “Most important,” he said, “career civil servants, not political appointees, make final decisions on contracts,” according to The New Yorker. As it turns out, the Major has a problem telling the truth as well.
Then back in August 2003, there was Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall, who said the company’s military contracts were awarded “not by politicians but by government civil servants, under strict guidelines.” I for one would like to see the list of strict guidelines, and then I'd like to have the names of the civil servants Wendy dealt with.
Finally, during a March 11, 2004 hearing before the Government Reform Committee, six senior officials from the CPA and DOD testified under oath and were asked to answer the following question by Republican Committee Chairman Tom Davis:
“I want to get this on the record, and everybody is under oath. Have you or anyone in your office ever discussed with the Vice President or with his office the award of a contract for Iraqi reconstruction prior to any contract being awarded?”
Every single one of those six officials said “no sir,” which means every single one of them lied under oath. So how Cheney could pull this off? How could he get all these people to lie? I may not know how he did it, but the fact is he did it and nothing has been done about it.
Because, according to the June 14, 2004, LA Times, “The Pentagon admitted that a $7 billion no-bid contract to extinguish oil fires in Iraq was awarded to Halliburton after a political appointee from the Bush administration recommended the company for the job…the political appointee was Michael Mobbs — a special assistant to Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith. During the Summer of 2002, Mobbs was in charge of the Pentagon's Energy Infrastructure Planning Group (EIPG) to develop a plan for reconstructing Iraq's oil industry.”
For obvious reasons, contracting experts say political appointees like Mobbs should not decide which companies compete for contracts. “The suggestion that political appointees would be directing that type of investigation does not seem consistent with maintaining the appearance of propriety,” expert Steven Schooner told the Times.
How Could They Pull This Off?
In November 2002, long before the war began, a Pentagon group led by Mobbs, decided to pay Halliburton $1.9 million to develop a secret contingency plan for handling the Iraqi oil industry.
Taxpayers need to understand that it was this initial task order to develop a plan that led to the company being awarded the $7 billion oil infrastructure contract.
Remember the strategy that Cheney's developed back when he was secretary of defense under the first President Bush. It goes like this, you give Halliburton funding so it can create a market for its services and then its the logical company to hire to carry out the plan when it comes time for contracts to be awarded.
In this particular instance, according to testimony by GAO investigator William Woods at a House oversight hearing, Mobbs even acknowledged in a memo that the $1.9 million task order would uniquely position Halliburton to win the far larger sole-source contract to actually do the restoration work to Iraqi oil fields.
So once again, Cheney’s contract manipulation strategy worked like a charm.
Mott described the Halliburton contingency plan in a meeting of the Deputies Committee. Those attending the meeting included Cheney's chief of staff Lewis Libby, the deputy national security adviser Steven Hadley, the deputy secretaries of state and defense, and deputy director of the CIA.
On March 8, 2003, Halliburton was chosen to carry out the plan. When the contract came up in the media, Bush claimed the contract was merely a deal to put out oil well fires. However, it wasn't long before Pentagon officials were forced to admit that it was a big deal and would involve billions of dollars. But even then, they said that the contract was only temporary and would be replaced by competitively bid contracts shortly.
After umteen delays, new contracts were finally awarded on Jan 16, 2004 and surprise, surprise, Halliburton won the big prize again. An $800 million contract went to the Parsons Corporation and a $1.2 billion contract went to Halliburton.
Bush & Cheney In Up To Their Necks
During a June 8, 2004 briefing to staff members of the House Committee on Government Reform, Pentagon officials, including Mobbs, were asked about the specific details of the contracting procedure that was employed with Halliburton.
Before making a final decision, Mobbs admitted that he briefed top officials from several executive agencies in the Deputies Committee to make sure they had no objections. According to Mobbs, White House Staff members were among those at the meeting.
So, we've got Cheney's top dog Libby, and Rice's second in command Hadley, and White House staff members, and political appointee Mobbs leading the pack. And Bush and Cheney want us to believe that not one of these officials uttered a word about Halliburton contracts to either one of them. Yea right.
Following the June 8th Mobb's briefing, Congressman Henry Waxman sent a letter to Cheney and gave reporters a copy. “These new disclosures appear to contradict your assertions that you were not informed about the Halliburton contracts,” Waxman wrote. “They also seem to contradict the administration's repeated assertions that political appointees were not involved in the award of the contracts to Halliburton,” he said.
The letter described the briefing at which Mobbs acknowledged that he chose Halliburton. After that meeting, Mobb's said that a White House official told Douglas Feith the group did not object, according to Waxman's letter.
Waxman also raised questions about the March 5, 2003 e-mail that Cheney received. The author of that email, Stephen Browning, said in an interview that he wrote the memo after he and retired Lt Gen Jay Garner met with Douglas Feith about plans to declassify the earlier $1.8 million contract with the Halliburton.
According to Browning, Feith told him that he had already informed Cheney's office. Three days later, Halliburton got the $7 billion contract and the war began March 20, 2003. At the briefing, “Browning repeated his story,” Waxman wrote.
“These disclosures mean that your office was informed about the Halliburton contracts at least twice at key moments,” Waxman wrote.
When Waxman tried to investigate the matter further, Cheney simply refused to respond to a request for records of any communications he and his staff had with Halliburton, or actions they took on the contracts. And in what has by now become a pattern when it comes to Cheney, Congress did nothing about it.
Finally, in October 2004, Bunnatine Greenhouse, a top official responsible for making sure the Army Corps of Engineers complies with contracting rules, came forward and revealed that top Pentagon officials showed improper favoritism to Halliburton.
Greenhouse said that when the Pentagon awarded the company a 5-year $7 billion contract, it pressured her to withdraw her objections, actions that were unprecedented in her experience, she said.
The Greenhouse allegations were first reported by Time Magazine. In a letter, Greenhouse told members of Congress that the Army gave the no-bid contract to Halliburton for political reasons. She also said the Army altered documents in order to justify the company's contract work in the Balkans.
Federal contracting rules say contracts must be awarded by career civil servants, not political appointees. Greenhouse said the Army ignored this requirement when giving contracts to Halliburton. She said the Army violated "the integrity of the federal contracting program as it relates to a major defense contractor."
“Employees of the U.S. government have taken improper action that favored KBR's interests,” Greenhouse said in the letter. “This conduct has violated specific regulations and calls into question the independence” of the contracting process.
Bush & Cheney Are Busted -- So What?
The media chased after that dumb 20-year-old Whitewater story (hardly the crime of the century) for eight years. To this day, I still don't know what they were trying to prove exactly. I do know it wasn't that the Clintons and their cronies had scammed billions of dollars from taxpayers. Yet now with Bush administration, the media spends little or no effort exposing crimes involving real fraud and corruption even though the schemes are costing taxpayers billions of dollars.
Has the mainstream media been bought off entirely?
Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for Independent Media TV and an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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