Internet Anthropologist Think Tank: Cutting Costs, Bending Rules, And a Trail of Broken Lives

  • Search our BLOG

  • HOME
    Terrorist Names SEARCH:

    Sunday, July 29, 2007

    Cutting Costs, Bending Rules, And a Trail of Broken Lives

    Cutting Costs, Bending Rules, And a Trail of Broken Lives
    Ambush in Iraq Last November Left Four Americans Missing And a String of Questions About the Firm They Worked For

    By Steve Fainaru
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Sunday, July 29, 2007; Page A01

    BAGHDAD -- The convoy was ambushed in broad daylight last Nov. 16, dozens of armed men swarming over 37 tractor-trailers stretching for more than a mile on southern Iraq's main highway. The attackers seized four Americans and an Austrian employed by Crescent Security Group, a small private security firm. Then they fled.

    None of the hostages has been found, eight months after one of the largest and most brazen kidnappings of Americans since the March 2003 invasion.

    The attack and seizure have spotlighted Crescent's low-budget approach to private security and raised questions about whether the company was vulnerable to such an attack. Another missing guard, Jonathon Cote, now 24, a former Army paratrooper from Buffalo, N.Y., described Crescent as "ghetto" because of its relatively low pay, its minimal hiring standards and what he and other guards described as management's willingness to bend rules and cut corners.

    "I've worked for a billion companies, and this is the worst I've ever worked for," said Brad Ford, a former Crescent guard who now works in Afghanistan for another security firm. "I couldn't believe how they were getting away with all the stuff they were getting away with."

    On Nov. 16, Crescent's trucks pushed into Iraq without any of the firm's Iraqi guards, leaving the ill-fated convoy severely undermanned. The company also had not filed paperwork with the ground-control center in Baghdad that monitors nonmilitary convoys, according to those authorities, who still do not list the Crescent hostages among their casualty figures for killed, wounded and missing because the convoy was unregistered. That oversight limited Crescent's communication with the command center responsible for coordinating the military's emergency response to attacks on civilian convoys.

    Security experts described the lapses as unconscionable. "It's insane. I don't know how you could sleep," said Cameron Simpson, country operations manager for ArmorGroup International, a British firm that protects one-third of all nonmilitary convoys in Iraq. ArmorGroup normally assigns 20 security contractors to protect no more than 10 tractor-trailers.

    Picco said the team leader that day, John Young, 44, an Army veteran and carpenter from Lee's Summit, Mo., made the decision to leave a team of Iraqis behind without the company's knowledge and went into Iraq with just seven Western guards to protect the 37 trailers. "I think complacency set in," Picco said. "Why would you leave a complete team behind?"

    Two weeks before they were abducted, three American employees of Crescent Security Group spoke to Washington Post reporter Steve Fainaru about their work as private security guards in Iraq.

    Barred From Bases
    Crescent moved its operations to Tallil Air Base after the November kidnapping of five of its security guards. In March, the Army barred Crescent personnel from U.S. military bases after inspections found forbidden alcohol and weapons in the company's quarters.

    Last Nov. 16, armed men ambushed a convoy of 37 trucks protected by five private security vehicles near Safwan, in southern Iraq. The gunmen kidnapped four American guards and one Austrian, who worked for Crescent Security Group, a company that is now defunct. The five men are still missing.

    But Andy Foord, a Crescent guard from Britain who was left bound inside a truck as the kidnappers fled, said in an interview that none of the Iraqi guards had reported for work that morning. He said Young informed Crescent's operations center in Kuwait City that the undermanned convoy intended to proceed into Iraq. "They knew, because John called them from the Iraq border," Foord said.

    Several former Iraqi employees of Crescent were spotted among the kidnappers, according to Foord and a written report by Jaime Salgado, another guard who was left behind and later freed. Foord said he believes the attack was set up by an Iraqi interpreter who had advance knowledge of the mission.

    Crescent is "blaming these boys, and they're not here to answer about it themselves," said Sharon DeBrabander, the mother of Young, the missing team leader. "I don't think that's right. They're covering up their butts, that's what they're doing."

    Picco should be under indictment.

    Labels: , ,


    Post a Comment

    Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

    << Home