A “Mutiny” in Kabul: Guards Allege Security Problems Have Put Embassy at Risk
In July — about a month after Aegis had officially begun protecting the embassy — they put their fears in writing, having quickly determined that the situation was unsafe.
Their petition, signed by some 40 guards, began by accusing leaders of creating “a hostile divided work place.” For example, it alleges that guard force leaders live in comfort at the embassy while the rank-and-file are confined to Spartan barracks several miles away and forced to eat unhygienically prepared food that guards have told POGO regularly made them ill.
More significantly, the petition speaks broadly of leaders’ “tactical incompetence” and “dangerous lack of understanding of the operational environment.”
One of the most serious allegations in the petition describes a senior Aegis security supervisor who posted details about the embassy’s defenses on the social media site LinkedIn. The disclosure included “exact force protection numbers,” the petition says. The petition calls the disclosure “an operational security violation” that “threatens the lives” of the guards and “placed hundreds of American personnel at the Embassy in potential harm’s way, should it end up in the hands of any anti-American extremist.”
POGO obtained a copy of what was said to be the LinkedIn posting. If it was posted on the site, it has since been removed.
The petitioners pleaded for help from the government and their employer. “It is the duty of DOS [Department of State] and AEGIS to protect those Embassy personnel and the ERT [Emergency Response Team] that may have been placed in harm’s way.”
The petition does not explicitly discuss some of the fears that came across most forcefully in POGO’s interviews with guards — such as their assertion that the guard force has been stretched dangerously thin.
The text of the petition concludes by invoking The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, which, under certain circumstances, shields from retaliation government employees who expose mismanagement, abuse of authority, or danger. Unfortunately for the petitioners, only recently have federal whistleblower protections been extended to State Department contractors.
One guard who helped organize the petition told POGO that shortly after the document reached the State Department and Aegis, he was summoned to appear in front of half a dozen Kabul-based Diplomatic Security officers and an Aegis supervisor. He said he was “grilled” for roughly 90 minutes about what had happened and his own role. That night, he said, he worked a regular shift, only to be awakened the next day and told he would be fired and had 90 minutes to get on a plane out of Kabul.