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Senate Judiciary Committee Archive

…criminal acts committed by U.S. citizens and contractors abroad could threaten our foreign relations.  As such, it is right for us to examine the ways we can bring these criminals within the reach of the law.  Legislation extending the reach of U.S. criminal law to contractors was introduced in the 110th and 111th Congresses.  Both times, that legislation failed to clear both chambers and was never signed into law.  ~Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa

In the last Congress, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Jamie Leigh Jones, a young woman from Texas who took a job with Halliburton in Iraq in 2005 when she was 20-years-old.  In her first week on the job, she was drugged and gang-raped by co-workers.  When she reported this assault, her employers moved her to a locked trailer, where she was kept by armed guards and freed only when the State Department intervened.

Ms. Jones testified about the arbitration clause in her contract that prevented her from suing Halliburton for this outrageous conduct, and Congress has moved to change the civil law to prevent that kind of injustice. Criminal jurisdiction over these kinds of atrocious crimes abroad, however, remains complicated, depending too greatly on the specific location of the crime, making prosecutions inconsistent and sometimes impossible. We must fix the law to help avoid arbitrary injustice and ensure that victims will not see their attackers escape accountability. ~Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont

Given the evolving nature of our engagement in various countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and given the large number of employees and contractors being utilized by agencies other than the Department of Defense, we view the enactment of CEJA as crucial to ensuring accountability and demonstrating to other countries that we do not give U.S. Government employees license to commit crimes overseas.  ~Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer

Click HERE to view the video of the hearing

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Sen. Franken Presses Attorney General Holder on Contractor Fraud at Senate Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – May 4, 2011 – Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) questioned Attorney General Eric Holder at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on why, over the past three years, hundreds of billions of dollars have been awarded to defense contractors who have previously been convicted of fraud. The senator noted that this raises questions about government contracting more generally. 

“Over a three year period, DOD paid over $270 billion to more than 91 contractors who were found to be civilly liable for contract fraud,” said Sen. Franken in his questioning. “What is even more astounding is that 30 contractors who were convicted of criminal fraud against the government received another $682 million in contracts from DOD, after they had been convicted…. We’re awarding billions of dollars in new contracts to entities we know can’t be trusted.”

Sen. Franken suggested that we should be more aggressive at targeting corporate executives, particularly when there is evidence that the executives had knowledge of or authorized criminal activity.  He also suggested that we should be more creative about suspending or debarring divisions or departments of large corporations, especially when it may not be appropriate or in the government’s best interests to go after the entire corporation.  This approach was recently used by the Department of Health and Human Services when it notified the CEO of Forest Laboratories that it intended to exclude him from doing business with the government following the company’s settlement of civil and criminal charges related to the marketing of antidepressants to children.

F is for “Fraud or Federal Contracts”

Posted January 28, 2011 By Forseti

de·fense con·trac·tor

[dih-fens or, especially for 7, 9, dee-fens] [kon-trak-ter, kuhn-trak-ter]
noun, verb
A company who contracts with the Department of Defense to furnish supplies or perform work at a certain price or rate.
fraud, thief, malefactor, evildoer, transgressor, culprit, pander, felon, crook, hoodlum, gangster
altruist, licit, honest, accountable, virtue, honor, integrity

Here are two great articles on Defense Contracting:

No Joking: Senator Franken Tough on Fraud
Scott Amey – POGO – January 27, 2011 – Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee tackled contractor accountability in a hearing entitled “TIME CHANGE — Protecting American Taxpayers: Significant Accomplishments and Ongoing Challenges in the Fight Against Fraud.” Fighting fraud in government contracts is becoming a hot topic and one that can be a win-win for agencies, politicians, and taxpayers.

During the hearing, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) pressed Lanny A. Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Criminal Division, on issues related to holding contractors to a high standard, investigating fraud, awarding contracts to companies that have committed fraud against the federal government, and the suspension and debarment system. He went on to mention and cite POGO’s Federal Contractor Misconduct Database.

Mr. Breuer described the differences between the work performed by DOJ and suspension and debarment offices, and stated “I agree with your premise that if you commit a fraud against the United States you shouldn’t have a right to continue doing business.” He also stated that he has three prosecutors in Iraq and Afghanistan (but I’m not sure if three prosecutors is enough). (Click HERE for article)

If A Dollar Falls in The Pentagon…
Colin Clark  – January 26th, 2011 – One of the more ingenious arguments against Defense Secretary Robert Gates program cuts and efficiencies was raised today after the  House Armed Services Committee hearing. It went something like that old philosophical question: If a tree falls in a forest but there is no one there to hear it, is there a noise?”

For years, Pentagon officials have admitted that they really don’t know where their money is going because their financial systems just aren’t good enough to be audited with any hope of retuning results in which one might have a high degree of confidence.

So Rep.  Randy Forbes, chairman of the HASC readiness subcommittee took the interesting leap of arguing that, since the Pentagon doesn’t really know where it’s money is being spent, then maybe it shouldn’t try to talk about efficiencies.

“If the Department of Defense does not know where our defense dollars are going, how then are they qualified to talk about efficiencies? Furthermore, if the Department of Defense does not even have mechanisms in place to perform the audits, how are they able to comply with the law? Finally, if all agencies are required to perform regular audits, how is the Department of Defense able to skirt this compliance? If we want to get serious about efficiencies, we need to first make it clear that the Department of Defense is not above the law, and, second, demand to know where our defense dollars are going,” he said in a statement after this morning’s hearing. (Click HERE for article)

Senator Franken pulverizes de Bernardo

Posted October 19, 2009 By Ms Sparky

If you just hate KBR attorney’s and everything they stand for then this video is for you!! I’m not sure how I missed this hearing! So many hearings….so little time. But, on October 7, 2009 The Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) held a hearing on “Workplace Fairness: Has the Supreme Court Been Misinterpreting Laws Designed to Protect American Workers from Discrimination?” Wintesses were among others Jamie Leigh Jones KBR rape victim and former KBR employee and Mark De Bernardo KBR arbitration attorney :( (Yuck!!) In typical Senator Franken style he just chews up de Bernardo!! Well worth the watch! There must be a special place in Hell for KBR attorney’s.

Franken’s Anti-Rape Amendment-The Nation

Posted October 16, 2009 By Ms Sparky

Franken’s Anti-Rape Amendment

The Nation by Emily Douglas on 10/16/2009 @ 2:08pm

In April of 2008, KBR employee Dawn Leamon went public. A few months earlier, she had been raped and sexually assaulted by co-workers while deployed at Camp Harper, in Iraq, and after weeks of being pressured not to report the incident, forced to work alongside her attackers, and medically neglected, Leamon brought the story to a Houston attorney and to The Nation. Leamon joined a slowly building chorus of female defense contractor employees who’d been raped or sexually assaulted by co-workers while in Iraq, to utter impunity on the part of their assailants. In response, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee called a hearing to investigate why the Justice Department had not prosecuted any sexual assault allegations in Iraq since the going to war in the country.

When it turned out that defense contractors often required employees, as a condition of employment, to submit to binding private arbitration in disputes with the contractors (including allegations of sexual assault), instead of bringing complaints to public courts, and that the Department of Defense claimed they couldn’t prosecute for this very reason (even though these clauses only prevented civil suits), Senator Ben Nelson, who called the hearing, offered a simple solution: “This might be something you want to require and include in your contracts–before you award them,” Karen Houppert reported in The Nation.

Freshman Sen. Al Franken took Nelson’s suggestion seriously, and has pushed through an amendment to a Defense Appropriations bill that would prevent the Pentagon from doing business with contractors who force employees into binding arbitration over rape and sexual assault charges. (As John Stewart put it, “How is that a loophole that needs closing?”)

After another KBR employee, Jamie Leigh Jones, began speaking out about her own gang rape in December 2005, she met other women with similar stories, and in response formed a non-profit to support women who experienced sexual assault at the hands of co-workers while employed by a defense contractor. When Houppert reported on Jones’s organization in The Nation, by then supporting forty women, Houppert observed, “Most of these complaints will never see the light of day.”

Adding insult to injury, the Department of Defense could prosecute these crimes under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act and the Patriot Act’s special maritime and territorial jurisdiction provisions, but has opted not to. In the face of DoD inaction, survivors, meanwhile, had signed away their right to sue civilly and were left only with arbitration.

Predictably, Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opposed Franken’s bill. “Congress should not be involved in writing or rewriting private contracts,” he argued. The bill was, he maintained, a “political amendment at bottom, representing a political attack on Halliburton.” In fact, the amendment only goes so far as to require contractors doing business with the government to permit employees to sue civilly in the “most egregious violations,” Franken emphasized in a statement. (For less egregious matters, contractors can still require employees to waive their right to sue and submit to arbitration.)

No thanks to Sessions or most Republican members of the Senate, the bill passed, 68-30. And the next time you hear the Chamber of Commerce come out swinging against healthcare reform, remind yourself that they opposed this bill, too.

Upon hearing the amendment passed, Jamie Leigh Jones told the Minnesota Post: “It means the world to me…It means that every tear shed to go public and repeat my story over and over again to make a difference for other women was worth it.” It’s a reminder that rape survivors go public with their stories at a serious emotional cost, and the onus is on political leaders and advocates to make it worth what could be only in the most euphemistic sense be referred to as their while.

At the end of his segment on the bill, John Stewart tied it all up with a bow. Now we get it! Comparing this move to regulate government contractors to ACORN’s frozen funding, he says, “You don’t want to waste taxpayer money on someone who advises fake prostitute how to make imaginary crimes. You want to give it to Halliburton, because they’re committing real gang rape. You cut out the middleman! And they say government doesn’t work.”  (click HERE for the original article)