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Military ensnared in Colombia Secret Service scandal

“We don’t want our service members to be inadvertent supporters of trafficking,” he said. “It’s a crime; it’s a criminal business enterprise. And the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who say, ‘Well, I just go there to get some drinks,’ if it’s a place where the women working in there have been trafficked and are being held against their will, then you’re supporting that business.” ~John F. Awtrey, DoD

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Carrie Budoff Brown & Josh Gerstein – (Politico) – CARTAGENA, Colombia – April 14, 2012 – Five U.S. military members have been ordered confined to quarters over possible involvement in inappropriate conduct at the same hotel here as the 11 Secret Service personnel sent home in an unfolding scandal involving local prostitutes.

“First of all, to be getting involved with prostitutes in a foreign country can leave yourself vulnerable to blackmail and threats,” King said. “To be bringing prostitutes or almost anyone into a security zone when you’re supposed to protect the president is totally wrong.”~Rep. Peter T. King

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Flexing Muscle, Baghdad Detains U.S. Contractors

Published: January 15, 2012

BAGHDAD — Iraqi authorities have detained a few hundred foreign contractors in recent weeks, industry officials say, including many Americans who work for the United States Embassy, in one of the first major signs of the Iraqi government’s asserting its sovereignty after the American troop withdrawal last month.

The detentions have occurred largely at the airport in Baghdad and at checkpoints around the capital after the Iraqi authorities raised questions about the contractors’ documents, including visas, weapons permits and authorizations to drive certain routes. Although no formal charges have been filed, the detentions have lasted from a few hours to nearly three weeks.

The crackdown comes amid other moves by the Iraqi government to take over functions that had been performed by the United States military and to claim areas of the country it had controlled. In the final weeks of the military withdrawal, the son of Iraq’s prime minister began evicting Western companies and contractors from the heavily fortified Green Zone, which had been the heart of the United States military operation for much of the war.

Just after the last American troops left in December, the Iraqis stopped issuing and renewing many weapons licenses and other authorizations. The restrictions created a sequence of events in which contractors were being detained for having expired documents that the government would not renew. Read the remainder of this entry »

Triple Canopy employee Mark Fisher recounts 18 day detainment by Iraqi military

Home at last

Felix Chaudhary – (The Fiji Times) – December 31, 2011 – Mark Fisher is never going back to Iraq. Eighteen days of mental torture at the hands of the Iraqi military and the real threat of being executed at any time still replays through his mind.

Mr Fisher, who was freed by the Iraqi military after US intervention and flew home on Thursday, said he thought his life was over when soldiers ordered him and his team to kneel facing a wall and to put their hands behind their heads.

“I thought, ‘this is it’. The only thoughts going through my head were non-stop prayers. No amount of money is worth going through what happened to me and my team and no amount of training can ever prepare a person for what we experienced,” he said in the safety of his Votualevu home in Nadi yesterday.

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Iraqi government detaining foreign civilian contractors with greater frequency

Photo credit: Handout | U.S. Army veteran Alex Antiohos was released after being detained in Iraq since Dec. 9, said Rep. Peter King.

Officially, the US war in Iraq is over. On December 18, 2011, the last of our US war fighters crossed the border into Kuwait and all that remains are approximately 150 U.S. troops attached to training and cooperation missions at the U.S. embassy located in what was once known as the International Zone/Green Zone in Baghdad.

Although the vast majority of civilian contractors have left Iraq, most were employed by KBR under the LOGCAP III contract, there are still 1000’s of Americans, and citizens from other countries still employed in Iraq by US government contractors such as Triple Canopy, Dyncorp International and KBR under its LOGCAP IV contract.

Since US troops began exiting Iraq earlier this year, there has been a disturbing trend regarding civilian contractors. It appears the Iraqi government has been arresting and detaining US contractor employees at will.

Recently three security contractors, US Army veteran Alex Antiohos of West Babylon, New York, National Guardsman Jonas March of Savannah, Georgia, and Mark Fisher of Fiji were released by Iraqi army forces Tuesday after being held since December 9.  They were working for a security firm named Triple Canopy, when Iraqi Ministry of Defense officials rejected paperwork prepared on their behalf by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior. Republican Rep. Peter King of New York and the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security has demanded a full report on the episode.

The New York congressman said he was concerned that U.S. military authorities had not been notified by the U.S. Embassy that the men were being held and that embassy representatives had not visited the men when he learned about it from Antiohos’ wife last week.

“We’re going to have thousands of contractors over there, including many Americans. Can the Iraqis just take them off the street and hold them? This is a terrible precedent. We have to get to the bottom of this,” says King. Read the remainder of this entry »