Produced by Marcela Gaviria and
Written by Martin Smith
ANNOUNCER: Over the last two years, America has
poured billions of dollars into Iraq.
Much of it goes to private contractors.
The biggest boom has happened in the security industry.
THOMAS X. HAMMES, U.S. Marines (Ret.): Anybody who can start a company is
piling into the country. There
were security contractors over there that were just cowboys.
BRIEFER: —suicide bomber moved in alongside the
vehicle and detonated—
PETER, Private Security Assn., Iraq: The demand for private security company
effort was so great in Iraq that there was no competition. If you wanted a contract, you were
going to get a contract.
ANNOUNCER: It's a lucrative but deadly
business. Tonight on FRONTLINE, correspondent Martin
Smith travels to Iraq to see the private side of war.
SMITH, FRONTLINE Correspondent: [voice-over] There are tens of thousands of private
contractors living and working in Iraq.
Many of their companies are headquartered here, in Baghdad's Green Zone. This used to be the seat of Saddam's
power, four square miles of palaces, villas and monuments along the Tigris
River. Today, the Green Zone is
the heart of occupied Iraq.
Ensconced in cement, it feels like a surreal fortress, with armed guards
Rashid Hotel, once Iraq's finest, is now practically empty. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a
tourist attraction without tourists.
And the parade grounds where Saddam once reviewed his troops is now used
by private security guards to practice driving under fire.
this is my fourth trip since the war began, this is the first time I've felt
it's unsafe to travel about freely.
I took a tour of the Green Zone with Lieutenant Colonel Bill Foos.
Col. BILL FOOS: It's not called the Green Zone, it's
called the International Zone.
People that have been here for awhile, they've stopped referring to it
as the Green Zone because it's not the Green Zone.
Green connotes safety, security.
SMITH: Foos is a reservist with the Army Corps
of Engineers. He is taking us to
see what he calls their SUV graveyard.
The Army Corps takes great risks in traveling about Iraq, trying to
rebuild the country's infrastructure.
These are some of the vehicles they've lost to insurgent attacks.
Col. BILL FOOS: This was in a VBIED attack. That's shrapnel from the explosion.
SMITH: What's a little surprising is that the
Army Corps doesn't rely on soldiers for protection.
They've outsourced the job. The security company the Army Corps hired is not even
American. The company, Erinys, was
founded by ex-members of British
special forces and hires an assortment of ex-soldiers and retired policemen
from South Africa, America, England and Russia.
The name Erinys refers to the Greek goddesses who pursue and
getting in the vehicles, producer Marcela Gaviria and I are given a briefing
camera] Martin Smith.
JORDAN, Erinys Iraq: Blood type?
[voice-over] One of the greatest dangers Westerners
face in Iraq is traveling.
JORDAN: OK, now, first thing, introduce
myself. My name's Joey
Jordan. I'm Team 2 CRG of GRD Team
SMITH: Most security contractors are in their
30s or 40s, but Joey here is a 23-year-old from England.
JORDAN: Safety— seatbelts, body armor and
Kevlar will be worn in the vehicles at all times.
GRD Team 3 is the most aggressive and well-trained team on
the GRD contract, OK? The front
vehicle, which is a silver Excursion over there— you may see this vehicle push
other vehicles off the road, OK?
If a vehicle gets in front of us, tries to slow us down, we'll give him
a warning. If he doesn't adhere to
that warning, we're going to hit him, get him out of the way and then get you
down to your destination as fast as possible.
Stay in the vehicle until myself or Mike tells you
otherwise. We will tell you when
and where to go at all times, OK?
SMITH: We set out in three cars. We ride in the middle, or client,
JOEY JORDAN: OK, all clear.
SMITH: Just outside the gates of the Green
Zone, we accelerate.
JORDAN: Increasing speed. Let's get out of here, gents.
SMITH: The ride is jarring and
nerve-wracking. As we proceed, the
front and rear cars maneuver to shield us from any perceived threat. The sirens warn Iraqi drivers to steer
JORDAN: Breaking, breaking, breaking!
SMITH: If they don't, they can be forcibly cut
JORDAN: All vehicles follow me. Increasing speed. Let's go.
SMITH: Our driver, Jason, is from
Florida. He first came here as a
U.S. soldier in 2003. After a few
impossible twists and turns, we arrive at Erinys headquarters.
JORDAN: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very
much for an excellent day.
More about the making of this film]
SMITH: I'm not looking forward to the return
camera] In a briefing, I noticed, before
getting into the car, I'm told that the driving is going to be aggressive.
MELVILLE, Project Director, Erinys Iraq:
Perhaps it's not the best use of terminology.
The driving has to take that posture when the risk threat is
high, and we do change our driving stance to meet the threat. As I said to you, the risk threat is
high. You said yourself that
you're aware of the suicide bombings that blew up security teams just
yesterday. And we're very, very
cautious of civilian vehicles approaching our motorcades.
SMITH: Why does the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers need you? Why not just
use U.S. soldiers?
MELVILLE: I can't comment on American policy, but
clearly, they feel they require the services of a professional private security
company. What I will allude to is
the fact that the Americans would like to withdraw troop members. And perhaps it is part of their policy
to reduce troop members and replace them with private security contractors.
SMITH: [voice-over] Security work is big business. Erinys has grossed more than $150
million in Iraq. Worldwide,
they've had contracts to protect USAID, Fluor, Siemens, British Petroleum and
GUARD: Vehicle down!
Vehicle down! Vehicle two
SMITH: They say they have never lost a client,
but three Erinys guards have died on their Army Corps contract, a contract
worth $50 million. Another 16
Erinys guards were killed protecting Iraq's oil infrastructure. They said they've killed around 70
MELVILLE: Unfortunately, they attack us fairly
regularly. It's truthful to say
that we're attacked probably once or twice a week at the current time,
throughout operations through the whole of Iraq.
We've got 15 security escort teams across the whole of the
country. And it is very
distressing that the Iraqis choose to attack us, and typically once or twice a
SMITH: [on camera] Do those incidents result in the deaths
MELVILLE: Unfortunately, we have had to
kill anti-Iraqi forces in the pursuance of our duties, which is to protect the
lives of our client.
SMITH: Who are you accountable to in
MELVILLE: We're accountable to the coalition
forces. And we're a very, very
professional and disciplined company.
SMITH: [voice-over] On occasion, Erinys has recorded insurgent
attacks using a camera mounted on the dashboard.
Watch the next parked car on the right. The security detail immediately opens
fire. The driver has been knocked
unconscious. Then the dashboard
camera is turned off. About 20
minutes later, the guards,
unharmed, have secured the area.
They report that one Iraqi was killed.
MELVILLE: We are only equipped to carry out
defensive operations. We don't
have any offensive capability at all.
Essentially, we are a taxi service, and we're equipped to defend
ourselves if we're attacked. Our
entire doctrine, all of our policies and standard operating procedures, all
revolve around getting out and getting away from the area of threat, getting
out of the contact area.
Read the extended interview]
SMITH: The situation on the roads remains
chaotic. Laws are only just being
prime motive for joining a private security company is money. Guards can typically make from $400 to
$600 a day, many times what a soldier makes.
This is Blackwater, a high-profile American company that
guarded U.S. ambassador Paul Bremer and still guards State Department personnel
in Iraq. The company's guards are
paid up to $1,000 a day. It causes
some resentment among soldiers.
made headlines last year when four of its contractors were killed in
Fallujah. Their deaths drew
attention to the high-risk contracting business and the people it attracts.
all accounts, Scott Helvenston, who joined Blackwater in March of 2004, was well
prepared for security work. He had
been a Navy SEAL instructor and was a world-class athlete. He had earned the nickname "Scotty
Bod." But Helvenston had fallen on
hard times. He was in debt. He and his wife, Trisha, were just
eking by, selling a line of exercise videos.
PRICE, Raleigh News & Observer:
Scotty had mainly financial problems.
His video business was failing financially. He's got two kids he's got to provide
for. And at one point, they were
living in a small trailer on a campground, and you know, Mr. SEAL, Mr. Scotty
Bod, is essentially a security guard in the campground. That couldn't have gone over well.
TWYFORD, Friend: I mean, that was a big impetus for him
to go, from a financial standpoint.
I mean, he told me one time, "If I can go over there and get a chance to
make a name for myself, it'll be high-profile position, I'll be standing right
in front of Paul Bremer for 60 days.
And also, the financial rewards.
Just think what I can provide for my kids."
You know, he never said, "Hey, when I come back, I'm going
to buy a new Suburban." You know,
that wasn't the deal.
HELVENSTON, Mother: He was going to be back home in two
months. He didn't want to leave
his kids. And so he said, "OK,
Mom, I'm going to go over there for two months.
I can make some good money."
And that was the deciding factor.
When you've been in Special Forces for 13, 14 years, you're
trained to do one thing, and there's not a whole lot of jobs out there for
people trained to kill. There
really aren't. What are you going
SMITH: Helvenston was sent to the Green Zone
in Baghdad. But from the start,
things didn't go as he had hoped.
He never met Bremer.
Blackwater had a new contract with a catering company called ESS, and
they were scrambling to find new guards.
NEFF, Raleigh News & Observer: So
they're just pulling this team together to work on this contract. Meanwhile, things were heating up in
PRICE: They certainly knew that there were
risks involved in this, but they were go-getters.
They were the kind of guys who accomplish missions, they're
weren't guys who turned down missions and walked away.
SMITH: But the men were uneasy. One team member, former Army Ranger Wes
Batalona, complained to a friend that the team had never worked together
VIDINHA, Security Contractor: Wes
was very upset because you're breaking your team, and you're putting people—
different people together. That's
what's very upsetting. And then
you are sending them in undermanned.
SMITH: Contractually, Blackwater was to supply
two SUVs with three guards per vehicle.
Instead, the men set out at 8:30 in the morning with just two men per
car, each short a rear gunner.
They were escorting three empty trucks on their way to pick up some
kitchen equipment at a base west of Fallujah.
They were vulnerable— and obvious.
commander responsible for Fallujah was Marine Colonel John Toolan.
JOHN A. TOOLAN, U.S. Marines:
Contractors were easily identified on the roads because they were all in
brand-new SUVs— 2004 SUV, tinted windows.
So they were easy to pick out.
And the insurgents knew that it was a fairly easy mark.
SMITH: Around 9:30 AM, they approached the
center of town. Insurgents would
ambush them from behind. All four
guards were shot and killed. The
insurgents made their own video of the aftermath.
VIDINHA: The first thing that came up was a
camera bouncing toward this SUV, and it went right into the car. There he was.
I mean, that's— I knew it was him from his looks,
everything. I mean, clear as day.
You know, at least I know he wasn't burned alive.
He was dead.
SMITH: By the time the press arrived, a mob
had set the cars on fire.
JOHN A. TOOLAN: Unfortunately, it was going out on
CNN. And we knew that this was a
key component of the insurgent strategy: Get the pictures out, make it look
like they're winning. It was
SMITH: Victim Jerry Zovko's family was hearing
the news back in the U.S.
ZOVKO, Jerry Zovko's Mother: I
was at my desk, and you know, there's the radio going on, saying that there has
been four men killed in Fallujah, that they were dragged through the streets
and they were burned and they were hung.
ZOVKO, Jerry Zovko's Brother:
There it was. The headlines
hit too close to home, you know?
TWYFORD, Scott Helvenston's Friend:
You know, I was, like, "Man, where do I go from here?" You know, "What am I supposed to
do?" You know? What do you do when your best friend
dies? So I immediately thought of
his kids. You know, I'm going to
call up Trisha. Daggummit!
HELVENSTON, Scott Helvenston's Mother:
They were sent into an area none of them had been to. They took out their rear gunners. They didn't have— they didn't have
their armored vehicle, didn't have a map, nothing.
SMITH: Four days later, Colonel Toolan was
ordered to invade the city and find the killers.
This was not his original plan for quelling hostility in
JOHN A. TOOLAN: We had developed a pretty detailed plan
on how we were going to address the problem, to the point where they understand
the importance of rebuilding, reconstruction, working with the people, earning
trust. And by those contractors
being killed, it really forced us to put that aside and to opt for the more
NEFF: They have no control over these
contractors. They go into
Fallujah, they get killed, and it tosses the Marines' best-laid plans out the
JOHN A. TOOLAN: And now we were going in as their worst
enemy, and it's tough to come back from that.
Certainly, the next time I'm sent some place with the
Marines, the amount of control that I need to establish up front is going to be
clear and more restrictive.
SMITH: The incident created animosity towards
contractors that continues today.
SINGER, Brookings Institution:
There's a bubbling resentment, and you're starting to sense a backlash
from the military.
SMITH: Peter Singer is author of Corporate
a study of the private security industry.
SINGER: And what's happening now within the
military is they're putting together an entire new doctrine, entire new package
of rules and regulations as to how contractors are supposed to be used. Contractors should not be in essential
roles. Contractors should not be
armed. The problem is that that's slapping
in the face of the reality of how they're being used.
L. SCHOONER, George Washington University:
We have tens of thousands of armed contractors in Iraq defending the
Green Zone, defending military, defending contractors in and around the area,
but they're not part of the military command structure.
SMITH: Professor Steven Schooner is an expert
on military contracting.
SCHOONER: They don't communicate in the same
networks. They don't get the same
intelligence information. And so
when things begin to develop quickly, there's an awful lot of people around
with weapons who have important tactical responsibilities, who don't have the
same information and aren't getting the same messages from the tactical
SMITH: Reform has been put on hold. Private security guards are a fact of
life here. Coalition authorities
have tried to improve coordination between security contractors and the
military, but ironically, they turned to the private sector for help.
SINGER: We developed the classic Kafkaesque
solution, which is we have a problem of outsourcing and coordinating
outsourcing, and that we've done too much outsourcing and we don't have a
control over it. So what would be
the solution to it? Let's
outsource the solution.
SECURITY BRIEFING: Of reported attacks, IEDs featured
strongly, with a relative increase in the use of IDF in Baghdad and in northern
SMITH: A British security company, Aegis, was
hired for $300 million to help coordinate and track all security teams
operating in Iraq, as well as to protect the Green Zone.
SECURITY BRIEFING: —was
assassinated in a drive-by yesterday—
SMITH: Every morning at their command center,
called the ROC, they brief other security company representatives.
SECURITY BRIEFING: We had a three-vehicle PSD—
SMITH: The problem is that participation is
SECURITY BRIEFING: —at which point, the suicide bomber
moved in down the slip road alongside the vehicle and detonated.
SMITH: And even companies that participate are
still outside the military chain of command.
SECURITY BRIEFING: Seven IED attacks around the city, also
a few mortar attacks.
SMITH: Most reps we spoke to said the ROC has
failed to establish order in the industry.
SECURITY BRIEFING: All right.
Thank you for being here today.
And as always, be safe, but if necessary, be lethal. Have a great day.
SMITH: Several military officers we spoke to
complained that there are contractors that simply shouldn't be here. Marine Colonel Thomas X. Hammes was a
base commander in Iraq in early 2004.
THOMAS X. HAMMES, U.S. Marines (Ret.):
There were security contractors over there that were just cowboys. They clearly had neither the training
nor the experience. Could I
identify them? No. They wore a mixed bag of uniforms. Nobody wore nametags. They didn't have unit logos.
run into these people in town with really kind of a bad attitude, and there was
nothing you could do about it. How
do you identify them? Well,
there's no licenses plates on their car.
They're driving an SUV.
These people were simply unsafe.
you like it or not, they represent you.
To the local population, they're your hired guns. The Iraqis resent it very much and knew
quite clearly that if one of these people shot an Iraqi, they were not subject
to any law. They could simply be
extracted from the country.
SINGER: There were reports of, literally,
companies hiring bouncers to do security detail duties in Iraq. That's a training issue. You also have a question of their—
SMITH: [on camera] You got something against bouncers?
SINGER: In terms of having them on the ground,
carrying submachine guns that they've never learned how to use, out there
getting into firefights that not only impinge upon that company but, by the way,
impinge upon the entire U.S. military operation?
SMITH: These companies have training. They have training by former you know,
SINGER: Sometimes companies have let in people
who have backgrounds that we would not want to be there.
Read Singer's extended interview]
PETER, Private Security Assn., Iraq:
There's always going to be a small percentage of people who don't do a
good job in any industry.
SMITH: [voice-over] In 2004, Lawrence Peter was the U.S.
official in charge of regulating the security business in Iraq. Now he's left government and is an
camera] Is there active debate within the
business as to what jobs are appropriate and which jobs are not appropriate?
PETER: Right now, you've got private security
companies who've been asked to do certain missions, and they're going to do
those to the best of their ability within the framework in which they're
provided. They operate under
clearly defined rules for use of force.
SMITH: Was there ever a time when a private
security contractor was reprimanded?
PETER: Well, there may have been. But that typically would be between the
contracts officer who hired that private security company and the private
SMITH: You would have been in a position to
PETER: I'm not aware of any incidents,
offhand. I mean, someone could
bring up something to me or something like that, but—
SMITH: But that's the issue. There's no transparency. If there have been any kinds of
reprimands, we don't know about them.
And we don't even know if there have been any.
PETER: Is there a responsibility for every
company to tell me if they're having a difficulty or not? No.
Companies are very self-reliant, independent, and they're
going to do the things that they need to do.
This is a business matter.
VOICE: You have reached Kellogg, Brown and
Root's overseas employment hotline for LOGCAP III.
SMITH: [voice-over] The biggest contract in Iraq is with
Halliburton subsidiary KBR, a logistics company that provides support for U.S.
troops around the world.
VOICE: We are hiring for operations for Iraq,
Kuwait, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Djibouti.
SMITH: KBR is still hiring.
VOICE: Living conditions in the Middle East
are extremely harsh. Iraq and
Kuwait are located in a desert climate, with an average temperature of 120
SMITH: So far, KBR has been asked to perform
nearly $12 billion worth of services.
VOICE: Afghanistan and Iraq are listed as
hazard zones by the Department of State.
Therefore, you will receive hazard pay.
To return to the main menu, press 1.
SMITH: KBR is the military's lifeline, its
main supplier. KBR's convoys don't
use private security, they are provided military escorts.
Any kind of contact, just keep on moving.
Our gun trucks will fix and flank on those, and we should be
OK. If for some reason you do get
broke up, just keep on going.
We'll go a couple of miles up the road, we'll rally, then we'll get
SMITH: We wanted to ride along with KBR's
drivers, but the company told us it's too dangerous.
If no one has any questions, we'll get in our trucks and get going. Let's roll!
SMITH: One out of every three convoys comes
under fire. Over 65 KBR employees,
16 of them truckers, have been killed since the beginning of the war. The biggest attack came on April 9,
2004, when insurgents ambushed a 19-truck KBR convoy.
Six drivers were killed.
Coming just a week after the Fallujah attack, contractors
across Iraq were increasingly terrified.
[subtitles] Here's our American prisoner!
HAMILL, KBR: They attacked our convoy.
SMITH: Lead KBR truck driver Thomas Hamill was
taken hostage and held for 23 days.
Another KBR trucker is still missing.
the April 9th incident, we were told that scores of KBR truckers refused to
drive until security improved.
Hundreds of contractors left the country.
For weeks, the military was left with dwindling stores of
ammunition, fuel and water.
SINGER: The contractor is not part of the chain
of command, and they can decide to leave when and where they want. They can decide to leave if they get a
better job offer by another private military company or by some other company
back home. They can decide to
leave because they're just tired of this.
These are all decisions that a contractor has the discretion to make
that someone within the military does not.
And so what you've done is put a level of uncertainty into
your military operation, and military operations are not a place that you want
SMITH: The Army's after-action report for
April 9th concluded that KBR's truckers needed to be trained to fire weapons,
to be more like soldiers.
KBR was initially tasked to assist the U.S. military, the assumption was that the
war would be short-lived and that KBR would wind down its operations
quickly. Instead, it grew far
beyond all expectations.
BAGGERLY, Movement Manager, KBR:
This is huge. This is
bigger than the biggest logistics operation that there is. This is world-war-scale logistics
boiled down to a very refined process.
All commodities in, all commodities out, personnel in, personnel out,
military equipment in, military equipment out.
We provide movement control reports on the movement of
SMITH: KBR's trucking hub is Camp Arifjan in
Kuwait. It sprawls over 10 square
miles. Through here, KBR has
shipped and delivered 500 million gallons of fuel and a hundred million pounds
of mail. Of the 50,000 people KBR
employs, 13,000 are Americans, the rest are lower-paid workers from the
Philippines, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
They work at over 60 sites throughout Iraq and Kuwait.
first KBR employees arrived six months before the invasion of Iraq. They built the bases and maintained the
equipment. While Americans debated
whether to go war, KBR was hard at work.
there is nothing new about the military's use of private contractors. What's new is the scale. Jobs like air traffic control, the
refueling of aircraft and the maintenance and loading of advanced weapons
systems were always the sole province of soldiers.
change in policy dates back to the end of the cold war when the Pentagon was
downsizing. The then secretary of
defense, Dick Cheney, first hired Halliburton as a consultant. The rest is well known. After leaving government, Cheney became
the president of Halliburton, parent company of KBR.
Gen. PAUL CERJAN (Ret.), V.P. Worldwide Military Affairs, KBR: And they came up with the conclusion
it's cheaper to outsource. So they
outsource to KBR, and we got the contract.
We do what they ask us to do.
We support the military with an equivalent of over 30
battalions worth of support.
That's a lot.
Does outsourcing save money?]
SMITH: KBR runs dozens of Army bases in Iraq,
and all the ones we visited had a food court like this one. You can have pizza, a burger or a hero. KBR set up Camp Victory inside one of
Saddam's former palace complexes.
It's impressive enough, but KBR was eager to show us something even
bigger. We were flown 40 miles
north of Baghdad, to the largest military base in Iraq.
in the Sunni Triangle, some call it Fort KBR.
I've never seen anything like it.
Here there are vast neighborhoods set behind concrete
barriers known as Bremer walls: 28,000 soldiers and 8,000 contractors live
here. There's a Wild West-themed post
office with a captured Iraqi anti-aircraft gun out front, a movie theater next
to another Subway franchise, and a rec center where soldiers can relax away
from the battlefield.
CARTER, Project Manager, KBR: We
have gyms, salsa dancing, Taekwondo, and you name it.
There's probably something for everybody there is.
SMITH: KBR's Garry Carter is nicknamed "the
mayor of Anaconda."
CARTER: We have the sewer system on the
base. We have the water production
on the base, providing about 1.3 million gallons daily. Our laundry facility here, we do about
80,000 bags of laundry a month. We
have over a thousand generators on this base, running, providing power
here. That's a key element, the
power that will power the lights, the pumps, the air conditioners, the heaters.
SMITH: [on camera] You're doing a lot better than a lot of
CARTER: We're trying to provide that power.
have the food service here on the base, 105,000 meals a day, feeding over
SMITH: So you've got 35,000 people, 105,000
meals a day you're serving here.
Do you have that broken down in terms of cost?
PRICE, KBR Media Relations: We don't break
CARTER: We don't— we don't break it out. It's— it's—
PRICE: We can't get the total definitization,
but we don't break it out by individual task order.
SMITH: [voice-over] That's Stephanie Price of KBR media
camera] So you don't have a cost per meal?
PRICE: We don't break it out that way.
SMITH: So if I was going to try to figure out
how much it was costing to serve, cook the food, how would I go about doing
PRICE: I'll redirect you—
CARTER: She can direct you to that.
PRICE: I mean, we're really here to show you
the level of service. If you want
to go back, then I'll take you back to Paul.
SMITH: Can you give me some idea of how
much it costs to run this city in a day?
SMITH: [voice-over] Stephanie continued the discussion in
PRICE: Marty, I'm just telling you how we
release our figures per the government.
No one's going to break down costs per camp for you. It's just not going to happen.
SMITH: [on camera] You know, this is what concerns people
because when it's under the military, it's public information. And once you privatize services that
are provided with taxpayer dollars—
PRICE: It's public information, but they don't
break it down per camp. I mean,
SMITH: Well, what if I want to find out how
much it's costing to feed troops or to clean latrines, just that specific
PRICE: Well, then, I mean, see if the military
will provide you that.
[voice-over] We went to see the other mayor of
Anaconda, base commander Colonel David Fitzgerald.
We found him presiding over a ceremony, handing out
certificates of recognition to KBR employees.
I took Stephanie's advice and asked the colonel about
costs. He was refreshingly open.
camera] Do you break costs down? Do you have an idea of how much it's
costing you to feed each one of your soldiers, for instance?
DAVID FITZGERALD, Base Cmndr., Camp Anaconda:
Sure do. Not only do I
break it down, I have a meeting every week.
A number of my staff members have a meeting every week, and
we look specifically at that with KBR, and we track those costs.
SMITH: Do you know how much it costs to feed a
DAVID FITZGERALD: It costs roughly— I think it's— it's
probably in the neighborhood of about $20 a plate per service. And we have quite a few servings per
SMITH: [voice-over] The quality and range of services KBR
provides to soldiers is impressive, but cost is a real issue. An audit by the U.S. Government
Accountability Office of dining hall costs for one four-month period alleges
KBR charged $88 million dollars for meals they never served. And Pentagon audits allege that KBR
overcharged $108 million for fuel and billed the government $1.8 billion in
other unsupported costs. The
Pentagon terminated the fuel contract.
As for meals, KBR says workers prepared food that just wasn't consumed. And the unsupported 1.8 billion, KBR
says, is a paperwork issue that's being resolved.
camera] You've got at least four vigorous
investigations going on. Other big
companies have operated in this theater — Bechtel, Parsons, in the oil sector
and reconstruction — they haven't attracted as much attention. Halliburton, KBR, gets singled out as a
particular target. Why?
Gen. PAUL CERJAN (Ret.), V.P. Worldwide Military Affairs, KBR: I don't know.
If I knew the answer to that, I'd probably be in politics or
SMITH: Well, you must have— you must do some
thinking about it.
CERJAN: Well, I've got some feelings about
it. I mean, the only thing we can
do is stand up and give a true and honest evaluation of what we've done, show
the documentation and why we arrived at those conclusions, and let whoever is
making the assessment make the assessment.
We are not afraid of that process.
We are not afraid of that process at all. I welcome it because I'm a taxpayer,
SMITH: [voice-over] KBR has inspired a cottage industry of
critics charging undue political influence and financial fraud. But for all the controversy, there are
many in Wall Street and in Washington who believe KBR is making only a slim
profit, that they've been simply overwhelmed by the military's needs and failed
to adequately track costs.
Pentagon never intended to keep so many troops in Iraq for so long anyway. But now Anaconda is slated to become
one of four so-called "enduring bases" in Iraq.
Some veteran officers complain that it's a bad idea in a war
THOMAS X. HAMMES, U.S. Marines (Ret.): We
did it in Vietnam, too. We created
these huge base isolations in Vietnam, where we set ourselves aside from the
population, created great luxury for the forces that lived there. And that doesn't really get you
anything in the counterinsurgency.
It creates a lot of problems.
If the assumption is this is a peacetime occupation and then you wanted—
your bases to start to look like Germany.
If you think you're still in a war zone, you build a different structure
frankly was stunned at the level of care.
I mean, the big-screen TVs, the three main courses, three kinds of ice
cream with multiple flavored toppings, several kinds of pastries, and all of
these sorts of things, some feeling that we have to do this because the troops
won't respond otherwise. I don't
think that's true. The five months
I was in Somalia with the Marines, we never really had a hot meal. There were no showers built. Nobody seemed to have a problem with
that. I mean, you're in a war.
this is misguided luxury.
Somebody's risking their life to deliver that luxury. Maybe you could tone down the luxury,
put fewer vehicles on the road.
SMITH: [on camera] Retired military say, "You know, our
soldiers don't need three flavors of ice cream.
They don't need lobster," or "They don't need cordon
bleu. What they need is a safe,
secure environment." What's your
reaction to that?
CERJAN: Well, first of all, the American
soldier loves milk and ice cream.
And so if that makes him feel better, why shouldn't you provide it? I mean, there's a lot to be said about
bringing an individual inside the wire and providing him these amenities that
don't have to be provided by soldiers.
I mean, I spent my entire career watching soldiers pull KP in the
kitchen. Why do we have to do that
with soldiers? Why can't we
outsource that mission?
SMITH: [voice-over] In an all-volunteer Army, no one is
going sign up and clean latrines.
The Army is failing to make its enlistment quotas as it is. But in Iraq, soldiers we spoke to were
not sure about using private contractors, either.
SOLDIER: The thing is, is you just can't tell
one of them to go man a guard tower.
You can't tell one of them that they need to pull security or go out on
a raid or do a different job. You
can't make them do push-ups if they screw up.
Basically, they just get fired, go home, and they get
another person they can use for a year.
SMITH: Before we came to Iraq and after we
returned, we tried to ask top Pentagon officials responsible for acquisition,
manpower, logistics and procurement questions about outsourcing. They all declined to be
interviewed. Other officials told
us that outsourcing is a sensitive issue in the Pentagon.
More debate on military outsourcing]
50,000 contractors working with KBR doing troop support and 20,000 private
security guards, there are another 40,000 contractors working for companies
like Bechtel, Parsons and GE on reconstruction jobs at scattered sites
throughout Iraq. To see them, we
needed once again to travel outside the walls of the Green Zone.
SECURITY GUARD: We have a fully qualified medic in the
rear vehicle. We have a medical
bag in each vehicle. It's the blue
bag behind your seat.
SMITH: We rode along with a security company
taking some personnel to a power plant outside of Baghdad. For their safety, both the security
guards and the client asked not to be identified.
We were told the trip would take about half an hour, but not
far from the center of Baghdad, we hit traffic.
The guards get out to set up a kind of security perimeter.
LEADER: OK, stay calm, guys.
SMITH: Then the commander notices a white
sedan on the right shoulder and alerts his guards over the radio.
LEADER: The one parked on the right there,
little white one. Two front, one
rear. That guy's still giving you
SMITH: He thinks the car may be loaded with
LEADER: No, don't walk up on them because if
they detonate, you're done.
SMITH: Sitting still, we are vulnerable. The commander decides to reroute us
back through the center of Baghdad.
Eventually, we get through town, but on the way back out, we hit another
traffic jam, this time on a bridge.
We are boxed in. All the
defensive driving in the world cannot protect you from a suicide bomber here.
LEADER: Gentlemen, I'm going to recommend we
abort this mission and try it another day.
Let these guys through and make a space so we can turn
SMITH: We never did get to see the new power
Sorry, gentlemen. We gave
it our shot.
SMITH: Last June, a convoy of GE contractors
were on their way to a power plant outside Baghdad.
Three GE employees and two security guards were among 13
dead and 62 wounded in a bomb attack.
The total number of contractors that have died since the war began is
hard to say. More than 300
contractor deaths have been reported in the press, but not all companies report
of contractors who've been killed in the line of duty have recently taken some
companies to court in the U.S. The
families of the four guards killed in Fallujah are suing Blackwater for
wrongful death. But in a
privatized war, it's hard to determine who can be held responsible.
ZOVKO, Jerry Zovko's Mother: I
blame Blackwater, its employees.
But I am very upset that our government allows companies to do business
the way they do in Iraq.
HELVENSTON, Scott Helvenston's Mother:
Our government cannot subcontract out their wars and take no
accountability for anything that happens.
And that's basically what they're doing.
SMITH: A tangled chain of contracts has so far
obscured any final accountability.
Blackwater was contracted through a Kuwaiti company, Regency, to a
Cypriot company, ESS, the food caterer.
But ESS has refused to tell FRONTLINE exactly who they were
asked ESS about a clause in its contract that references KBR. Without explaining the clause, ESS said
it wasn't working for KBR on March 31st.
KBR also says it wasn't involved, and that under the terms of their
contract with the Army, KBR and all its subcontractors must use military
asked KBR's Paul Cerjan if he could clear this up.
camera] Why was Blackwater involved in
providing ESS trucks, security?
They were picking up kitchen equipment from the 82nd Airborne.
CERJAN: I have no idea. That was a year ago. I can tell you what the situation is
today contractually, but I have no idea what the contractual situation was—
SMITH: Were you here then?
SMITH: Is ESS a subcontractor today?
They have some dining facility contracts, yes.
More of KBR's response]
SMITH: [voice-over] Untangling the chain is impossible
without cooperation from the companies.
[on the phone] Hello?
looking for Alan Morgan George—
[voice-over] While we were in Kuwait, I tried to
[on the phone] Who could I talk to there who's
managing the catering contracts in Iraq right now?
[voice-over] I had no luck. And since then, ESS has refused to
discuss the language in the contract.
Blackwater, which denies responsibility for the contractors' deaths,
says it doesn't know who directed the March 31st mission.
man who managed the Army's logistics contracts in spring, 2004, was also unable
to clarify what happened.
camera] What happened in the case of the
Blackwater contractors who went into Fallujah, and they— they were protecting
trucks that were going to pick up kitchen equipment.
It's in violation of the contract that you had, correct?
PAUL KERN, Army Material Command (Ret.):
No, I can't tell you that it was a violation of the contract.
SMITH: Why not?
KERN: Because it was— because of the— at the
level at which it was being conducted, within subcontractors, both the security
and the— and the sources, I can't tell you that they violated the contract.
SMITH: Very frustrating to have that sort of
lack of visibility in contracts.
But again, we're— we're operating— more than 42,000 people
spread over, literally, millions of square miles across Southwest Asia, and our
ability to look at every single thing in a contingency-type operation just
SMITH: [on camera] With so many contracts and so little
transparency, we may never know what happened on March 31st, 2004, nor who is
liable. With the Fallujah
contractors case not yet scheduled, the families are forced to wait.
trip is nearly over. We have only
one decision left to make: How to get to the airport.
As we are deciding, we learn that there been attack on the
airport road involving the team we rode with two days earlier. This man, who had protected us, was
killed. That same day, there was
another attack. Andy Melville at
Erinys showed us an insurgents' video off the Internet.
MELVILLE, Project Director, Erinys Iraq:
This clip is particularly distressing.
And it shows the execution of a private security operator.
SMITH: Skylink, a contractor that ferries
people from the Green Zone to the airport, has had a helicopter shot down north
of Baghdad. Ten men are killed in
the crash, including six Blackwater security guards.
Stand up! Stand up!
SMITH: The Skylink pilot, a Bulgarian
contractor, is the lone survivor of the crash.
Go, go! Go!
SMITH: He is also the last victim.
[shooting] Allahu akbar!
SMITH: We opt to go to the airport by road
with a Russian detail from Erinys.
The military calls this "Route Irish."
The Iraqis call it "Death Road."
In the last four months, there have been at least 150
attacks on this 10-mile stretch.
The U.S. military and their partners in the private sector have been
unable to secure this vital link.
exit from Iraq is hard to envision, but it's clear that the private contractors
we met will be in business for a long time.
cleared the last checkpoint. An
airport has never looked so good.
in collaboration with Bob Williams and Andre Verloy of The Center for Public
EDITORIAL RESEARCH ASSISTANTS
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FRONTLINE co-production with RAINmedia
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ANNOUNCER: Visit FRONTLINE's Web site for more on
this report, including a rundown of major private contractors operating in Iraq
today and the ongoing investigations of some of them, a collection of personal
photos and stories from civilian contractors in Iraq, a look at the history of
civilian contractors performing security functions in a war zone, background on
the making of this program from FRONTLINE's producers, and
extended interviews with contractors, military officials and other experts,
plus streaming video of the full program and more at pbs.org.
order FRONTLINE's Private Warriors on videocassette or DVD, call PBS Home
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