DOD Inspector General Finds Multiple KBR And Military Failures In Electrocution Deaths

Last January, Sens. Dorgan and Casey and the Democratic Policy Committee pushed the Department of Defense to investigate multiple issues with electrocution deaths in Iraq.

The IG’s office delivered its initial report yesterday (PDF).  As Sen. Byron Dorgan says:

U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) said Monday a new Defense Department Inspector General investigation confirms findings of a hearing he chaired a year ago: the electrocution death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth was the result of poor-quality electrical work by contractor KBR and that the Army failed to adequately oversee KBR or hold the company accountable.

“This is a damning report,” Dorgan said Monday. “The conduct of both KBR and the Army is unacceptable.”

In the report, the Inspector General concluded that KBR failed to ground equipment which contributed to the electrocution death of Staff Sgt. Maseth. . . .

“KBR has repeatedly denied any responsibility for what happened to Sgt. Maseth and other soldiers who were shocked and electrocuted in Iraq. This report makes it impossible for them to do that any longer,” Dorgan added. “Instead of cutting corners and issuing denials, KBR needs to get very serious, very quickly about doing quality work that protects soldiers rather than endangering them.”

The IG report is blunt: KBR failed to ground a water pump that provided water to showers where Sgt. Maseth was stationed, and Army supervisors failed to set baseline standards, inspect negligent work, or hold anyone accountable for shoddy work product — and even for deaths of its own servicepeople — until forced to do so by a public shaming.

Huge kudos to Sen. Dorgan and the other members of the DPC for continuing to force this issue.

Because otherwise, it would have simply disappeared, with family members having been told on multiple occasions that their loved ones either died of natural causes or died of self-inflicted electrocutions.  Beyond shameful conduct from multiple actors in this.

Thus far, the ongoing IG review has found that at least 9 electrocution deaths of US troops in Iraq can be attributed to shoddy electrical work and failure to follow proper safety procedures, and failures on multiple layers of supposedly required military inspections which should have caught the errors.

Worse, I’m told there is still a lot to inspect and review, which means that this ongoing investigation may not have caught all the shoddy work as yet.  I am currently trying to verify this with DOD sources.

American troops are risking their lives in uniform. Who knew they’d also be risking their lives in the shower because of faulty contracting work?

They deserve a hell of a lot better than that. 

And so do we all, since we’ve paid "$83.4 million in bonuses that the Pentagon paid KBR under LOGCAP III Task Order 139 for its shoddy electrical work," per Sen. Dorgan’s press release on the IG report.  That’s your taxpayer dollars, folks.

For more on the IG report, see the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, CNN and the WaPo.  For more on prior DPC policy hearings regarding contractor abuses, see here, here, here, here and here.  Just for starters.

(YouTube — Sen. Byron Dorgan demanding accountability from the DOD IG’s office on these electrocution deaths.)

33 Responses to "DOD Inspector General Finds Multiple KBR And Military Failures In Electrocution Deaths"
Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday July 28, 2009 05:25 am 1

Morning all — the thing that infuriates me most is that it should not take this much shoving to get people to do the right thing. Or to do it in the first place, either.

I feel so awful for the families of these soldiers. Sgt. Maseth’s family was told he deliberately walked into the showers with a toaster, something that was an out and out lie. Beyond infuriating…

SouthernDragon | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:05 am 2

I enjoyed KBR’s saying that the builders of the palace didn’t properly ground anything so it’s their fault, not KBR’s. Ignore the fact that KBR installed the pump, not Saddam’s developer.

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:09 am 3
In response to SouthernDragon @ 2

Or that they were hired to retrofit the place for American electrical standards so the military could use it as an HQ and barracks.

My dad was a mechanic at a big industrial plant — so I was around those sorts of guys my whole life. Any of the people he worked with, either mechanics or electricians, would laugh their asses off at that being used as an excuse by anyone. You don’t see a danger to people and not either report it or correct it immediately.

Dangerous morons.

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:12 am 4
In response to SouthernDragon @ 2

Oh, and that pump? KBR has been trying to weasel out of having installed it for months. They’ve alternately blamed subcontractors for shoddy work and/or said they had nothing to do with it whatsoever, even though it was part of their contractual obligation for which they were handsomely paid by DOD.

Personal accountability, my ass.

RAMA | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:18 am 5

But aren’t we supposed to be looking ahead instead of back? I will be extremely surprised if anything happens with any of this. Right wing-connected businesses and individuals are apparently immune from any responsibility for what they do, whether it is murder, torture, theft, violating U.S. and international law, and the list goes on.

SouthernDragon | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:18 am 6
In response to Christy Hardin Smith @ 4

Personal accountability went out when St Ronnie of RayGuns came in.

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:23 am 7
In response to RAMA @ 5

The thing that freaked me out about this is that it took this much just to get an IG inspection going — and there are so many issues that have been found that they still aren’t done with them all. That includes the sodium dichromate exposure that was found in southern Iraq and other issues as well that have yet to be corrected — if they can be corrected at all.

Which means there are still dangers to American and other troops and American civilians — and to the Iraqis who work on our bases and in our facilities — all because these contractors were incredibly negligent and the military personnel who were to have inspected the work and signed off on it prior to payment didn’t bother to do their fricking jobs. So that danger is still there, including the potential for electrocution.

None of which should have existed if proper electrical work had been done in the first place. Grounding something that touches water isn’t exactly a rocket science level electrical rule — it’s basic stuff.

SouthernDragon | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:25 am 8

Off to swim in the great capitalist cesspool.

Be good to yourselves, and all other living things.


ghostof911 | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:26 am 9
In response to Christy Hardin Smith @ 4

TheIraq war was launched to reap windfall profits for Cheney’s Halliburton and other Cheney-friendly contract firms. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost in the process. Halliburton’s legal defense team is happy to drag this single incident out to mask the greater horror.

OT. Thanks Christy for the link yesterday to the 2008 Sharlet Book Salon. From it I learned

- Christianity had erred by concerning itself with the poor, the weak, the down and out

- the Constitution is for rubes

nomolos | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:31 am 10

Did the KBR turkeys have a hand in building the Embassy in Baghdad? Will the building(s) have to be razed because it will be to costly to fix?

If (here is a lot of wishful thinking!) if Cheney, while VP, had a hand in hiring KBR while an employee of their parent company maybe RICO could come into play in the electrocution crimes?

cbl2 | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:34 am 11

Mornin’ Christy and Firedogs,

went skimming through the report to see what if any recommendations the IG made wrt the bad actors involved – you know, “dereliction of duty”, etc.

but got sidetracked by this:

The LOGCAP III contract was awarded on December 14, 2001 to KBR as a result of a competitive best value source selection

is that bureaucratese for closed bidding ??

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:37 am 12
In response to cbl2 @ 11

It really is a nightmare of bureaucratic speak to read, isn’t it?

ghostof911 | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:38 am 13
In response to nomolos @ 10

An aggressive prosecutor could discover a lot of questionable activities here. Unfortunately, the Department of Justice is AWOL. Our tax dollars are going into a black hole there.

barbara | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:43 am 14
In response to RAMA @ 5

Please refer to the part of Christy’s post about public shaming. Honest to God, if the American people don’t get off their/our asses and speak loudly, clearly, angrily and incessantly about the egregious things of the past, they will indeed remain under cover of darkness forever.

For whatever reason, I occasionally give my Republican “representative” (John Kline, MN CD2) a prod. But I am about to add to that strategy by contacting Dem reps and senators from my state and elsewhere. And blogging. And commenting. And, once my legal tangle is finished (a family member once threatened me, saying my LTEs expressing my personal political opinions offended her and that I would have to choose between David’s family and expressing my opinion, about which David said to me, “Well, there’s a no-brainer”), resuming relentless LTE writing to my local papers and NYT that publish them.

“or died of self-inflicted electrocutions.” This made me tear up, and now I am totally pissed. What bastards! Truly, truly.

Oh. Good morning, everyone.

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:43 am 15
In response to nomolos @ 10

I don’t remember off the top of my head if KBR was involved in the Embassy build. I don’t think RICO applies, but there could certainly be both civil and criminal liability questions considered on something like this. Generally, military contractors in a war zone are exempted from liability because we need them to perform in a hazardous area under really difficult conditions — so there is an allowance given to them for having to operate under less-than-optimal business conditions on the fly to get a job done.

But there are questions raised as to no exemption if it can be shown that the error was a result of severely compromised and reckless behavior in terms of safety considerations. This is precisely because our troops and civilian diplomats depend on them doing the job as well as they can for their safety as well as that of the civilians who work in the buildings and/or around the equipment.

It’s a tough case to make, but it can be made if you have some whistleblowers and, in this case, there have been several come forward against KBR. The military command folks, as governmental actors, would be exempted — but there are internal demotion and other means of exacting accountability within the usual chain of command that will likely come into play there. As well as built-in things that can be done for the family for compensation and help. It doesn’t bring a wrongfully killed family member back, but it can help set up a college fund for children left behind and such.

It’s a mess.

On the criminal end, there are questions of manslaughter and otherwise — but because that was exempted in Iraq, it’s not likely to be brought. But that doesn’t meant that the government can’t demand repayment of bonus monies and other economic penalties.

foothillsmike | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:44 am 16

Would be a great thing to outsource justice in these issues to the Chinese. They take accountability seriously. The only question would be firing squad or hanging.

foothillsmike | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:45 am 17

The embassy was built by a Kuwaity firm using slave labor.

barbara | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:46 am 18
In response to foothillsmike @ 16

outsource justice in these issues to the Chinese

Great idea!

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:47 am 19
In response to foothillsmike @ 17

Thanks, I couldn’t remember. There have been so many problems that have arisen with contractor outsourcing and such that it’s begun to be difficult to keep all of them straight.

Which, in and of itself, is likely a feature not a bug.

foothillsmike | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:48 am 20
In response to foothillsmike @ 17


ThingsComeUndone | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:51 am 21

Ok who at KBR is going to jail

ThingsComeUndone | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:52 am 22

I hope the army has learned that the private sector does not do things better or cheaper.

nomolos | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:53 am 23

Thank you. I know it is foolish of me but I can’t help think that if Congress had been doing it’s job over the last 8 years of hell…….

ThingsComeUndone | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:55 am 24

How do we get the MSM to cover this story? How do we get the MSM to mention that KBR was Cheney’s company? Its sad when the press does not mention stuff because they don’t want to get shut out of interviews.
Still why interview Darth he is just going to lie anyway and the media will let him.
Pumpkinhead has legacy it seems.

Bilbo | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:56 am 25

Instead of cutting corners and issuing denials, KBR needs to get very serious, very quickly about doing quality work that protects soldiers rather than endangering them.

Why is KBR still on the US dole?

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday July 28, 2009 06:58 am 26
In response to ThingsComeUndone @ 24

See links above to CNN, WaPo and NYTimes — they are covering it, just on internal pages and not giving it a helluva lot of airtime.

Which is why I pushed it forward this morning. Because there needs to be even more coverage than afterthought reporting on this. It’s horrific and incredibly negligent — and the IG report is very, very clear on the details on this.

Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday July 28, 2009 07:00 am 27
In response to Bilbo @ 25

I think they still have several exisiting contracts that have not expired and/or been cancelled. But they are being phased out — recently, they lost a huge contract in Afghanistan which was given to a couple of smaller firms instead.

So DOD is wising up, as is the Obama Administration. Unfortunately, you can’t just cancel some of these contracts without having an alternative in place — because we’ve outsourced feeding our troops, getting them water, cleaning their barracks, transporting them to and fro…you name it.

All of the essential supply shit has been outsourced out the wazoo for someone else’s profit margin. Which could leave troops utterly and completely stranded in a war zone. Really exceptional thinking, isn’t it? *snerk*

foothillsmike | Tuesday July 28, 2009 07:10 am 28
In response to Bilbo @ 25

Halliburton has moved its world headquarters to Dubai

earlofhuntingdon | Tuesday July 28, 2009 09:16 am 29

So that means the DoD will recoup unearned payments to KBR, right. With interest and penalties, or will suspend its “license” to do business with the government for a year. And that it will demand compensation be paid to survivors for what are obviously deaths owing to gross negligence, not combat, accidents of war or warmaking, or any conduct of the individuals who lost their lives in service to their country – by taking a cold shower during a respite from their fight.

That’s right, isn’t it? Or does the Beltway’s Culture of Impunity extend to all it’s suppliers?

Gitcheegumee | Tuesday July 28, 2009 10:42 am 30

Suit alleges KBR, Halliburton misconduct at Balad Georgia man …A Georgia man has filed suit against KBR and its former parent company, … Shipped ice in mortuary trucks that “still had traces of body fluids and putrefied … medical waste, such as needles, amputated body parts and bloody bandages ……..339-1.html – Cached – Similar

Kellogg Brown & RootThe wild dogs could be seen roaming the base with body parts in their mouths.’ … KBR’s ice foreman “was cheating the troops out of ice at the same time … – Cached – Similar

DieselDave09 | Tuesday July 28, 2009 11:49 am 31

In America, if you don’t look out for yourself, no one else will. These soldiers should have known KBR did bad work and they should have checked out the showers before just jumping in. Remember our motto: ‘Every man, woman, and child for themselves’. IOW, buyer beware.

KenInIL | Tuesday July 28, 2009 11:58 am 32

Since KBR didn’t know what they were doing, we ought to get a full refund for labor and materials they wasted pretending they were being electricians. And lets not blame the Army, they do not have a master electrician specialty, if they did, we would not of needed KBR.

bgrothus | Tuesday July 28, 2009 04:33 pm 33

Thank you for reminding us again about this issue, Christy. KBR, a name that will live in infamy.

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