An American contracting company funded by taxpayers’ money is in the news for a revealing video of employees abusing alcohol and illegal narcotics while on the job as defense contractors in Afghanistan. The employees under investigation were sent to Kabul, Afghanistan with the company to “protect U.S. personnel 24/7 from terrorists and the Taliban,” according to ABC NEWS.
The video shows a security manager of Jorge Scientific, the private contracting company, throwing back a shot of alcohol, staggering over to a fellow employee and then beginning to engage in shirtless wrestling. Also shown in the video is a medical officer with bloodshot eyes swaying in a chair with the person behind the camera begging him, “Please, snap out of it!” After the video was released, the medical officer admitted to frequently injecting himself with ketamine, a horse tranquilizer, while on the job in Afghanistan. According to ABC NEWS, these men were “throwing live ammunition rounds and fire extinguishers into the flames and watching as they exploded, often sounding like a real bomb explosion… every other night.” With the private contracting company’s operation’s manual saying all personnel must be on alert 24/7 for a possible terror attack, these men hardly seem to be following protocol.
The private company’s $47 million contract from the Pentagon, which is specifically used to train the Afghan National Police, requires a zero tolerance policy for alcohol and drug use, but there appears to be no one enforcing this. On the contrary, Kenny Smith, a previous employee, said that senior on-site executive in Kabul, Chris Sullivan, often organized and led the heavy drinking, usually doing so with a loaded pistol in his pants. “[He] pushed people to drink, calling us ‘pussies’ if we didn’t,”Smith said. Smith is one of the two men suing Jorge Scientific for ‘allowing’ such behavior in the company.
Smith and John Melson are previous employees of Jorge Scientific who quit their jobs at the private contracting company when they observed these actions taking place. According to NY Daily News, the basis for the lawsuit is that the men said “the frat house behavior endangered Jorge employees, the U.S. mission and U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan.” Jorge Scientific said they terminated employment of the security manager, medical officer, on-site executive and other individuals before the lawsuit began. In an official statement from Jorge Scientific Corporation, they said the Board of Directors had hired an outside and independent investigation team headed by a former federal prosecutor to conduct a thorough investigation.
This is not the first time this behavior has been seen within private security contractors in Afghanistan. According to the Huffington Post, three years ago, whistle-blowers came forward about similar behavior going on in Kabul with the ArmorGroup North America contractor who was overseas to provide security at the U.S. embassy there. They were accused of drinking, sexual hazing, having bonfires and visiting brothels in Kabul. The lawsuit for this scandal was settled last July for $7.5 million.
There is a clear lack of oversight going on with these private contracting companies overseas. Luckily, no serious consequences for the innocent people they are sent there to protect have occurred, but it seems to be only a matter of time before it does if this behavior continues.
These two events were only highlighted and revealed because the onlookers happened to have a camera. This makes me wonder how often similar behavior goes on when there is no camera there to capture it. After the first event happened back in 2010, Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, “testified before the Commission on Wartime Contracting, highlighting the dire need for the U.S. government to regain control over the planning and management of security operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” according to the Huffington Post. Even so, just two years later, this video is released of a different private contracting company showing some of the very same behaviors in the same place.
It appears little progress has been made on overseeing and controlling the behavior of these employees who are apparently paid with American taxpayer money. It is unfair for said taxpayers to see these people being paid with their hard-earned money for this disgusting behavior. It is also unfair to other employees that now have a terribly bad affiliation with the name of the companies when they may be completely innocent. The same goes for Americans in general that look bad because of the behaviors of people that are supposed to be professional representatives of the United States around the world. Serious changes need to be made in these private contractors.
Avery Twible can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org