State Department Responds to ArmorGroup Allegations

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


When State Department spokesman Ian Kelly woke up this morning, he may have been anticipating some tough queries from reporters. But he probably wasn’t expecting to field questions about US embassy guards in Kabul engaging in what the Project on Government Oversight has described as “deviant hazing and humiliation,” acts that allegedly included “peeing on people, eating potato chips out of ass cracks, vodka shots out of ass cracks.”

“These are very serious allegations and we are treating them that way,” Kelly told reporters at a briefing this afternoon, after POGO sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton detailing a host of charges relating to ArmorGroup’s $189 million contract to provide security for the US embassy in Kabul. Kelly said Clinton had been informed of the allegations and noted that the matter had been referred to the State Department’s Inspector General. Kelly added that the State Department has “zero tolerance for the type of conduct that is alleged in these documents.”

Yet the State Department seems to have had quite a bit of tolerance for ArmorGroup’s lapses. As one reporter pointed out at the briefing, internal State Department documents, dating back to 2007, have raised serious concerns about ArmorGroup’s handling of the embassy contract. In July 2007, the State Department alerted the company that it had found “defincies” in its work that “endanger performance of the contract to such a degree that the security of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul is in jeopardy.” In September 2008, the agency threatened to terminate the contract outright because the company had provided too few guards.

Despite ArmorGroup’s track record, deputy assistant secretary of state for logistics management William Moser told a Senate panel in June that “at no time was the security of American personnel at the US embassy compromised.” He claimed that “we worked with Armor Group” to correct the problems that had been identified. And he maintained that “the performance on the ground by ArmorGroup, North America has been and is sound.”

There’s surely nothing sound about the allegations POGO’s investigation turned up. And it’s not as if the watchdog group is relying on the claims of a few disgruntled employees, either. According to POGO, nearly a tenth of the company’s embassy 450-person security force individually contacted the group with a host of serious concerns. 

So why did Moser go out of his way to defend AmorGroup to Congress? “I’ll have to ask Mr. Moser,” Kelly told reporters. “I’m not exactly sure what he was basing his determination on.” I’m looking forward to finding out. I bet Secretary Clinton is too.

UPDATE: Here are the jaw-dropping photos. NSFW.

Follow Daniel Schulman on Twitter.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate