The United States government relies heavily on private contractors for a wide variety of services. While most do a great job, we know of contractors that cut corners – companies that do phantom security clearance investigations, companies that use low quality, imported steel in federally funded bridge projects and Medicare providers that bill the government for unnecessary medical tests and procedures. This weekend’s Wall Street Journal adds another group of potential culprits – embassy security contractors.
The government pays contractors hundreds of millions of dollars annually to provide security at 294 American embassies worldwide. Some of them, however, do a substandard job at screening the guards. If a classified June 2014 State Department Inspector General audit is correct, most of them do a terrible job. That means there are plenty of whistleblower opportunities for concerned workers.
Security at our embassies is a serious problem. Threats are increasing worldwide. The most recent example is the 2012 attack on our embassy in Benghazi, Libya that left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens dead. A recent investigation of that attack revealed that local Libyan guards did not fire back at insurgents. One guard was reportedly hired even though 6 months earlier he had thrown a homemade bomb at the embassy. No background check was performed allowing the man to be hired to protect the very embassy he had tried to destroy.
Security at many embassies is provided by U.S. Marines and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. In many cases, however, government security workers are supplemented by a local guard force. Those guards are hired, trained and deployed according to contracts with private contractors. A recent audit of those contractors revealed that “none of the six security contractors selected for review fully performed all vetting requirements contained in the [contract]. Inadequate oversight of the local guard vetting process places embassies and personnel at risk.”
For security reasons, the names of the contractors providing security at U.S. embassies was redacted in the report. We know last year, however, a US company called Aegis Defense Services was sued after allegedly allowing guards to work more than 72 hours per week and failing to pay for some of those hours. Although the suit was not directly related to vetting of guards, we wonder how effective guards can be if required to work 16 hour shifts.
Documents obtained from the General Services Administration suggests that other contractors providing embassy security are DynCorp International, EOD Technology, Global Strategies Group (Integrated Security), International Development Solutions, SOC LLC, Torres International Services and Triple Canopy. Since the State Department audit is classified, we don’t know which of the companies on the above list, if any, failed the Inspector General’s audit.
The federal False Claims Act allows whistleblowers with original source information about fraud involving a federal contract or program to earn a substantial award. The law allows the government to seek triple damages and pay whistleblowers up to 30% of whatever is recovered. (The average award is closer to 20%.) With so many embassies and so many vendors, we believe there are many whistleblower opportunities available through the Bureau of Diplomatic Security local guard force program and other security contracts.
If you have information relating to embassy security contract fraud or fraud involving foreign aid contracts, give us a call. We represent the whistleblower in one of the largest pending False Claims Act cases in the nation (HUD’s $2.4 billion claim against Allied.) Not every case is worth billions but most successful whistleblowers are very well compensated for their information.
In addition to earning an award, whistleblowers with information about bad embassy security also are providing a valuable service for the men and women working in embassies as well as US taxpayers.
Think you have inside information about embassy security contract problems? Give us a call. For more information contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (414) 704-6731 (direct). All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept in strict confidence.
[Want to learn more on embassy security and the need for whistleblowers? Visit our cornerstone page on embassy security and private military contractor fraud.]