Congress investigating charges of 'protection racket' by
By Walter Pincus
Thursday, December 17, 2009; A21
A House oversight subcommittee said Wednesday that it has begun a wide-ranging investigation into allegations that private security companies hired to protect Defense Department convoys in Afghanistan are paying off warlords and the Taliban to ensure safe passage.
"If shown to be true, it would mean that the United States is unintentionally engaged in a vast protection racket and, as such, may be indirectly funding the very insurgents we are trying to fight," said Rep. John F. Tierney (D-Mass.), chairman of the House oversight subcommittee on national security and foreign affairs.
Two weeks ago, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton described the same situation before a Senate committee while discussing the truck convoys that bring supplies into landlocked
A preliminary inquiry by Tierney's investigators determined that the allegations warranted a full-scale inquiry, focused initially on eight trucking companies that share a $2.2 billion Defense Department contract to carry goods and material from main supply points inside
The congressman has written to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates requesting records on all the trucking contractors as well as their subcontractors and expenses for convoy security.
In addition, he has sought the records of the Armed Contractor Oversight Directorate, the unit within the military's
Tierney is seeking access to their records for the contracts, including those related to security and the companies' possible use of licensed or unlicensed private security providers. He has requested that the documents be provided by Jan. 15.
One of the companies, NCL Holdings, in
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs