Monday, August 27, 2007

Former Aide To Petreaus, Others, Investigated For Iraq Weapons Corruption

By Cernig

The NY Times reports that "Several federal agencies are investigating a widening network of criminal cases involving the purchase and delivery of billions of dollars of weapons, supplies and other matériel to Iraqi and American forces, according to American officials." It's being described as the largest circle of corruption to emerge from the Iraq war to date - and one of Petreaus' former top aides is implicated.

The inquiry has already led to several indictments of Americans, with more expected, the officials said. One of the investigations involves a senior American officer who worked closely with Gen. David H. Petraeus in setting up the logistics operation to supply the Iraqi forces when General Petraeus was in charge of training and equipping those forces in 2004 and 2005, American officials said Monday.

There is no indication that investigators have uncovered any wrongdoing by General Petraeus, the commander of United States forces in Iraq, who through a spokesman declined comment on any legal proceedings.

This article is based on interviews with more than a dozen federal investigators, Congressional, law enforcement and military officials, and specialists in contracting and logistics, in Iraq and Washington, who have direct knowledge of the inquiries. Many spoke on condition of anonymity because there are continuing criminal investigations.

The inquiries are being pursued by the Army Criminal Investigation Command, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, among other agencies.
Over the past year and more there have been several inquiries and reports into what happened to all the missing US-supplied weapons in Iraq, but all have stopped short of saying arms ended up in the hands of insurgents or that US military personnel profited from corrupt redirection of the weaponry.

General Petreaus himself has been at pains to play down any such possibilities, instead concentrating on spurious fables about hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment weighing hundreds of tons being "kicked out of helicopters" in the rush to arm the Iraqi security forces. I have said a few times recently that my nose was twitching, the old bulls**t allergy was acting up again, and there was as yet uncovered criminality involving senior military officers going on. Seems I was right.
now, American officials said, part of the criminal investigation is focused on Lt. Col. Levonda Joey Selph, who reported directly to General Petraeus and worked closely with him in setting up the logistics operation for what were then the fledgling Iraqi security forces.

That operation moved everything from AK-47s, armored vehicles and plastic explosives to boots and Army uniforms, according to officials who were involved in it. Her former colleagues recall Colonel Selph as a courageous officer who was willing to take substantial personal risks to carry out her mission and was unfailingly loyal to General Petraeus and his directives to move quickly in setting up the logistics operation.

“She was kind of like the Pony Express of the Iraqi security forces,” said Victoria Wayne, who was then deputy director of logistics for the overall Iraqi reconstruction program.

Still, Colonel Selph also ran into serious problems with a company she oversaw that failed to live up to a contract it had signed to carry out part of that logistics mission.

It is not clear exactly what Colonel Selph is being investigated for. Colonel Selph, reached by telephone twice on Monday, said she would speak to reporters later but did not answer further messages left for her.

The enormous expenditures of American and Iraqi money on the Iraq reconstruction program, at least $40 billion over all, have been criticized for reasons that go well beyond the corruption cases that have been uncovered so far. Weak oversight, poor planning and seemingly endless security problems have contributed to many of the program’s failures.

The investigation into contracts for matériel to Iraqi soldiers and police officers is part of an even larger series of criminal cases. As of Aug. 23, there were a total of 73 criminal investigations related to contract fraud and abuse in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, Col. Dan Baggio, an Army spokesman said Monday. Twenty civilians and military personnel have been charged in federal court as a result of the inquiries, he said. The inquiries involve contracts valued at more than $5 billion, and Colonel Baggio said the charges so far involve more than $15 million in bribes...The investigations involve contractors, government employees, local nationals and American military personnel.
What's more, since Senators were briefed on this back at the start of the month, it's unlikely in the extreme that Petreaus was unaware of it while he was making his excuses.
Questions about whether the American military could account for the weaponry and other equipment purchased to outfit the Iraqi security forces were raised as early as May of last year, when Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia and then the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent a request to an independent federal oversight agency to investigate the matter.

But federal officials say the inquiry has moved far beyond the initial investigation of hundreds of thousands of improperly tracked assault rifles and semiautomatic pistols that grew out of Senator Warner’s query. In fact, Senator Warner said in a statement to The New York Times that he was outraged when he was briefed recently on the initial findings of the investigations.

“When I was briefed on the recent developments, I felt so strongly that I asked the Secretary of the Army to brief the Armed Services Committee right away, which he did in early August,” Senator Warner said in a statement.
The Army is despatching its IG, a three-star general, to Iraq with carte blanche to continue investigations. I wonder if they'll also investigate allegations of torture made by some who tried to whistleblow on the arms sale scams?

Amazing what got overlooked today because Fredo quit and another Republican got caught with his pants down, eh?