February 19, 2008

Mr. Robert Kittel
Suspension and Debarment Official (SDO)
U.S. Army Legal Services Agency
901 North Stuart St.
Arlington, VA 22203-1873

Dear Mr. Kittel:

As per our conversation today, I am writing to you with our grave concerns about violence against women KBR employees in Iraq, and the company's failure to adequately protect their employees or hold the perpetrators of the violence accountable. For this reason, we are calling on you to debar KBR from future contracts in Iraq.

The attached February 13, 2008 New York Times article talks about 38 female contract employees coming forward to talk about the crimes committed against them. The best-known case is that of former Halliburton/KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones. On December 19, 2007, before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security and then again on February 12, 2008, before the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, Jones testified to the that in July of 2005, she was raped while serving as a contract employee for KBR/Halliburton inside the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, and subsequently held captive by KBR security personnel.[1]

Ms. Jones alleges that she was drugged then raped by her co-workers. Shortly after the incident, she saw an army doctor, who conducted an examination and investigation. The rape kit from that investigation (a box including pictures, fingernail scrapings, swabs, and the doctor's notes) was subsequently handed over to KBR security. Although the kit was ultimately released to State Department investigators, when it was later located much of the evidence (including photographs and the doctor's notes) were missing.

After the examination, KBR security also involuntarily detained Ms. Jones in a shipping cell for nearly 24 hours -- without food or water. It wasn't until she managed to make a phone call to her father (after convincing one of the guards to lend her his cell phone) that a chain of communication extending from the office of Rep. John Poe to State Department officials caused agents dispatched by the U.S. embassy to secure Ms. Jones' release.

Apart from its role in mishandling the evidence and mistreatment of the victim, the company's potential culpability in this case hinges on its willingness to foster an abusive environment in which such crimes could occur to begin with. Were Ms. Jones story the only incident of its type, the company could claim it had no responsibility for the anomalous actions of its employees. But the fact is that Ms. Jones is not the only employee who reports being victimized by sexual crimes and discrimination while working for Halliburton/KBR in Iraq.

For example, Tracey Barker, another former KBR employee and victim of a separate attack, testified to the committee that she was also sexually assaulted (in her case by a government employee), and that she was forced to constantly work in a “sexually hostile, physically threatening and verbally abusive” environment.[2] “The manager of the camp kept making gestures of how if I wanted my safety to exist on the camp, that I needed to sleep with him and that's all he kept saying to me,” Barker testified.

Since the victims of violent crimes are often reluctant to come forward, it is likely that these cases may be just two of many others. Indeed, the Houston Chronicle has reported that since Ms. Jones made the courageous decision to take her story public, 11 women have come forward alleging sexual harassment while working for KBR in Iraq.[3]

Clearly KBR/Halliburton has not done enough to protect the safety of its own contract employees. Had they taken any complaints seriously, rather than attempting to silence the victims through physical intimidation and, later on, through binding arbitration, it is possible that subsequent crimes like those committed against Ms. Jones might have been prevented.

As you know, federal acquisition regulations require that the federal government contract with “responsible prospective contractors only.”[4]We believe that the pattern of sexual abuses experienced by KBR employees clearly indicates that Halliburton/KBR cannot be considered “responsible” companies.

Indeed, as you are surely aware, suspension is permitted if a contractor has a “history of failure” or “unsatisfactory performance” in carrying out contracts[5] , which clearly has been the case with Halliburton/KBR.

It's worth noting that suspension is permitted “on the basis of adequate evidence, pending the completion of investigation or legal proceedings, when it has been determined that immediate action is necessary to protect the Government's interest.”[6] In other words, you are not obliged to wait until any civil or criminal charges related to this or related matters are filed and/or the proceedings concluded before taking action to protect U.S. taxpayers and civilians serving in Iraq.

The administration recognized this to be the case when it suspended Enron from government contracts in March of 2002 -- before there was any judicial resolution of claims against either individual executives or the company. As the GSA explained: “To qualify as a responsible contractor, a company or individual must have a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics and must possess the necessary organization, accounting and operational controls.”[7]

The nature of sex abuse crimes and employment discrimination makes it difficult to bring culpable individuals and their employers to justice. Nevertheless, we think there is basis enough to make a case for suspension.

However, in truth even before these incidents came to light, Halliburton/KBR's record of lawbreaking and contract-related abuses was significant enough to provide ample justification for suspending Halliburton/KBR from any new contracts or task orders. That record includes strong evidence of bribery[8] , bid-rigging,[9] doing business with state sponsors of terrorism in violation of the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations[10] , as well as numerous contract-related violations of law and FAR regulations in association with its Iraq contracts, including multiple instances of alleged cases of overcharging (resulting in multiple False Claims Act lawsuits), kickbacks and related fraud, bribery and other abuses too numerous to recite here.[11]

The Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) has issued numerous audits since 2003 showing Halliburton/KBR repeatedly violated the FAR via “significant” and “systemic” deficiencies in how it estimates and validates cost.[12] Halliburton/KBR so much as admitted that it is unfit to meet the standards of a “responsible” contractor in an internal memo leaked to the W all Street Journal, wherein the company described its cost controls for government contracts as "antiquated" and "weak," and its procurement system "disorganized" and marked by "weak internal controls."[13] According to the Journal, the memo was "a frank admission that [Halliburton/KBR's] critics are voicing valid concerns about the possibility of overcharges under the company's massive contract to supply U.S. troops."

Not only have U.S. taxpayers been repeatedly gouged by the company's reckless behavior, but the lives of its own employees, as well as U.S. troops fighting on the front line have also been put at risk.[14]

The testimony of Ms. Jamie Leigh Jones and other women who have courageously come forward to tell their stories should ultimately convince anyone familiar with the companies' litany of violations and abuses who wasn't convinced already that Halliburton/KBR have fostered an out-of-control, unaccountable, anything-goes culture of lawbreaking and abuse, to the point where even the company's own employees fear for their own safety.[15]

The government holds a trust for the American people. As the suspension and debarment officer with primary authority in this case, we believe that it is incumbent upon you to act to protect the integrity of the procurement process and the interests of U.S. taxpayers. That integrity cannot be claimed so long as the government conducts business with companies like Halliburton/KBR who have exhibited a pattern of fraudulent and abusive behavior, while fostering a work environment conducive to violence against its own employees.

We eagerly await talking to you about this case and hope you will seriously consider suspending and/or debaring Halliburton and KBR from any new contracts, subcontracts or related task orders.


Medea Benjamin, Cofounder CODEPINK: Women for Peace

Tel. 415-235-6517, email: medea[at]


  • Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
  • Kenneth J. Krieg, Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics)
  • Eric S. Edelman, Under Secretary of Defense (Policy)
    Pete Green, Secretary of the Army
  • Angelines McCaffrey, U.S. Army Legal Services Agency
    Lurita Alexis Doan, Administrator, General Services Administration
  • Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas.
  • Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman, House Committee on Government Reform;
  • Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO), Chairman, House Committee on Armed Services
    Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Chairman, House Judiciary Committee
    Rep. David Obey (D-WI), Chairman, House Appropriations Committee
    James A. Williams, Commissioner, Federal Acquisition Service, GSA
    David M. Walker, Comptroller General, Government Accountability Office
  • Hon. Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman, Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia, Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, United States Senate
  • The Hon. Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), Chairman, Committee on Appropriations, United States Senate
  • The Honorable Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT), Chairman, Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, United States Senate
  • The Honorable Susan M. Collins (R-ME), Ranking Member, Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, United States Senate
  • Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

[1] Testimony of Jamie Leigh Jones, presented to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, December 19, 2007. Also see “Victim: Gang-Rape Cover-Up by U.S., Halliburton/KBR,” ABC News, December 10, 2007, posted at:

[2] See Testimony of Tracey Barker to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, available at

[3] David Ivanovich, “KBR hearing centers on handling of rape kit,” Houston Chronicle, December 20, 2007.

[4] FAR § 9.103(a).

[5] 41 C.F.R. § 105-68.800(b)(2).

[6] FAR § 9.407-1(b)(1). See also, 41 C.F.R. § 105-68.605. In particular, the regulations provide for suspension when “[t]here exists an indictment for, or other adequate evidence to suspect,” ofenses such as bribery, fraud in obtaning or perform ing governm ent contracts, bid rgging that violates federal or sate statutes or“[c]omm ission of any other offense indicating a lack ofbusiness integrity or business honesty…” See 41 C.F.R. § 105-68.700(a) and (b).

[7] General Services Administration press release, March 15, 2002.

[8] Starting in 2003, Halliburton (as part of a consortium) has admitted that its KBR subsidiary “may” have bribed Nigerian government officials for the purpose of winning a multi-billion dollar construction contract. Halliburton has also admitted in another case that employees paid a $2.4 million bribe to a government official of Nigeria for the purpose of receiving favorable tax treatment. See Halliburton 2003 SEC Form 10-K.

[9] Halliburton 2004 SEC Form 10-K. The company admitted that former KBR chairman, Jack Stanley, and other former employees “may” have criminally rigged bids on foreign contracts and that the illegal behavior “may” have been ongoing since the m id-1980s. See Halliburton SEC Form 10-Q, June 30, 2005.

[10] International Security and Development Cooperation Act, 22 U.S.C. § 2349aa-9, § 505; International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 U .S.C. § 1501; 31 C.F.R. § 560; Executive Orders 12613, 12957, 12959, and 10359. See Halliburton SEC Form S-4/A, July19, 2004.

[11] Numerous examples, and detailed information can be found a) at the Project on Government Oversight's Contractor Misconduct Database, at,73,221,html?ContractorID=29; b) the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform c) testimony by numerous employee and government whistleblowers to the Senate Democratic Policy Committee (, and, d) various reports and chronological records of abuse found on the non-partisan watchdog web site, Halliburton Watch ( ).

[12] See “Status of Brown & Root Services (BRS) Estimating System Internal Controls,” Defense Contract Audit Agency, January 13, 2004 (Halliburton's systemic deficiencies “bring into question [Halliburton's] ability to consistently produce well-supported proposals that are acceptable as a basis for negotiation of fair and reasonable prices.” Also, Memo from DCAA to U.S. Army Field Support Command, Aug. 16, 2004 (DCAA “strongly encourages” the Army to withhold 15% of Halliburton's payments because of “significant unsupported costs” and “numerous, systemic issues” with Halliburton's cost proposals).

[13] Halliburton Unit Faults Its Cost Controls in Iraq,” W all Street Journal, Feb. 27, 2004.

[14] See, for example, testimony of former KBR truck drivers to Senate Democratic Policy Committee, as well as testimony by former employees that the company served contaminated water to U.S. troops. ( ).

[15] Company employees are not the only ones whose lives the company has endangered. Reports from company whistleblowers have already established that Halliburton/KBR served contaminated water and spoiled food to U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq. See for details.