(NEW YORK) — Responding to an ABC News report that featured cellphone video showing U.S. defense contractors in Afghanistan getting drunk and using drugs, Sen. Claire McCaskill has called for an Army investigation into the alleged abuses and how they went undetected by military officials.
In a letter sent to Army Secretary John McHugh on Tuesday, McCaskill (D-Mo.), who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, wrote that it is “imperative” that action be taken “to ensure that these allegations are fully investigated and the contractor and U.S. personnel involved are held accountable.”
“In light of the seriousness of these allegations,” wrote McCaskill, “and the potential for harm to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, I urge you to conduct a thorough review of the performance, management, and oversight of this contract and all other Army contracts for police training in Afghanistan.”
McCaskill said in a separate statement Tuesday that “the shocking abuses by government contractors described in these complaints are outrageous and something that should offend every taxpayer.”
As detailed on Nightline, the video, provided to ABC News by two former employees, appears to show key personnel from Virginia-based Jorge Scientific staggeringly drunk or high on narcotics at an operations center in Kabul, Afghanistan. Jorge Scientific has won almost $1 billion in government contracts.
Questions posed by ABC News to the Pentagon have now sparked a criminal investigation by the U.S. Army, an Army spokesman said. And the company has said it has taken “decisive action to correct the unacceptable behavior of a limited number of employees” and that several of them seen on the video are no longer employed by Jorge Scientific.
The two whistleblowers, John Melson and Kenny Smith, worked as armed security officers for three and five months, respectively, in Kabul as part of a $47 million contract Jorge Scientific had under the U.S. Legacy Program to train the Afghan National Police in counter-insurgency efforts.
The video they provided to ABC News shows the security manager for the company staggering about the operations center late one evening after taking large gulps of vodka and then engaging another employee in a half-naked wrestling match.
Another portion of the video shows the company’s medical officer with glassy eyes and unable to respond to a request for help after shooting up with a prescription anesthetic, Ketamine. The medical officer, Kevin Carlson, has since admitted to ABC News that he frequently injected himself with narcotics.
The two former employees said that the drunken and stoned security personnel would often throw live ammunition rounds and fire extinguishers into the flames and watch as they exploded, often sounding like a real bomb explosion.
“It was like a frat house for adults,” said Melson. “Some of them to the point where they were passing out, there’s firearms laying around, some of them still carrying the firearms on them.”
Both men, who have filed a lawsuit against Jorge Scientific, say they quit the company in disgust and out of concern that their own safety was being compromised by the behavior they describe, which they said was a regular occurrence.
“It wasn’t every night,” Smith said. “It was every other night.”
The company’s operations manual describes a policy of “zero-tolerance for alcohol and drug use” and says all personnel must be on alert 24/7 for a possible terror attack.
Yet when asked if a response to an attack by terrorists would have been possible during the events seen on the video, Smith told ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross, “No, sir.”
The two men say they saw no evidence of oversight of the company by American military officials and that at least one U.S. Army major, a female, was a regular visitor to drunken parties at the facility, often using a room for sexual encounters.
“If true, these allegations raise serious questions relating to the Army’s management and oversight of contracts in Afghanistan,” McCaskill wrote in her letter to McHugh.
In a statement to ABC News, Col. Tom Collins, a U.S. Army spokesperson for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, said, “Clearly, behavior such as that described by ABC News is not indicative of the outstanding work that thousands of contractors and service members perform every day in Afghanistan.”
But in Tuesday’s letter to the Army, McCaskill, who has pushed for reforms to the government contracting process, wrote that she was “particularly concerned because of the legacy of mismanagement of police training contracts.”
Earlier this year, McCaskill introduced a Senate bill, the Comprehensive Contingency Contracting Reform Act of 2012, which would increase government oversight over contractors and heighten contractor accountability.
In her statement Tuesday, McCaskill said that “the only silver lining” in the allegations against Jorge Scientific “is that I believe this alleged misconduct will add fuel to my fight to crack down on the dangerous failures in the effort to train the Afghan police force.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com