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David Isenberg

David Isenberg

Posted: December 5, 2010 12:17 PM

It appears that when the going gets tough for some private military contractors, even if it is a result of their own wrongful actions, the tough turn to the taxpayers to bail them out,
according to a post on The Pop Tort, which is a project from consumer advocates at the Center for Justice & Democracy.

It has long been known that the Pentagon legally covers dozens of military contractors doing dangerous jobs at home, such as making anthrax vaccine or disposing of mustard gas. But the immunity for harm granted KBR, which has brought us such creative innovations as gang rapes and carcinogenic burn pits in its mission to make U.S. troops the best supported in human history, appears to be far broader -- and potentially costlier to taxpayers -- according to documents released by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer last Wednesday.

Thanks to the Oregonian, the largest newspaper of Oregon, a state I once had the pleasure of living in for some years, we know that a Feb. 18, 2010, letter from KBR managers reported that the total cost of soldiers' claims against the contractor could exceed $150 million. "KBR does not believe that the company is liable for any damages," KBR's Michael Morrow wrote to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But he wrote that KBR continues to incur research and legal fees, and would bill the government for allowable costs not paid by insurance.

Remember that a deposition filed last summer in U.S. District Court in Portland revealed that on the eve of the Iraq invasion, a KBR attorney won a secret clause ensuring that U.S. taxpayers, and not KBR, would pay in the event of any death or injury.

Oregon Congressman Blumenauer also sought a list of contracts with similar immunity provisions from the Pentagon. On Nov. 24, Undersecretary of Defense Frank Kendall released a list of more than 120 contracts issued by the Army, Air Force, Navy and other defense agencies since 2004. They are posted on Blumenauer's website.

According to PopTort the list of contractors include major airlines American, Continental and United, as well as military contractors Raytheon Missile Systems, General Dynamics, L3, Lockheed Martin, BAE, and Boeing. Other indemnified companies include Mason and Hanger, a company which stores and transports containers of the nerve agent VX, and several firms that maintain facilities to destroy chemical agents.

To date, at least one case has resulted in lawsuits or taxpayer fees. In December 2008, Emergent BioDefense Operations Lansing Inc. sought $1.5 million from the Army for 14 lawsuits arising from its manufacture of the anthrax vaccine. The Pentagon deemed many of the claims ineligible and paid $646,000 in two of the lawsuits.

 
 
 

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