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June 11, 2008

$23 billion gag order

BBC reporters think they know where 23 billion missing and misspent Iraq war dollars went, but they can't tell us:

A BBC investigation estimates that around $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq.

The BBC's Panorama programme has used US and Iraqi government sources to research how much some private contractors have profited from the conflict and rebuilding.

A US gagging order is preventing discussion of the allegations.

The order applies to 70 court cases against some of the top US companies. [BBC]

The story doesn't go into detail about the nature gag order. I assume it applies to the individuals involved in cases under adjudication, not to the BBC reporters directly.

A lot of war profiteering scandals come to light through whistle blower lawsuits.

Last year, I interviewed an attorney who specializes in representing whistle blowers. He told me that it's not unusual for gag orders to be imposed in these types of cases.

In fact, whistle blower lawsuits are automatically sealed for a couple of weeks after they are filed in order to give the DOJ a chance to decide whether to pursue the matter.

It's not clear whether that's the type of gag order covering the 70 cases the BBC alludes to, above. 

The story says there's one gag order for all these cases. If that wording is literally accurate, and a single gag order covers 70 cases, then the whistle blower in question might have brought a very big case indeed.


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Some of your readers may remember the 'scandals' about 25 or more years ago regarding the procurement practices of the military. The public, for a while, would regularly refer to the $600 toilet seat and the $400 hammer as typical examples of wasteful military spending. The overspending went into the hundreds of millions of dollars, if not many billions of taxpayer dollars. There were hearings in Congress, reports about reform in the military procurement process, a few heads rolled, some members of Congress made names for themselves, etc., etc., etc.

Years later it was learned that earnest and brave whistle blowers and diligent members of Congress had not uncovered gargantuan military waste. Rather, they unwittingly stumbled across the secret process of funding military black programs and black ops. The development of the stealth attack plane, the F117, and the B2 stealth bomber were two black programs that were funded in this manner. All major military powers hide their secret development funding. The reason is straight forward. Knowing how much is being spent on advanced military development can provide a basis for estimating what kinds of projects are in the works, what levels of development have been achieved, the likelihood of readiness for production, and the time lines for all of these phases. If one had the patience and fortitude to wade through the U.S. budget documents, you would never come across an entry like 'Secret space based weapons to vaporize mainland Chinese invasion forces as they attempt to seize Taiwan from the sea: $2,718,281,828.45 - FY2009." In addition to concealing the funding of black programs, they also conceal the funding of black operations or black ops.

So what does this have to do with billions of dollars of waste, or unaccounted funds during our adventure in Iraq? When the public and the Bush administration first realized that nothing was going to plan, if there ever was one, money was the first thing everyone wanted to know about. It became clear that Cheney's promise of paying for the war and reconstruction with Iraqi oil revenues was a pipe dream. Remember when the administration's estimates were in the many tens of billions of dollars a month? I seem to remember that the figure was $80 billion each month.

My first thought back then was to wonder how much of that was the funding of black programs and black ops. Admittedly, I have no more authority on this matter than being a well educated and well informed citizen who tries to follow such things. I could not understand the very high price tag that was being proffered. Remember, Rumsfeld was dragging the Pentagon kicking and screaming, at least initially, into a new concept called 'Transformation'. It was a military that was light (read, small), with highly trained professionals, leveraging every technological advantage, and as certain as it was precise in its lethality. The military was being transformed into a lean, mean, killing machine. Killing people and destroying their property in the name of the American people was going to reach unprecedented levels of effectiveness and efficiency [read, low cost]. The savings were also to be rendered in the numbers of American dead and wounded.

On the whole, the military has embraced this 'Transformation' and is well on the way to achieving its goals. Frankly, we have the best kick-ass military on the planet. If Serbia launches an attack on U.S. ships in Adriatic, if Kim Jung Il invades South Korea, or if China attempts a seaborne invasion of Taiwan before 2015, then the party will be over for all of the aggressors.

Let's get back to Iraq. If we can set aside the issue of success in Iraq, I have trouble imagining that the dollar figures they are giving us are believable. So where is this money going? How many Americans are aware that about 5 huge military bases are being built in the deserts of Iraq. These are permanent installations designed to be around for a very long time. Remember the huge U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia that we used in Gulf War 1? These gargantuan facilities made of concrete and steel were stocked to the rafters with prepositioned military hardware, weapons, and supplies. The Saudis provided the real estate and all the gas, oil, and jet fuel we needed. Go back to these bases now and you will find them empty. We were thrown out. Guess where we decided to establish a new forward base to project our power and interests?

Now I can understand where all this money is going. The administration went into Iraq knowing we would be there for a very long time. In fact, it was with the intention of being there a very long time. Shortly before the public made an about face from an uncritical acceptance of the Bush-Cheney BS, I heard Cheney with my own ears say that we may have to stay in Iraq for 15 to 20 years.

Of course, we will find incompetence, corruption, and waste if we look hard enough. We should. However, I think we are heading for a repeat performance of $600 toilet seat scandal.

IIRC, the UK, lacking a 1st Amendment, typically prohibits press accounts of cases prior to trial, at least partly to avoid problems with prejudicing a jury.

That particular custom hasn't stood up very well in this age of internet news, and I expect it not to last much longer.

(and a good thing too, IMO. If some bewigged Brit judge goes apoplectic at 'those cheeky yanks' talking about his case, tough cheese)

I wouldn't be surprised at all if some well-founded hints start to percolate out.

IIRC, the UK, lacking a 1st Amendment, typically prohibits press accounts of cases prior to trial, at least partly to avoid problems with prejudicing a jury.

Not in any way true. In fact, so far from the truth that I can't imagine where you would get such an idea. It's quite usual for us to have saturation coverage of high-profile cases, both before and during the trial phase. There have been numerous cases where appeals have been heard (and frequently upheld) on the grounds that press coverage was prejudical, but it doesn't stop anybody.

Besides, in this particular case, the gag order referred to is in the US - so actually it's us cheeky Brits talking about your case.

Hmm...then where the heck did I hear that? Perhaps it's old pre-internet memories surfacing.. A google search turns up 1981 laws, and a case "R.v.Rosemary West" that seems relevant. All years ago...

It's just that a US court's gag order typically only applies to the litigants, not to the press in general. Now, that cuts down on the "sources" willing to talk to the press, but all it takes is one anonymous source to make the whole gag rule a joke.

The BBC is probably too respectful; they should just rustle up a source and get the story out.

Great reporting, even though I'm on the "other side" (right). Your reporting is honest and cuts to the chase, but you forget one key word: OIL. The U.S. consumes 20 million barrels a day. We need oil or the Hummers stop humming and the Wal Marts become oversized flea markets. OIL. The key is oil and the BIG SHOWDOWN has begun. China needs a lot of oil with over four times the population of the U.S. OIL. These war machines need oil also, somewhat ironically so that we can continue to have our oily hands in all the OIL out there, most of which is in the hands of hostile nations (there's a new OPEC on the horizon) and the goal is to exclude the U.S. Why can't we just call a spade a spade? OIL. And you and I are using 20 MILLION barrels a day--to say this level of consumption is shameful is a euphemism. Greed is at the core. Not just the greed of corporations or military-industrial complexes, but our own greed--you and you and you. There's a worm in Herod's heart--and we are all Herod. Until we accept the truth that Jesus (which means I AM saves) brought to set all of us captives free, we will remain slaves to OIL and everything else on this earth. I pray all people, each and every magnificent creation He molded into flesh from dust with His own breath, will accept the invitation to come to Him freely, and be at peace in His truth and love! Keep knocking and asking, and searching for the Truth--and it (He) will find you!

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