Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The Cheney Gang

The story of Cheney's influence over Halliburton's ability to receive multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts is growing in scope and volume. As I described in a post on Thursday 6/10, an e-mail which surfaced earlier this month detailed how "'action' on a multibillion-dollar Halliburton contract was 'coordinated' with Cheney's office. The e-mail says Douglas Feith, a high-ranking Pentagon hawk, got the 'authority to execute RIO,' or Restore Iraqi Oil, from his boss, who is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. RIO is one of several large contracts the U.S. awarded to Halliburton last year."

Thanks to the efforts of Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-California), the issue is not going away. As reported in yesterday's Los Angeles Times, Waxman "issued a letter to the vice president Sunday demanding full disclosure of the secretive process that led to granting the contract to the Houston-based oil services giant."

This action by Waxman was in response to further revelation of the facts surrounding the process, in particular the role that a political appointee Michael Mobbs (a special assistant to Douglas Feith) played in awarding the contract to Halliburton. According to experts cited in the article, "the determination of which companies are able to compete for a contract is usually made by career civil servants to avoid any appearance of political influence in the outcome."

The article continues, "Mobbs reportedly told Waxman's staff that his group — not contracting officers — had chosen Halliburton to do the work since the company was already working with the military under a separate, multibillion-dollar contract to provide housing, food and logistical support."

Even Mobbs admitted that "an Army lawyer objected to using the logistics contract to conduct planning for the oil industry, saying that it was beyond its scope. A Defense Department lawyer working with Mobbs' task force, however, overruled the Army lawyer to allow Halliburton to conduct the planning.

The General Accounting Office, in a draft report expected to be released this week, concluded that the Defense Department lawyer had made a mistake."

The article quotes Charles Tiefer, a law professor at the University of Baltimore who recently wrote a book on government contracting, stating, "Rumsfeld's political lawyers steamrollered the career guys to push through Halliburton's secret deal. It creates a disturbing appearance of influence when Cheney's lawyers are told several times Halliburton is getting special deals, and they never say, 'Make sure the career people agree this is being done right.'"

"The next step in the process was taken in October 2002, when Mobbs reviewed his decision to use Halliburton with an executive committee of deputies from various government agencies. That panel included I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff.

On Nov. 8, the Army awarded Halliburton a $1.9-million order under the logistics contract to carry out the planning. Four months later, the Army gave Halliburton the no-bid job worth up to $7 billion to execute the plan that the company had developed, citing its role in drawing up the plan, according to documents obtained by Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request."

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