Dyncorp, the Private Military Corporation at the Heart of U.S. Foreign Policy Scandal*
By Elizabeth Vos
Over ten years ago, Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney asked Donald Rumsfeld during a hearing on the proposed 2006 Department for Defense Budget:
“Mr. Secretary, is it policy of the U.S. government to reward companies that traffic in women and little girls? That’s my first question.”
McKinney’s query, broadcast on C-SPAN, received few solid answers.
Cynthia McKinney is not the only legislator who has asked questions about the role and funding of U.S. paramilitary organizations. Janice Schakowsky, a Democrat Representative of Chicago was quoted by The New York Times:
”Is the U.S. military privatizing its missions to avoid public controversy or embarrassment — to hide body bags from the media and shield the military from public opinion?”… “ the contractors… don’t have to follow the same chain of command, the military code of conduct may or may not apply, the accountability is absent and the transparency is absent — but the money keeps flowing.”
The New York Times article described the essential problem of the government using private contractors like Dyncorp: “Outsourcing military missions also lets the Pentagon do things Congress might not approve… while the Pentagon has secrets, it also fundamentally recognizes that it is a public institution. Not so the contractors, whose first allegiance is to their shareholders.”
Dan Baum wrote in his 2003 article Guns For Hire: “DynCorp offers the military an alternative to itself.”
Cynthia McKinney served six terms in the United States House of Representatives. She left the Democratic Party in 2008, and ran as the Presidential candidate of the Green Party of the United States.
In addition to its paramilitary endeavors in the field, Dyncorp has placed heavy emphasis on IT. It became heavily involved in the software industry in the 1990’s under the leadership of Paul Lombardi. In 2003, Dyncorp was acquired by “Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC),” primarily a software firm providing services such as: “various cloud offerings, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), private cloud solutions, CloudMail and Storage as a Service (SaaS).”
Dyncorp’s early emphasis on IT while under the leadership of Lombardi and CSC may explain part of Cynthia McKinney’s question for Donald Rumsfeld. She demanded on record to be told who had received IT contracts at the DOD and other departments which had “lost” trillions of dollars. McKinney asked during the Department of Defense Budget hearing:
“My second question, Mr. Secretary, is, who has the contract today to make those systems communicate with each other? How long have they had those contracts? And how much have the taxpayers paid for them?”
McKinney’s question was answered by Ms. Tina Jonas, who refused to give names on the record. Ms Jonas served as the “chief financial officer and assistant director of the Finance Division,” of the FBI before she was “nominated by President Bush to be the undersecretary of defense at the Department of Defense.” She has also held leading positions in numerous private companies associated with aerospace and defense.
CSC has also been investigated for fraud, with Margaret Hodge describing it as a “rotten company providing a hopeless system.”
In 2010, Dyncorp International became a subsidiary of Cerberus in a deal valued at $1.5 billion. Cerberus’ founder has been described as “a notable backer of Republican candidates… [who] served on Mr. Trump’s economic advisory council.”
From Salon’s 2002 Article “Crime without punishment,” by Robert Capps
However, Republicans like Donald Rumsfeld have not been the only defenders of Dyncorp. A 2009 email released by wikileaks reveals Cheryl Mills warning then- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of a possible upcoming Washington Post article. The expose would describe an event where Dyncorp employees had hired a 15 year old boy to do “mock lap dances,” with “DynCorp employees putting dollar bills in the boy’s waistband, just as they would a stripper’s garter.” Additional Wikileaks cables described the event in terms of “purchasing a service from a child,” emphasizing strategies to convince a journalist not to cover the story in order to not “risk lives.”
Although the email between Mills and Hillary claims “no sex took place,” the tradition of bachabaze in Afghanistan often involves rape, the boys “sold to the highest bidder.” BBC News reports: “The most disturbing thing is what happens after the parties. Often the boys are taken to hotels and sexually abused…There are many people who support this tradition across Afghanistan and many of them are very influential.”” BBC News also interviewed a bacha who reported that: ”Sometimes he is gang raped.” Meanwhile CBS News reported described Dyncorp’s “Dancing Afghan Boy Problem.”
Photograph from The Daily Mail article: “The secret shame of Afghanistan’s bacha bazi ‘dancing boys’ who are made to dress like little girls, then abused by paedophiles”
Dyncorp’s involvement in another a sex scandal with minors while serving in a war torn country may well have felt like deja vu for the Secretary of State, considering the infamous Dyncorp scandal in the Balkans during Bill Clinton’s term in office.
Ben Johnston filed a RICO lawsuit against Dyncorp after he was fired ostensibly for reporting human rights abuses by their employees in Bosnia. In a 2002 report titled “Dyncorp Disgrace,” Johnston was quoted:
“…None of the girls… were from Bosnia… They were imported in by DynCorp and the Serbian mafia. These guys would say ‘I gotta go to Serbia this weekend topick up three girls.’… “DynCorp leadership was 100% in bed with the mafia over there.”
“Johnston recoiled in horror when he heard one of his fellow helicopter mechanics at a U.S. Army base near Tuzla, Bosnia, brag one day in early 2000: “My girl’s not a day over 12….… the bragging about a 12-year-old sex slave pushed Johnston over the edge. “I had to do something,” he says. “There were kids involved.” …. At least 13 DynCorp employees have been sent home from Bosnia … for purchasing women or participating in other prostitution-related activities. But despite large amounts of evidence in some cases, none of the DynCorp employees sent home have faced criminal prosecution.”
Johnston’s RICO lawsuit was not the only instance of wrongdoing to come out of Dyncorp’s U.N. peace keeping contract in Bosnia. The Guardian wrote: ”Kathryn Bolkovac, from Nebraska, was sacked by Dyncorp of Virginia, to which peacekeeping police work in Bosnia had been outsourced…” “She signed up with DynCorp, providing American personnel for the U.N…” Bolkavac’s story was later fictionalized into the film Whistleblower, starring Rachel Weisz.
Poster for the film The Whistleblower, starring Rachel Weisz
The Oxford Journal of Conflict and Security Law published an article which read:
”U.N. military peacekeepers are increasingly being accused of human rights abuses while deployed on U.N. missions. These personnel are rarely held accountable for their conduct given that they are granted immunity from criminal prosecution by the host State by a plethora of legal instruments, in particular a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).”
The contractors fell into a legal grey area between a broken Bosnian legal system and American military oversight. Washington University Global Studies Law Review also published:
“U.N. Peacekeepers and Sexual Abuse and Exploitation: An End to Impunity.” Author Elizabeth F. Defeis wrote: “The United Nations … stands accused of egregious acts of sexual abuse and exploitation committed by U.N. peacekeepers and civilian personnel.” Authorities claimed the Dayton Peace Accord put the men under Bosnian authority, while the U.N. affords legal immunity to peacekeepers
Culpability was further complicated by the international nature of Dyncorp and its subsidiaries. The Guardian explained:
“Although Dyncorp was an American company, her [Bolkovac’s] contract was governed under the laws of England.” Despite Dyncorp International’s being located in Texas, “Dyncorp Aerospace in Aldershot is a British Firm… a British subsidiary of the U.S. company DynCorp Inc.”
Ben Johnston eventually settled out of court , while Bolkovac won her case against Dyncorp. Salon reported:
“both Johnston and his attorney said they viewed the settlement as a victory — and as a vindication after two years of fighting the company.”
The New York Times related Bolkovac’s victory:
“A British tribunal has ruled that a former member of the U.N. police force in Bosnia was unfairly fired after she reported to her superiors that colleagues in the police force used women and children as sex slaves in connivance with Balkan traffickers.” The Telegraph also reported: “The tribunal stated, ‘It is hard to imagine a case in which a firm has behaved in a more callous manner.”
Kathryn Bolkovac, who was featured in The Telegraph’s article, “What the U.N. Doesn’t Want You to Know”
In the aftermath of Bosnia, the United States demanded heightened immunity for Americans serving as U.N. peacekeepers, as opposed to increased accountability. Dyncorp continued to receive contracts.
The U.N. was implicated in further sex abuse scandals in nations where peace keepers operate with immunity. In 2012 Reuters reported:
“Two U.N. peacekeepers from Pakistan have been sentenced to a year in prison for raping a 14-year-old Haitian boy… Several peacekeepers have been accused of rape, in addition to the Pakistanis, in cases that have fueled public protests and demands that members of the U.N. force be stripped of their immunity and face trial in Haitian courts.” U.N. Peace Keepers were also reported to have been caught on video raping an eighteen year old Haitian youth.
In The Guardian’s article: Report reveals shame of U.N. peacekeepers:
“Embarrassment caused by the misconduct of U.N. forces [in] Haiti, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Cambodia, East Timor and the Democratic Republic of the Congo(DRC) … [troops] … were regularly having sex with girls aged as young as 12, sometimes in the mission’s administrative buildings.”
The situation in Haiti was so serious that BBC reported Sri Lanka had: ”promised to look into allegations that 108 of its U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti paid for sex, in some cases with underage girls …more than 700 peacekeepers in Ivory Coast were suspended…”
Dyncorp was once again contracted to provide troops for the U.N. in Haiti during this period.
In 2015 Rosa Freedman, senior lecturer at Birmingham Law School wrote in an article published by CNN:
“Why do peacekeepers have immunity in sex abuse cases?” She explained:
“The problem is not new. Over the last two decades, peacekeepers have been accused of abuses in Liberia, Congo, Bosnia and Haiti. Personnel have forced women and children to have sex in exchange for food, have trafficked women into U.N. missions and systematically raped them, and have committed other egregious acts of sexual violence”
In 2011, “DynCorp agreed to pay the United States $7.7 million to resolve allegations that it submitted inflated claims for the construction of container camps at various locations in Iraq.” In 2009 The Washington Post had reported that Dyncorp was being forced to “Replace the senior managers… after [The State Department] launched an investigation into the company’s handling of an employee who died of a possible drug overdose.” Dyncorp reportedly lost $1 billion it was given by the State Department to train Iraqi police .
Despite all of this, as late as December last year, Dyncorp received a new $94 million contract with the U.S. Navy. Dyncorp will:
“facilitate humanitarian aid, civic assistance, minor military construction and contingency programs to support exercises and other initiatives…”
The numerous scandals embroiling Dyncorp over the years have exemplified McKinney’s first question to Rumsfeld; “Why do these companies continue to receive government contracts?”
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