Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bling Sting

Big fun and games in Washington last week. The House Government Reform Committee's subcommittee on national security got a wonderful opportunity to see how running a government like a business really works. You see, there was a big pile of money. Then, there wasn't. Mr. Bart Simpson, Springfield, testified: "I didn't do it. Nobody saw me do it. You can't prove a thing."

It weighed 28 tons and took up as much room as 74 washing machines. It was $2.4 billion in $100 bills, and Baghdad needed it ASAP.

The initial request from U.S. officials in charge of Iraq required the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to decide whether it could open its vault on a Sunday, a day banks aren’t usually open.

"Just when you think you’ve seen it all," read one e-mail from an exasperated Fed official.

"Pocket change," said another e-mail.

Then, when the shipment date changed, officials had to scramble to
line up U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo planes to hold the money. They did, and the $2,401,600,000 was delivered to Baghdad on June 22, 2004.

It was the largest one-time cash transfer in the history of the New York Fed.

We can see Mr. Simpson's point. Swiping, er, transporting that cash would be impossible on a skateboard. Sounds to me like he had a little help. But who? Who could possibly stoop that low? Whose money was it, anyway?

The cash -- a total of 363 tons, generated mostly from oil revenues -- was Iraqi funds that had been held in trust by the Federal Reserve under the terms of a United Nations resolution.

Held in trust.... like, protecting it legally, with oversight... ah, gotcha. Kinda hard to steal it when it's being watched. This money is separate from the 18 billion Congress OK'd in October 2003 for rebuilding Iraq. 18 billion more coming in, so NOBODY will even notice this money is missing, right?

Disclosure of the frantic transfer in the final days of U.S.
control over Iraq came during a daylong hearing Tuesday that indicated growing worry from Congress over U.S. oversight of spending in Iraq.

Both Republicans and Democrats appeared taken aback by the volume of cash sent to Iraq: nearly $12 billion over the course of the U.S. occupation from March 2003 to June 2004, said a report by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), who had reviewed e-mails and documents subpoenaed from the bank.

High Carumba! So the transferred money was really Iraq money, held for the Iraqis to rebuild with. Seems like a reasonable plan. I believe it was the plan I was sold originally when this war was pitched to me with an attractive low-cost price tag. What was that, 240 billion ago? Something like that.

Previous reports by the inspector-general have faulted the
CPA for failing to implement adequate controls over 8.8 billion dollars in DFI money. The hearing before the House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Government Reform was the first to focus on the DFI. Pressure to convene it has been led by the panel's Democrats, led by California's Henry Waxman, but the
magnitude of the apparently mismanaged funds appeared to produce bipartisan shock.

So how did Simpson and his, ahem, oily henchmen pull it off?

The largest single recipient of Iraqi funds was Halliburton, the oil services firm once led by U.S. Vice Pres. Dick Cheney, which received 1.6 billion dollars in Iraqi oil proceeds under a contract to import fuel and repair oil fields.

According to DCAA auditors, Halliburton's overcharges under this
contract are more than 218 million dollars. A security firm, Custer Battles, received over 11 million dollars in Iraqi funds, including over 4 million in cash. The company has been barred from receiving federal contracts and faces a False Claims Act lawsuit for multiple fraudulent billings. Over 600 million dollars in cash was shipped from Baghdad to four regions in Iraq to allow commanders flexibility to fund local reconstruction projects. An audit of one of the four regions found more than 80 percent of the funds could not be properly accounted for and that over 7 million dollars in cash was missing. CPA officials gave over 8 billion dollars in cash to Iraqi ministries. The Special Inspector
General found significant funds paid to ”ghost employees” and
billion-dollar discrepancies in some expenditures.

OK, I just have to interject here. Billion dollar discrepancies? Billion? How in the hell can you be off by a billion? How many businesses do you think are OK with discrepancies just in the thousands? That's simply idiotic.

Waxman said the largest single recipient of DFI funds was Halliburton. ”The company vastly overcharged to import gasoline into Iraq and to provide other oil-related services. These overcharges -- which exceed 200 million dollars -- were billed to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But U.S. officials arranged for over 80 percent of them to be paid out of the DFI.” The DFI, which was run by the United States, is the successor to the Oil-for-Food Programme, which was run by the United Nations. More than 8 billion dollars in the Oil-for-Food Programme was transferred into the DFI by the U.N. Security Council. In a separate development, Democratic legislators stepped up criticism of Halliburton for what they said was ”war profiteering,” citing Pentagon audits that question more than 1 billion dollars of the company's bills for work in Iraq. At a Democrat-sponsored forum on Tuesday, Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota said that estimates of excessive spending and improper billing by Halliburton are more than twice as high as those in previous official reports.

Now, about that "nobody saw me do it" part... Halliburton has some well placed friends, (Yo, Dick! How ya doin' dere?) and these friends knew how they could help their buddies finagle their windfall. All they needed were a few black markers!

One major recipient of DFI money, Halliburton Corp., was a point of contention between subcommittee members and Pentagon officials

Subcommittee members objected to the fact that Pentagon officials
had heavily redacted internal Defense Department audits before providing them to a U.N. board charged with monitoring the DFI program. The audits found more than $200 million in questioned charges that Halliburton had passed to the government, primarily on a no-bid contract for importing fuel.

Pentagon officials said they relied on the company's suggestions for deciding what parts of the audits to redact because they didn't want Halliburton's proprietary information made public. House members from both parties objected to that reasoning.

"Overcharges to the government are not trade secrets," said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.).

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee's subcommittee on national security, emerging threats and international relations, said the redactions "regretfully, very regretfully, make it appear DOD has something to hide. This undermines our international standing and, even more importantly, harms our efforts in Iraq."

Shays said he has repeatedly "begged" the Pentagon to provide Congress with the documents underlying its decision to black out parts of the audits. Yesterday, he threatened to seek a subpoena if the documents aren't provided by Monday.

Why, you little... If you black stuff out, nobody can read it! Brilliant and oh, so evuulll! Montgomery Burns has reportedly purchased massive amounts of Sharpie Marker stock. Business begets business, and the Pentagon is learning fast.

It was approximately three years ago the GAO (General Accounting Office) attempted to do what congress requested: an audit of the DoD/Pentagon. After a solid year, the GAO had to report back to congress that they could not complete the audit as there was no supporting documentation to account for what had happened to a little over $1.4 Trillion, yes Trillion with a capital “T” that was MISSING!

Now today we learn that even more money is missing. The GAO
(Government Accounting Office) has reported that the DoD has lost another $3.5 billion of taxpayer money—money and equipment have just disappeared and no one knows where.

HA-ha! Trillions! "What good is money if it can't inspire terror in your fellow man?"-- Montgomery Burns.

The amount of money Rumsfeld’s Department of War “loses” every few months would be more than enough to properly fund the V.A--instead veterans of this nation’s wars are being denied access on a daily basis; others wait for months to get appointments for even basic medical services; specialized care is even worse—all due primarily to under funding.


It's like living in the U.S. of Enron!

Look. All the tax cuts and program cuts in the world mean nothing if the government is allowing a few key corporate players to rob the taxpayers blind. Companies that are competitive and smart should be the winners. Not the ones who steal the most from the national treasury, whether by fraudulent contracts or outright theft. Our VA is in a nose dive and these guys let billons walk off unaccounted for. In the real world, people would lose their jobs and go to jail for this kind of gross negligence. If we're running this country like a company, it's way past time for an impartial audit.

Stop Setting People Up To Steal From Us.
Stop Letting People Steal From Us.
(And while you're at it, buy our troops some armor and some freakin' health care, God Dem It!)


At July 13, 2005 12:23 AM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

Woo-HOO! Give 'em HELL, Jet! I love your new "tude" in your posts, btw ;-)

Blog ON!

At July 13, 2005 4:55 AM, Blogger Jet said...

I DO wear bitchy awfully well, don't I? '-D

Still no water, but I was up on the BIO rotation, so crossposted just to have something up. Sorry kids, I will get back to form ASAP.

I write better with regular showers...

At July 13, 2005 4:55 AM, Blogger Jet said...

I DO wear bitchy awfully well, don't I? '-D

Still no water, but I was up on the BIO rotation, so crossposted just to have something up. Sorry kids, I will get back to form ASAP.

I write better with regular showers...

At July 13, 2005 6:20 AM, Blogger Nedhead said...

Wicked good post, Jet.

Good luck with the farm.

At July 13, 2005 2:12 PM, Blogger Brother Kenya said...

Nice job, Jet, with research n' everything! You've succeeded in making me even madder than I was this morning.

And this is for you:

The nights are cool and I'm a fool
Each star's a pool of water
Cool water
But with the dawn I'll wake and yawn
And carry on to water
Water, water, water

Cool, clear, water...

At July 13, 2005 5:52 PM, Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

I'll be darned if the entire oil, money and war-funding-for-Iraq thing hasn't been an awful and evolving fiasco. To tell you the truth, I'm not much of a math person so I avoid keeping too much note on it. However, I have been told by the more mathematically and economically inclined that the whole thing is, as I always suspected, a fiasco. I don't know what else to say. There is enough money in Iraq from oil to pay for all of the US war effort or at least a fair portion of it. I think that as we stuck our neck out on a line for them, it isn't much to ask that we receive a favor in return. After all, the war has driven fuel costs up so a little compensation never hurt. It will not happen, but it WOULD be fair and deserved.

At July 13, 2005 8:41 PM, Blogger Jet said...

Thanks Nedhead.

BK, Joni Mitchell did a cover of that song that was outstanding. We have water cobbled together for tonight, and should have the real deal tomorrow. Woo hoo!

Joseph, Iraq had money in the Oil for Food program that was slated for reconstruction. Too bad so much of it was "lost" by the contractors like Halliburton who won those bids. I have a hard time reconciling a debt Iraq owes us since we swiped their money.

At July 16, 2005 8:49 PM, Blogger The Human Quilt said...

Hello, my name is JJ. I was looking through some blogs and I think you might like a blog I am starting up. It’s called The Human Quilt. The Human Quilt has a goal of sharing the lives, expressions, emotions, memories, secrets, and desires of people across the globe. Share your story in a square. Each square tells the story of a life. I would greatly appreciate it if you take a look and give me some input. Thanks a lot.

At July 21, 2005 3:18 PM, Blogger windspike said...

Follow the money Jet, follow the money. It leads to all kinds of depravity.

Blog on sister.

At July 21, 2005 5:35 PM, Blogger Jet said...

Boy, ain't that the truth, Windspike. Anytime a body feels they need to hit a new low, it's available for a price.


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