Props to Dan Schulman at Mother Jones for finding an incredible footnote buried within the State Department IG’s audit on the shortcomings in State’s oversight of Triple Canopy, the contractor responsible for guarding the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
The footnote states that in anticipation of the IG’s site visit, Triple Canopy’s program manager, deputy program manager, and guard force commander emailed site managers a document entitled “Pre-Inspection Guidance” with instructions for how to respond to questions about breaks and other working conditions:
“Answer to break question for guards is 15 minutes morning, 30 minutes lunch, and 15 minutes afternoon. DO NOT SAY: “I do not have a relief supervisor today.” Instead, and only if asked, I am sharing a relief supervisor with (name other venue). Do not elaborate on answers to inspectors questions. Answer only the questions. What you say can and will be used against you.”
Schulman points out that “the majority of the guards the IG’s office interviewed said they received their breaks as required—but four members of Triple Canopy’s embassy team acknowledged this wasn’t always the case.”
We were reminded of an incident last fall when we learned from whistleblowers guarding the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that someone had put up a poster calling the whistleblowers “rats” and warning them that their jobs and families could be in danger. State put up its own poster in response assuring guard force members that whistleblower intimidation would not be tolerated, but we have to wonder if Triple Canopy is on board with this message. If anyone has witnessed threats against whistleblowers at the Baghdad Embassy, please let POGO know.
We also wanted to highlight some photos in the latest IG report illustrating the unsafe living conditions for the Embassy guards.
The arrow in the photo below shows a live wire lying on the floor of a high-traffic area in the barracks that’s lacking in sufficient exits, fire alarms, smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers:
Here we see another live wire dangling across a high-traffic area:
This photo shows the inside area of a shipping container, which is also lacking in fire alarms, smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers:
And here we see combustible materials lying dangerously close to an air conditioner:
-- Michael Smallberg