Complete Story Here: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/02/09/60minutes/main1302378.shtml
(CBS) The United States has spent more than a quarter of a trillion dollars during its three years in Iraq, and more than $50 billion of it has gone to private contractors hired to guard bases, drive trucks, feed and shelter the troops and rebuild the country...
...Billions of dollars are unaccounted for, and there are widespread allegations of waste, fraud and war profiteering. So far only one case, the subject of a civil lawsuit that goes to trial this week, has been unsealed. It involves a company called Custer Battles...
...There were no banks or wire transfers to pay them, no bean counters to keep track of the money. Just vaults and footlockers stuffed with billions of dollars in cash.
"Fresh, new, crisp, unspent, just-printed $100 bills. It was the Wild West," recalls Frank Willis, who was the No. 2 man at the Coalition Provisional Authority’s Ministry of Transportation.
The money was a mixture of Iraqi oil revenues, war booty and U.S. government funds earmarked for the coalition authority. Whenever cash was needed, someone went down to the vault with a wheelbarrow or gunny sacks.
"Those are $100,000 bricks of $100 bills and that’s $2 million there," Willis explains, looking at a photo of brick-shaped stacks of money wrapped in plastic. "This, in fact, is a payment that we made on the 1st of August to a company called Custer Battles." ...
...Asked if he has any evidence that the accounting system was a little loose, Willis says, "I would describe it as nonexistent."
The $2 million given to Custer Battles was the first installment on a contract to provide security at Baghdad International Airport. The company had been started by Scott Custer, a former Army Ranger and Mike Battles, an unsuccessful congressional candidate from Rhode Island who claimed to be active in the Republican Party and have connections at the White House. They arrived in Baghdad with no money. Yet within a year they landed $100 million in contracts.
"They came in with a can do attitude whether they could or not. They always said yes," Willis says.
Did they have any experience?
"They were not experienced. They did not know what they were doing," Willis says...
..."And the contract looked to me like something that you and I would write over a bottle of vodka," Ballard says. "Complete with all the spelling and syntax errors and annexes, to be filled in later. They presented it the next day, and they got awarded a — about a $15 million contract."
Custer Battles was supposed to provide security for commercial aviation at Baghdad airport, including personnel, machinery and canine teams to screen passengers and cargo. But the airport never re-opened for commercial traffic.
Instead of canceling the contract or requiring Custer Battles to return the money, the Coalition Authority instead assigned them to operate a checkpoint outside the airport.
Asked how they did on that job, Ballard says, "They failed miserably." ...
According to Ballard, the contract required Custer Battles to provide sophisticated X-ray equipment to scan the contents of incoming trucks.
"These were multi-million dollar devices for which they received a considerable cash advance, so that they could procure them and then they never procured this equipment," says Ballard.
As for the bomb sniffing canine teams, Ballard says, "I eventually saw one dog. The dog did not appear to be a certified, trained dog. And the dog was incapable of operating in that environment." ...
..."So neither the dog nor the handler were qualified?" Kroft asked.
"I think it was a guy with his pet, to be honest with you," he replied, laughing.
In a memo obtained by 60 Minutes, the airport’s director of security wrote to the Coalition Authority: "Custer Battles has shown themselves to be unresponsive, uncooperative, incompetent, deceitful, manipulative and war profiteers. Other than that they are swell fellows."
According to a subsequent investigation by the U.S. Air Force, Custer Battles set up sham companies in the Cayman Islands to fabricate phony invoices that it submitted to the Coalition Authority with the intention of fraudulently inflating its profits.
According to a Custer Battles spreadsheet, which was left behind after a meeting with U.S. officials, the company submitted invoices on the currency contract totaling nearly $10 million, when its actual costs were less than $4 million.
Electricity costs of $74,000 were invoiced to the Coalition Authority at $400,000. And those trucks that didn’t work were bought on the local market for $228,000 and billed to the Coalition Authority for $800,000...
...To date, the U.S. government has taken no action to recover any of the missing money.
First, 60 Minutes using the phrase "Billions Wasted" instead of the phrase "Billions Stolen" is "Deceitful".
Second, They didn't seem to pursue the fact that one of the founders "Mike Battles, an unsuccessful congressional candidate from Rhode Island who claimed to be active in the Republican Party and have connections at the White House." Notice the use of the word "claimed"... If Custer and Battles didn't have "connections to the White House" then how come "They arrived in Baghdad with no money. Yet within a year they landed $100 million in contracts."
Third, It looks like little ole Custer and Battles is getting set up to be the poster child and scapegoat for war profiteering in Iraq while Halliburton, Bechtel, Northrup Grumman, and the Carlyle Group and the other big fish walk away scott free to spend YOUR tax money sipping pina coladas on a caribean beach.
Lastly, The American People are such tools... Letting themselves get ripped off by this criminal gang of incompent liars while they watch an average of four hours of television a day still believeing the Iraq war was about weapons of mass destruction and bringing democracy to the middle east. - Etienne