AFGHANISTAN: Wackenhut aids inquiry into its Afghanistan contractor

The parent company of a security contractor said Thursday it is
"fully cooperating" in the investigation of allegations that the
contractor allowed mistreatment, sexual activity and intimidation
within the ranks of private guards hired to protect the U.S. Embassy in
Afghanistan.

A spokeswoman for a watchdog group says hazing at a camp for security guards went "well beyond partying."

A spokeswoman for a watchdog group says hazing at a camp for security guards went "well beyond partying."

The allegations came to light earlier this week when the watchdog group
Project On Government Oversight sent a letter to Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and briefed reporters on its findings, which it said
were based on e-mails and interviews with more than a dozen guards who
have worked at the U.S. compound in Kabul.

The company,
ArmorGroup, North America, has a security contract with the State
Department to provide services through July 2010.

Wackenhut
Services Inc., the corporate parent of ArmorGroup, e-mailed a statement
on Thursday in response to questions about ArmorGroup's private guards
in Kabul.

"Our contract with the Department of State requires us
to refer all questions to the Department of State, director of public
affairs. We are fully cooperating with the DOS in the investigation of
the recent incidents referred to in the letter from" Project On
Government Oversight, said the statement, sent by Wackenhut Services
spokeswoman Susan Pitcher.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy said it was taking the allegations very seriously.

"Nothing is more important to us than the safety and security of all
Embassy personnel -- Americans and Afghan -- and respect for the
cultural and religious values of all Afghans," the embassy said. "We
have taken immediate steps to review all local guard force policies and
procedures and have taken all possible measures to ensure our security
is sound."

The watchdog group said it began receiving whistleblower-style
e-mails two weeks ago, some with graphic images and videos, that are
said to document problems taking place at a nonmilitary camp for the
guards near the U.S. diplomatic compound in Kabul.

"This is well
beyond partying," Danielle Brian, executive director of Project On
Government Oversight, told reporters earlier this week after showing a
video of a man with a bare backside and another man apparently drinking
a liquid that had been poured down the man's lower back.

She
said that ranking supervisors were "facilitating this kind of deviant
hazing and humiliation, and requiring people to do things that made
them feel really disgusted."

In the letter Project On Government
Oversight sent to Clinton, Brian wrote that the problems are "posing a
significant threat to the security of the embassy and its personnel."

Among the recommendations from the group: immediate military
supervision of the private security guards, a review of whether the
contract should be revoked and consideration as to whether government
forces should replace private security in a combat zone.

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