Exclusive: Whistleblower Claims Many U.S. Interpreters Can't Speak Afghan Languages

"We are concerned that ABC is being used to influence the litigation, which the company has moved to dismiss, and on which we expect to prevail," a statement from the company said.


Peltier told ABC News that he found it "troublesome that [Funk] has come to ABC to make these charges." He questioned Funk's financial motives in bringing the suit, and alleged that Funk had "offered to resign and resigned over financial improprieties." Peltier would not elaborate. Funk's lawyer said the alleged improprieties involved a subordinate in Funk's unit, and had nothing to do with his departure.

Despite Peltier's reluctance to discuss the allegations against his company, Mission Essential Personnel executives have spoken very publicly about its ability to fulfill the rapidly growing demands of the U.S. Army for Afghan translators. In a hearing before a congressional committee in July, CEO Chris Taylor testified that within a year of accepting the Afghan contract, his company "was able to achieve a 97 percent fill rate of the government's requirement for linguists. Previous contractors never exceeded 43 percent."

How Mission Essential Personnel was able to find hundreds of willing and translators from among a tiny pool of qualified Americans -- which Peltier put at roughly 3,800 -- was initially something of a mystery to Funk. He said the company struggled to find American citizens who spoke the Afghan languages Dari and Pashto. Ultimately, Funk alleged in his lawsuit that the company resorted to fudging their proficiency test results in order to hit staffing targets that entitled them to more money from the Army.

Funk told ABC News he wrote emails to the then-CEO of Mission Essential describing how job candidates would cheat on oral exams conducted over the phone.

"I told him that it was corrupt. Stand-ins were taking the test. That's comparable to, if you're a lawyer, that's comparable to taking the bar exam over the phone. You need to be face-to-face with that individual. You need to identify them. You need to know who they are and they had stand-ins on the phone taking the test," Funk said. "They had stand-ins on the phone taking the test because there is no way that these people could possibly pass if they can't even get through an interview."

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One of the company's translators working in Afghanistan now confirmed the practice in an interview with ABC News, saying he personally had taken the exam for others who could not have passed it themselves. The employee, who described the practice on the condition he not be identified, called a follow-up written exam "bull."

Peltier said the company has caught applicants cheating, but in those cases the candidates were not hired. In a statement to ABC News, the company said it has "the strongest and most comprehensive language testing and pre-deployment screening of any company providing linguists to Afghanistan." That process includes an initial phone test, a written test administered by an autonomous outside vendor, and an integrity test that occurs by video conference or in person, the company said. The phone tests and written tests are catalogued and saved for review by the military.

Funk said he believes the company's motive for letting unqualified linguists through the screening process is simple.

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