The fallout from the revelation of alcohol-fueled sex parties among private contractors guarding the U.S. Embassy in Kabul has now cost the company providing security at the embassy its job. ArmorGroup North America, the company that employed the guards implicated in the scandal, has lost its contract to provide perimeter protection around the embassy compound.
The State Department today said the decision not to renew the contract was a direct result of the behavior of some of the guards, as well as previous concerns about ArmorGroup's ability to adequately staff the contract. Photos and video of the sex parties and reports of hazing of new employees were featured in ABC News reports earlier this year.
"The Department's Office of Acquisitions Management (AQM), Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), and Embassy Kabul reviewed the status of the contract and concurred that the next option year should not be exercised and that work begin immediately to compete a new contract," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told ABC News. "A senior level review of the recent misconduct allegations against AGNA personnel, combined with AGNA's history of contract compliance deficiencies, have led DS, AQM, and Embassy Kabul to conclude that it is in the best interests of the Government to complete a new contract."
According to an internal ArmorGroup e-mail leaked to The Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the Washington watchdog group that first published shocking photos of the sex parties, several ArmorGroup employees may remain in place and could be hired on by the new contractor. A State Department spokesman could not say which contractors would be allowed to stay on.
As ABC News reported in Sep., private security guards at the embassy in Kabul were pressured to participate in naked pool parties and perform sex acts to gain promotions or assignment to preferable shifts, according to one of the 12 guards who have gone public with their complaints.
In an interview with ABC News, the guard, a U.S. military veteran, said top supervisors of the ArmorGroup were not only aware of the "deviant sexual acts" but helped to organize them.
"It was mostly the young guys fresh from the military who were told they had to participate," said the guard, who talked on a phone hook-up arranged by POGO.
Pressured to Party
"They were not gay but they knew what it took to get promoted," said the guard, who spoke on condition that ABC News not publish his name. The guard said the drunken parties had been held regularly for at least a year and a half.
The State Department renewed its contract with ArmorGroup to provide security at the Kabul embassy earlier this year even though there have been a series of complaints about its performance.
But now the current contract, in its second option year, will not be renewed when it expires on June 30, 2010, though the State Department said it may offer ArmorGroup a six-month extension so that it can get a new company in to take over by Jan. 2011.
Immediately following the publication of the explicit party photos by POGO, the State Department conducted a comprehensive security review of the Kabul embassy and interviewed 225 employees there. The review concluded that the security of the embassy was never jeopardized, but the review led to the dismissal of 20 contract guards whose conduct was deemed inappropriate.
"All of them were involved in what -- what we can call extremely inappropriate activity," a State Department spokesman told reporters in Oct. when the last group of guards was relieved of duty, adding that ArmorGroup did bring in additional guards to replace them.
The State Department had had major concerns about ArmorGroup's ability to staff the contract for several years, according to documents made public earlier this year by POGO and in testimony before the Congressionally chartered Commission on Wartime Contracting, but eventually decided to renew the contract after changes were made by the contractor.
In June 2007, the State Department warned "the security of the U.S. embassy in Kabul is in jeopardy" because of "deficiencies" on the part of ArmorGroup.
Similar complaints were raised at a Senate hearing in June 2009 by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).
At the time, Sam Brinkley, vice-president of the ArmorGroup's corporate parent Wackenhut Services, defended the company's performance in Kabul.
"We are a guard company that prides itself in doing missions well," Brinkley testified.