Following the release of shocking photos showing barely clothed and naked private security guards at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul engaging in lewd hazing, eight guards have been fired and two others resigned, the Embassy said today.
An investigation by the Office of the Inspector General has begun and senior management of ArmorGroup, which has a contract with the State Department to provide security at the Kabul embassy, is "being replaced immediately," the Embassy also said.
The Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the nonprofit that exposed the photos this week, voiced concern over the firings.
"We have been told people are being fired for simply being in the photographs," said POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian. "We do know a number of those were unwilling participants." Brian said they are also calling for the "supervisors who were responsible for this debacle" to be "held fully accountable and not simply allowed to resign and go to another contractor."
The circumstances surrounding the dismissal of those involved came under scrutiny yesterday when POGO reported that one of the whistleblowers who helped bring the scandal to light was allegedly forced to resign to avoid being fired. POGO said it was told by ArmorGroup that the whistleblower resigned voluntarily.
A spokesperson for the company wouldn't confirm the resignation and referred questions to the State Department.
State Department spokesman PJ Crowley refused to comment on POGO's allegations that the contractor forced out the suspected whistleblower, but said 60 individuals have been interviewed so far as part of the investigation. He described what occurred as "awful," "disgusting" and a "frat party gone bad."
A guard who spoke with ABC News this week on the condition of anonymity said the drunken parties had been held regularly for at least a year and a half and that guards were pressured to participate, as well as perform sex acts, in order to gain promotions or assignment to preferable shifts.
The guard, a U.S. military veteran, said top supervisors at Armor Group 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. "They were not gay but they knew what it took to get promoted."
The State Department renewed its contract with ArmorGroup to provide security at the Kabul embassy last month, even though there have been a series of complaints about its performance.
In June 2007, the State Department warned "the security of the US embassy in Kabul is in jeopardy" because of deficiencies" on the part of ArmorGroup.
Similar complaints were raised at a Senate hearing in June by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).
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.
Wackenhut did not return requests for comment.
Kirit Radia contributed to this report.