The U.S. Embassy compound in Kabul is “dangerously vulnerable to a new attack,” according to a new report issued today by an independent watchdog group that monitors government spending and misconduct.
For the report, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) said it interviewed a number of current and former guards at the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Kabul, obtaining testimony and documents showing guards had raised alarm bells over a series of major security vulnerabilities. Their allegations include guards being overworked, weapons improperly calibrated, accusations of incompetence among supervisors, lax inspections of vehicles entering the compound, a “mutiny” by guards against their supervisors, and in one case, sensitive information being posted to a social networking site.
The report comes on the heels of concerns that lax security at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya may have contributed to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in a terrorist attack there in September.
Many of the new accusations are aimed at AEGIS, the U.S. wing of the British firm contracted to provide security for the compound. AEGIS was awarded the $497 million dollar contract in 2011 and assumed responsibility for the security of the compound in 2012.
According to the report, guards said they were forced to work 14-15 hour work days, even though the government prescribed maximum for private guards is 12. Guards also complained they weren’t given sufficient time to “qualify” or test their weapons, including calibrating their sight scopes at a shooting range, a process known as “zeroing.”
“Without a zeroed weapon,” one guard stated, “I can’t defend myself or the embassy.”
Other guards complained that canine inspections of vehicles entering the embassy were faulty. At least one supervisor was caught posting security sensitive information on LinkedIn, a career networking site.
In July, shortly after AEGIS took over security for the compound, a group of guards sought to raise their concerns in meetings with State Department officials and AEGIS supervisors. At one point, 40 guards signed a petition accusing AEGIS supervisors of “tactical incompetence” and a “dangerous lack of understanding of the operational environment.”
According to the report, the State Department conducted its own review of security procedures at the embassy and “determined that security policies and procedures are sound.”
This isn’t the first time security at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul has come under criticism. In 2009, then contractor AGNA was caught in a scandal when photos surfaced showing its security guards nude and in several compromising positions, as detailed in an ABC News investigation. The photos appeared to be taken at a party, with the guards drunk, surrounding a large bonfire.
A representative for AEGIS told ABC News that they could not comment on the POGO report, per “contractual obligations,” and directed all inquiries to the State Department. The State Department did not immediately return requests for comment.