Is U.S. Embassy Safe from Attack?

Senate Probes Afghanistan Fraud Allegations

June 9, 2009, 5:33 PM

June 10, 2009— -- A Senate panel is investigating allegations of fraud and other malfeasance that may have created gaps in security for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has asked an executive representing ArmorGroup North America to testify before her investigative subcommittee Wednesday afternoon, to answer questions about whether his firm had jeopardized security at the embassy, by breaking the law and the terms of its $187 million contract with the State Department.

State Department officials are also expected to appear before McCaskill's panel, the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight. Despite numerous reported problems with ArmorGroup's performance, State has renewed its contract with ArmorGroup. On Tuesday night, a State spokesman confirmed it had told the company it would do so again this year.

"Embassy Kabul has consistently reported to us that [ArmorGroup North America] has maintained satisfactory operational performance throughout the period of the contract," the spokesman said.

A 2008 lawsuit against the firm by two former employees, both ex-Marines, claimed the firm scheduled guards to work long, grueling shifts, lied about their training facilities, and could not support a fleet of armored transport vehicles they were required to maintain. At the time, the company accused the men of mounting a "smear campaign."

Company spokeswoman Jennifer Pence and the duo's lawyers declined to discuss the matter.

Pence is an employee of Wackenhut Services, Inc., which acquired ArmorGroup in May 2008. In a statement emailed in response to an ABC News inquiry, Pence explained that she and WSI management "are unable to comment on any issues regarding the operation of the [Kabul embassy] contract prior to that time."

Security Firm Defends Embassy Work

The contract at present "is performing extremely well," Pence's statement read. "WSI management will cooperate fully and openly with the requirements of the Senate Hearing [sic]."

The U.S. embassy in Kabul has been the target of terror attacks previously. Last November a car exploded outside the embassy, killing at least four people and injuring 20, none of whom were American. That March, a suicide car bomber attacked an embassy convoy, killing a young Afghan bystander and injuring five U.S. security personnel. In September 2006, a suicide bomber attacked an American Humvee outside the facility killing 16 people, including two U.S. soldiers.

In February, the Obama administration announced it was undertaking a major expansion of the embassy, with a projected cost of up to $200 million.

Click Here for the Blotter Homepage.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events