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KBR – Qarmat Ali – October Update

The Black Hole – KBR’s Managers Say They Just Can’t Remember

I am writing from the airport in Doha, Qatar, and will hopefully be back in the U.S. by the time you read this. I took depositions over the past six days of four KBR managers responsible for the Qarmat Ali project in southern Iraq where hundreds of American and British soldiers were poisoned by exposure to sodium dichromate – what I learned is that black holes don’t just exist in outer space – they also exist in the memories of KBR managers.

Documents released by the US Army in 2010, but created by KBR’s managers and maintained in its files in 2003 (but never released by KBR in court-overseen discovery), demonstrate that as early as April 2003, and likely in March 2003 as well, KBR charged taxpayers for teams of specialists to assess the Qarmat Ali site. These managers were asked to reveal under oath what they knew and what they did with the information they learned about sodium dichromate contamination from these assessments, but repeatedly their sworn testimony was that they don’t remember. A senior manager for the project even suggested under oath that everything that he learned or knew in March, April, and May 2003 was just a memory “black hole.”

KBR also still refuses to produce the documents concerning the Qarmat Ali site assessments, even though KBR’s managers now have admitted under oath these documents were in fact created by their employees in April and May 2003. This “black hole” of documentation and memories of KBR managers is particularly disturbing, given that our Guardsmen veterans and British gunners were subjected to dangerous exposures to the sodium dichromate contaminating acres of the Qarmat Ali site while these KBR managers sat on the information that have learned during their assessments.

What the KBR managers under oath did claim to know, however – without actually seeing any real documentation beside a scripted “timeline” created by KBR’s lawyers – was that no one was harmed by KBR’s actions at Qarmat Ali. This is the same story KBR told the US Army and British forces in 2003 while deciding to delay critical site testing until after the cleanup, and after KBR intentionally chose to have medical tests on their employees done that they knew wouldn’t reveal the full extent of the exposures. Halliburton/KBR managers and lawyers took these steps to protect themselves from full accountability at the same exact time that, Lt. Col. Jim Gentry, David Moore, and the other soldiers continued to protect KBR’s Qarmat Ali project without any protection against the sodium dichromate at the site.

KBR Deputy Program Manager Greg Badgett, Project Manager Ed Johnson, and safety manager Will Van Ostrand were each involved in deciding whether Halliburton/KBR would stop the project and harmful exposures right away, or simply not fully share what they knew with the men on the ground. KBR Manager Ed Johnson admitted that the project was part of the “award” schedule that KBR managers in Houston watched carefully, and their 35% completion milestone was upset by the closing of the project for remediation at the end of August/beginning of September 2003. Construction foreman Mark Brandt confirmed that he was part of one team of KBR specialists on the ground for one of the many April 2003 assessments at Qarmat Ali, putting a face on the previously concealed work before any of our clients had likely even heard of Qarmat Ali. Not surprisingly, however, other than remembering he was there (as documented elsewhere), Mr. Brandt had absolutely no memory of what he saw and what the KBR team documented at Qarmat Ali.

The court in Oregon has set a hearing on October 20, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. in Portland for a request by Halliburton/KBR to again halt the discovery to allow them to appeal Judge Papak’s denial of their jurisidictional and immunity motions. Judge Gilmore in Houston is continuing to review Halliburton/KBR’s motion for immunity, but in the meantime has ordered Halliburton/KBR to stop delaying further depositions and efforts to get the facts out about Qarmat Ali.

Having to chase KBR’s witnesses to Doha was certainly interesting, especially when two of these four witnesses admitted they were either just back from home in Houston or headed within 24 hours back to Houston. I suspect some of them will be back in Houston before I am.

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Posted by on Oct 6 2010. Filed under Blog, Qarmat Ali Blog, Qarmat Ali Case Update. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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