Halliburton/KBR and U.S. Government Accused of Covering Up a Gang-Rape (UPDATED)

This is one of the most bizarre and disgusting stories I’ve heard in quite a while:

A Houston, Texas woman says she was gang-raped by Halliburton/KBR coworkers in Baghdad, and the company and the U.S. government are covering up the incident.

Jamie Leigh Jones, now 22, says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job.

“Don’t plan on working back in Iraq. There won’t be a position here, and there won’t be a position in Houston,” Jones says she was told.

Among other things, Jones apparently had to be rescued by State Dept. officials at the behest of Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX):

Finally, Jones says, she convinced a sympathetic guard to loan her a cell phone so she could call her father in Texas.

“I said, ‘Dad, I’ve been raped. I don’t know what to do. I’m in this container, and I’m not able to leave,’” she said. Her father called their congressman, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas.

“We contacted the State Department first,” Poe told ABCNews.com, “and told them of the urgency of rescuing an American citizen” — from her American employer.

Poe says his office contacted the State Department, which quickly dispatched agents from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to Jones’ camp, where they rescued her from the container.

There’s much more and this story promises to be the poltical intrigue of the month considering the cast of bogeymen making an appearance: Halliburton, KBR, Iraq contractors, Bush Administration.

I honestly don’t know what to make of it right now, so I’ll reserve my thought until later. For now, Don Surber’s appalled, Rusty Shackleford is skeptical as is Ace, the left is having a field day. That should keep y’all busy.

UPDATE: Ben Domenech thinks Jones’ story is quite believable. And per the case file, Jones is (and was at the time) married to a soldier who is also a plaintiff in the suit.

So far the story reads like a made-for-TV movie, but that doesn’t make it false, just bizarre.

Developing …

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13 Responses to “Halliburton/KBR and U.S. Government Accused of Covering Up a Gang-Rape (UPDATED)”

  1. on 11 Dec 2007 at 2:57 pm ChrisB

    It might be important to point out that KBR and Halliburton are separate entities now. This happened 2 years ago though? At that time they were still together, so I’m not sure how the liability would work out.

  2. on 11 Dec 2007 at 3:22 pm MichaelW

    It might be important to point out that KBR and Halliburton are separate entities now.

    Yeah, that’s made clear in the article, but it doesn’t hurt to clarify it.

    This happened 2 years ago though? At that time they were still together, so I’m not sure how the liability would work out.

    Technically it doesn’t change anything with respect to Halliburton’s liability to the plaintiffs. The only thing that is different is that Halliburton may be entitled to repayment of any judgments, attorney’s fees and court costs it incurs depending on the extent that KBR agreed to indemnify the company in their separation agreement.

    Indemnification provisions work basically like any other insurance policy. Typically there is what’s called a “bucket” in such agreements that, like a deductible, limits the amount one party must incur before making a claim for indemnification (say $100,000) and often caps the total amount of liability ($1,000,000?). It is also usually limits the time within which an indemnification claim must be made (maybe 2 years?).

    In this case, because the gang-rape allegations were presumably known by the parties at the time of the separation, there is probably a specific provision dealing with the issue in the agreement. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some sort of reserve account set up to deal specifically with this issue.

  3. on 11 Dec 2007 at 5:15 pm ChrisB

    I also want to add, while it’s always healthy to be skeptical, I don’ t think it’s right to assume this lady is lying or doing this for political reasons as I see many blog commenters doing.

    The story is fantastic, extraordinary, and tragic, and undoubtedly deserves further investigation by almost all parties (fed govt, kbr, abc news, and bloggers both left and right).

    I feel that some of the right bloggers might be wandering too far out on a limb on this, and at the same time have seen a few horrible responses by left wing bloggers.

  4. on 11 Dec 2007 at 5:54 pm MichaelW

    I also want to add, while it’s always healthy to be skeptical, I don’ t think it’s right to assume this lady is lying or doing this for political reasons as I see many blog commenters doing.

    Agreed. There is plenty to be skeptical about in Jones’ story, but just because some of the details may be embellished or off a bit doesn’t make the totality of the tale false. Claims that she was held in a shipping container and that she was threatened with losing her job if she talked just seem ridiculous on their face, as does the claim that she was both drugged and physically abused during the rape so much so that her breast implants were burst and her pectoral muscles ripped. If she was drugged, why would she have to be manhandled? I don’t know, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    But, again, if even a tenth of what she says is true, she was horribly mistreated and those responsible deserve to be put away for a long time.

  5. on 11 Dec 2007 at 10:03 pm Joshua Foust

    Not to open an old can of worms here, but a big part of the intrigue behind this story is the apparent legal unaccountability of firms operating in Iraq. Yes, the rape matters; but what seems to matter almost as much (assuming it is true) is that it was never investigated or prosecuted (compare to the hoopla in the Duke case), and that now the company is insisting on arbitration even while its employees are accused of gang rape and abduction.

    So yeah, her story might be embellished, but KBR is behaving (and has behaved on countless occasions) mightily shady as well.

  6. on 11 Dec 2007 at 10:39 pm MichaelW

    Not to open an old can of worms here …

    Yeah, right ;)

    but a big part of the intrigue behind this story is the apparent legal unaccountability of firms operating in Iraq.

    I won’t go into it again, but its just not the case that these firms are legally unaccountable. There are myriad criminal statutes available with which to pursue an American firm and its employees who were agents of the Dept. of State and (possibly) the military. That the speculation continues about this issue is more an indication of the way politics is played, not the way the law actually works.

    Yes, the rape matters; but what seems to matter almost as much (assuming it is true) is that it was never investigated or prosecuted (compare to the hoopla in the Duke case) …

    As far as we know. If you think about it, William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson was caught with $90,000 of cash in his freezer at about the same time as this incident and he’s still serving in the House, and no indictment has been presented to a GJ. The FBI works very slowly in building its case, which may be one explanation for why things are taking so long on that front. Or, there was an investigation and it revealed nothing. We can’t really say at this point.

    However, if there is an ongoing investigation, it’s glacial pace fuels cover-up theories and makes them look more plausible.

    … and that now the company is insisting on arbitration even while its employees are accused of gang rape and abduction.

    The arbitration is based on her employment agreement and quite frankly there’s nothing wrong with that. Arbitration is much cheaper and usually employs very informal rules of evidence (if any) which allow for more of the plaintiff’s case to be heard that might be in court. A lot of people are assuming that KBR has some sinister motive for insisting that its arbitration clause be honored, but they’re just wrong. It’s a simple matter of $$$$, as in it costs big companies a great deal of it to go to court all of the time.

    So yeah, her story might be embellished, but KBR is behaving (and has behaved on countless occasions) mightily shady as well.

    Well, the only shady things from KBR that I’ve seen here so far are what Jones has accused them of. Did they really lock her up in a shipping container without food or water for 24 hours? That’s shady. Did they really threaten her job? That’s shady (and kind of stupid if you ask me — why would she want the job?). Did they really tamper with the rape kit? That’s shady. But all those shady actions are unsubstantiated accusations from Jones. We haven’t heard from KBR yet.

    Wait a little further into this case and we’ll see what KBR says. They will have plenty of opportunity to be shady as it unfolds (especially when requests for admissions and depositions and interrogatories are answered). If they admit to knowing anything about the alleged conditions of their base in Iraq, or to anything at all about the initial investigation and rape kit, then we’ll have a better idea of how shady they’re being. Right now all we have is a one-sided argument.

    One thing to keep an eye on will be plaintiff’s witnesses who are prepared to testify about other instances of sexual harassment/assault from the alleged rapists, some of which witnesses may still be employed by KBR.

  7. on 11 Dec 2007 at 10:39 pm Don

    Claims that she was held in a shipping container

    Shipping containers can be made into nice office spaces, etc., if you don’t mind not having a view. So this might not be as outlandish or as harsh as it sounds.

    However, I’m approching this with a skeptics point of view. There is an over the top aspect to the claims that in fact does remind one of the Duke case.

  8. on 11 Dec 2007 at 10:53 pm Don

    Claims that she was held in a shipping container

    Those things can be fixed up nice, so it isn’t necessarly a bad place to be. I’ve seen them fixed up as office spaces at shipyards, and the gun range I compete at has several welded together to contain targets.

    I was in fact thinking that in a desert envrionment (dry–to avoid rust) a bunch of them could be put together / stacked to create a neat living space.

    But my point is that her situation in the shipping container might not be as implausable as it first sounds, and that it also might not have been bad living conditions.

    Did they really lock her up in a shipping container without food or water for 24 hours? That’s shady.

    I think it’s more than shady, but its the “lock . . . without food or water” part that’s bad. Protecting her by providing a shipping container that’s been set up as a living space isn’t a bad thing at all, and perhaps that’s closer to the truth.

    Frankly I’m skeptical of the whole thing. The facts seem over-the-top in a Duke rape case sorta way. I’m gonna withhold judgement, until I hear more.

    Not to open an old can of worms here, but a big part of the intrigue behind this story is the apparent legal unaccountability of firms operating in Iraq. Yes, the rape matters;

    Right. Politics matters more.

  9. on 12 Dec 2007 at 12:25 pm Joshua Foust

    Not quite. This case, if true, is shocking and horriffic… AND potentially indicative of the functional immunity these guys have (functional, Michael, because whatever the law says, there sure is a long history of them getting away with things that would put CONUS-based contractors into jail for a very long time, even during an investigation).

  10. on 13 Dec 2007 at 3:55 am glasnost

    It’s sad that this has become a political football in some quarters, and that applies to left as well as right. I haven’t checked what the left is doing, but no one should indict Halliburton as a whole for a terrible crime committed by their employees.

    On the other hand - Don may be right that a shipping container doesn’t imply barbaric conditions, but the very fact that Halliburton hasn’t already handed over employees to be prosecuted demonstrates, basically, that even if these contractors aren’t technically above the law in Iraq, they’re functionally above the law.

    Arbitration is much cheaper and usually employs very informal rules of evidence (if any) which allow for more of the plaintiff’s case to be heard that might be in court. A lot of people are assuming that KBR has some sinister motive for insisting that its arbitration clause be honored, but they’re just wrong. It’s a simple matter of $$$$

    It’s both - nothing but money, and sinister, in that the goal is to avoid granting financial restitution to the client. You save even more money when you never lose, meaning the arbitrator never decides anything in a way that holds the corporation accountable for money.
    We can only hope that the abuse of arbitration in this case leads to Congressional law that rolls back the ability of corporations to write contracts that force employees to surrender their rights in court. I read an article recently that detailed the way in which arbitration companies, to no one’s surprise, are coerced into ruling in favor of their clients in order to keep business…qouted the judgement rate in favor of the corporation as over 90 percent. Wish I could find that article.

  11. on 13 Dec 2007 at 6:50 pm Joshua Foust

    It’s true - KBR has something like an 80% win rate in arbitration… which implies either they have an unfair advantage or there is an astounding number of warrantless claims. I don’t know which is more depressing or worrying, to be honest.

    But seriously — how awesome is it that KBR included in its employment contract a clause governing how rape claims would be handled in arbitration? That’s SUPER awesome, like they never would have thought of it being an issue.

  12. on 14 Dec 2007 at 6:28 pm Don

    the very fact that Halliburton hasn’t already handed over employees to be prosecuted demonstrates, basically, that even if these contractors aren’t technically above the law in Iraq, they’re functionally above the law.

    Isn’t it KBR, not Halliburton?

    And, is it up to the company to hand them over for prosecution?

    My understanding of this is that she is suing the company. I’m not sure what’s going on with respect to criminal charges.

  13. on 14 Dec 2007 at 7:25 pm Lance

    But seriously — how awesome is it that KBR included in its employment contract a clause governing how rape claims would be handled in arbitration? That’s SUPER awesome, like they never would have thought of it being an issue.

    Seems like it would be pretty standard given the job. I also assume murder, kidnapping and all kinds of terrible things would be covered. Tens of thousands of people in a war zone implies to me a pretty detailed legal review. Rape, given the heavy male presence would be near the top of my list. Finding it odd would be right up there with wondering why our law or the UMCJ contemplates what to do in the case of rape. KBR faces enormous potential liability the second it sends people into a war zone. Legal planning dealing with any criminal act committed by its employees or others would be job one.

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