Thursday, February 08, 2007

Does Congressman Souder Not Care About Oversight and Accountability of Contractors in Iraq?

Cross-Posted at Left of Centrist

The Committee for Government Oversight and Reform has been holding hearings this week and Mark Souder is on this committee. Tuesday's topic involved the $8.8 BILLION dollars of Iraqi money that was issued by the CPA and unaccounted for. I watched the entire hearing and Souder was at that hearing for a brief period of time.

Yesterday's topic was to investigate how private contractors, specifically security companies, are operating in Iraq. The entire hearing centered around the Blackwater incident where 4 employees were killed and drug through the streets of Fallujah and eventually hung from a bridge. There is a tremendous investigative report about this here.

Up first were the family members of the 4 men that were killed. They painted a detailed picture of how Blackwater violated their contract by not sending them in w/ maps, armored vehicles, rear-gunners, etc. They also discussed the fact that Blackwater has essentially stonewalled them from receiving any information about their loved ones' death. The family members have been forced to sue the company for this information and the litigation is pending.

Up next were the representatives from several companies including Blackwater's general counsel. I could write a 10 page story about this hearing but let me just say that there was a lot of valuable information that was shared and members of the committee were shocked at certain details involving the lack of oversight and accountability of private contractors in Iraq.

Despite this being a much-anticipated hearing, Mark Souder didn't bother to take part. I was so shocked by this I called his office this morning to find out why. I was told that the Congressman was there but didn't stay for the entire hearing. Let me point out that this is not uncommon - most members do not stay for the entire hearing. However, if he did show up then why didn't he take the 5 minute Q&A session with the witnesses that is allowed for every committee member? I also want to say that I watched the entire hearing and never saw Congressman Souder one time. The person I spoke with could not tell me WHY he didn't ask any questions and asked me if there were any questions I'd like the congressman to get answers to.

I gave him a question related to the hearing but also told him that I'd like to get an answer to the general question of why Souder didn't take his allotted time at the meeting as contractor abuse and oversight is a very important topic. I was told that I would receive a response in the mail and when I offered my e-mail address I was told that they didn't respond by e-mail because it "wasn't as efficient".

I am outraged that my congressman didn't find this topic serious enough to question ANY witnesses. Congressman Burton wasn't there either but I expect this from him. I wonder if this is what Mitch Harper was referring to when he said that "Mark Souder will get busy." I guess he was TOO busy to try and figure out if anything needs to be improved in regards to our contracts w/ private corporations in Iraq...

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