Watchdog: Accountability

State Department's Patrick Kennedy retracts false testimony on Kabul embassy security

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Watchdog,Michal Conger,Senate,Afghanistan,State Department,Accountability,Claire McCaskill

A top State Department official has admitted to providing false information to a Senate subcommittee during a July hearing on U.S. embassy security in Afghanistan.

Sen. Claire McCaskill raised concerns about the security contract at the Kabul embassy, and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., pressed Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary for management, on a January report by the Project on Government Oversight that found security forces are overworked and stretched thin at the compound.

Kennedy, who manages security for all U.S. overseas diplomatic facilities, told the Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight that security contractor Aegis Defense Services had twice rebuffed attacks and proved its effectiveness. He also adamantly rejected an assertion that guards work a 72-hour work week.

“And in this [POGO] report, they’re talking about the contractor [Aegis Defense Services]. Their guards were working 72 hours per week. ... I mean, right there, that concerns me if that is true. Would you dispute that?" Johnson asked, according to POGO.

“I absolutely dispute that. I absolutely dispute that," Kennedy said.

But the two attacks Kennedy referenced were not direct attacks on the embassy, but on the annex a half-mile away and the Afghan Supreme Court, according to information obtained by POGO.

McCaskill and Johnson wrote on Sept. 11 asking Kennedy to explain the inconsistencies between POGO's reports and his testimony.

In a Sept. 17 letter to McCaskill, Kennedy said he made four "inadvertent" errors in his July 16 testimony, including his statement about the attacks.

"While these were direct attacks, they were not on the embassy compound itself," he said. "The guard force did assume defensive positions, but did not have to fire its weapons."

Kennedy also said he was wrong about the guards' 72-hour work weeks, explaining that they work six 12-hour days each week to reduce the number of personnel and housing needed.

"We realize that this is a lengthy work week, but it reduces the number of guards that are needed to protect the embassy,” he said. “If guards worked a 40-hour week, we would need approximately twice the number of guards, which would mean twice the number of housing units, and an increased number of life support contractors, who also need housing."

"Again, my apologies for the inadvertent misstatements," he concluded, adding that his staff would "make edits" to the official hearing transcript.

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