The company responsible for providing security at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, has at times directed guards to underreport the number of hours they worked to avoid revealing that they have been on the job up to 18 hours per day, according to a federal lawsuit filed this week on behalf of people who have served on the guard force.
The lawsuit raises questions about the State Department’s ability to protect its diplomats that go beyond those raised today during Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s congressional testimony about September’s terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Specifically, the suit brings the oversight of private security contractors at U.S. diplomatic missions to the forefront.
The lawsuit alleges that supervisors at private security contractor Aegis Defense Services “regularly edited employees’ timesheets so that they did not reveal any work beyond the Regular Schedule,” according to a report published this morning at POGO.org and ForeignPolicy.com
Aegis employees often worked 14- to 18-hour days for six or seven days per week, regularly exceeding the 72-hour work week prescribed by the State Department, the lawsuit says. The extra hours allowed Aegis to meet its staffing obligations to the State Department without hiring additional guards.
Last week, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and Foreign Policy magazine published a report in which several current and former guards at the U.S. embassy in Kabul said security weaknesses, including a guard force stretched dangerously thin by long hours, have left the embassy vulnerable to attack.
A State Department document obtained by POGO described a “mutiny” among guards that “undermined the chain of command” and “put the security of the Embassy at risk.”