Pressure Builds On Pentagon to Investigate Electrocution Death in Iraq

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Pressure Builds On Pentagon to Investigate Electrocution Death in Iraq

by
Jeremy Scahill

Lawmakers tell Defense Secretary Gates they ‘are appalled by the Pentagon’s failure to pursue answers’ in death of Adam Hermanson.

Congressional pressure is increasing on the Department of Defense to investigate the apparent electrocution death of Adam Hermanson,
a 25 year old DoD contractor who died September 1 in a shower at Camp
Olympia inside the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. Hermanson is an Air
Force veteran who did three tours in Iraq before joining Triple Canopy,
the firm the Obama administration has chosen to take over much of Blackwater's major "security" work in Iraq.

This
week, New Hampshire Representative Carol Shea-Porter, a member of the
House Armed Services Committee and Illinois Representative Jan
Schakowsky, a member of the Intelligence Committee, called on Defense
Secretary Robert Gates to "fully investigate the circumstances"
surrounding Hermanson's death.

"We are appalled by the Pentagon's failure to pursue answers to the questions surrounding this tragedy," they wrote in a September 17 letter
to Gates. "Since Mr. Hermanson was in Iraq working on a DoD contract,
we believe that the Pentagon has a responsibility to fully
investigate." Citing comments from Major Shawn Turner to The Nation
that there is "no indication that US forces will be launching a formal
investigation" because Hermanson's death took place at a facility that
"does not fall under DoD responsibility," the lawmakers told Gates: "it
is disturbing that the Department of Defense apparently wishes to
distance itself, now that a fatality has occurred."

Shea-Porter
and Schakowsky's letter to Gates comes after a September 14 letter from
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to Gates and Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton, calling for an investigation. "I am outraged that
Americans who have chosen to brave the extreme challenges and risks of
supporting our mission in Iraq have been killed or injured as a result
of negligence by KBR or other government contractors," Reid wrote in a September 14 letter to Gates provided to The Nation.
"Adam Hermanson's recent death is even more troubling when one realizes
that Army experts warned as early as 2004 that shoddy electrical work
had created potentially hazardous conditions for American personnel."

Noting
allegations by Hermanson's family that Triple Canopy misled them about
the circumstances of Adam's death, including telling them that Adam
collapsed near his bed (he reportedly died in the shower) and had no
marks on his body (his family took photographic evidence of apparent
wounds and burns on his left arm), Shea-Porter and Schakowsky say they
are "extremely concerned by the reaction of both Triple Canopy and the
DoD, and we strongly believe that the family of this Air Force veteran
deserves real answers about Mr. Hermanson's death... A full Pentagon
investigation would not only give them the truth... but it could also
help prevent further deaths by electrocution."

Hermanson is the
19th US soldier or contractor to die from electrocution in Iraq since
2003. "While war zones are inherently dangerous places," Shea-porter
and Schakowsky wrote, "the DoD must take critical steps to ensure that
U.S. troops and the contractors employed by the pentagon do not risk
electrocution within their own quarters.

See The Nation's full coverage of the death of Adam Hermanson here.

Also, see this excellent investigative story on ProPublica,
"Former Iraq Security Contractors Say Firm Bought Black Market Weapons,
Swapped Booze for Rockets," about Triple Canopy by T. Christian Miller
and Aram Roston.

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