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Pressure Builds On Pentagon to Investigate Electrocution Death in Iraq

by Jeremy Scahill

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.

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