Bomb Battery Review A Whitewash?

Residents look at the damage caused by a U.S. airstrike in the Afghanistan capital Kabul Thursday Oct. 11, 2001. Heavy airstrikes also hit the southern Afghan city of Kandahar Thursday morning, the latest of a series of U.S.-led raids. AP

Workers at the Eagle Picher plant where the batteries are made for American Paveway II smart weapons, and many others, fear the batteries are failing.

"There's bad batteries out there, and it's gonna kill people," said one employee.

"With the things going on in Afghanistan, this has been on my conscience for a long time," said another employee.

Pentagon officials tell CBS News they can't say for sure failures haven't occurred in the field. But an Air Force press release says the military has "high confidence" in batteries made by Eagle-Picher Technologies. The statement says a technical review team found: "there was no evidence to support allegations...batteries did not work as required."

CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports the review team's report was not released and some current and former workers are now calling the review a whitewash.

It's not in the press release but there were problems found at the plant — problems the review team asked the company to fix. And while reviewers went to the plant and sat down with management, they didn't meet with any of the workers who had come forward.

Asked if they are worried that the Department of Defense's first inclination is to wrap their arms around the contractor and protect them, Republican Curt Weldon, Chairman of the House Military Procurement Subcommittee said, "I can tell you that's not going to be acceptable to us. The Department of Defense cannot and will not wrap their arms around anyone. This is an issue that is extremely serious and deserves a full and thorough look and wherever it leads, so be it."

Weldon wants documents the review team never saw that have been sealed by a federal court. Lawyers for a whistleblower claim the papers support allegations of faulty batteries and "contain evidence of ongoing fraud" and "cover up." Eagle-Picher says the documents "do not even come close to supporting...claims of fraud."

"My message to the employees there is: if you know that this kind of activity has taken place, you have an obligation not just to your country but to yourself to come forward and let the proper authorities know," said Weldon.

Some employees are already talking to the Pentagon's Inspector General — that criminal investigation is still underway.
  • chris oregan

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