Embassy Guards Fired for Lewd Behavior

The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan says it has fired eight security guards following allegations of lewd behavior and sexual misconduct at their living quarters.

In Washington, a State Department official told CBS News State Department Reporter Charles Wolfson Friday that the eight guards seen in the photos were terminated at the department's request.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also said the department is asking ArmorGroup North America, the private contractor that provides the guards, to remove all personnel seen in the photos and to replace the entire ArmorGroup management team on the ground at the embassy in Kabul.

The embassy said Friday the management team is "being replaced immediately."

Wolfson reports that the department's inspector general now has representatives from Washington on the ground in Kabul.

An embassy statement said the guards who were dismissed left the country Friday. Two other guards resigned and also left. All 10 appeared in photographs that depicted guards and supervisors in various stages of nudity at parties flowing with alcohol.

The scandal surfaced this week when an independent watchdog said that guards were subjected to abuse and hazing by supervisors.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is "genuinely offended" by the reports of misconduct, a State Department spokesman said Thursday.

Those who engaged in such activities will be dismissed from their posts, spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

Allegations of lewd behavior and sexual misconduct among the private security contractors guarding the embassy surfaced including reports of threats, intimidation and guards and supervisors in various stages of nudity at parties flowing with alcohol.

Clinton "is very displeased that this could have happened and that this could have happened without our knowledge," Crowley said.

Images of alleged hazing (Graphic Content)
Graphic Content: Additional video of Kabul hazing
Letter to Sec. Clinton describing abuses (PDF)

Any employees of ArmorGroup North America who created what a watchdog group described as a "Lord of the Flies" environment at the guard's living quarters "will be removed and taken out of the country and will find a new line of work," he said. The "Lord of the Flies" reference is to a novel about a group of British schoolboys stranded on a desert island who try, but fail, to govern themselves in a chaotic setting.

The State Department launched an investigation following the allegations from the Project on Government Oversight, the Washington-based independent watchdog group.

On Friday, the regional security officer conducted 50 interviews embassy personnel, the department official told Wolfson. Overall, 120 interviews have been conducted to date, according to the official. A previously scheduled inspection by the inspector general is also underway, the official said. It will examine the oversight of all security contracts at the embassy, the official said.

In at least one case, supervisors allegedly brought prostitutes into the quarters where the guards live, a serious breach of security and discipline, the group said.

In other instances, members of the guard force have drawn Afghans into activities forbidden by Muslims, such as drinking alcoholic beverages.

"This violated our values," Crowley said. "This potentially compromised ... the important work of the United States embassy in Kabul."

Nearly two-thirds of the 450 embassy guards are Gurkhas from Nepal and northern India who speak little English, a situation that creates communications breakdowns, the group said. Pantomime is often used to convey orders and instructions.

The State Department has insisted security at the embassy in Kabul, one of the country's most important diplomatic outposts, hasn't been compromised.

ArmorGroup was awarded the $189 million security contract in March 2007 and has been repeatedly warned of performance deficiencies. Wackenhut Services, ArmorGroup's parent company, referred all questions to the State Department. Spokeswoman Susan Pitcher said the company is fully cooperating with the State Department's investigation.

Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, is actively involved in the inquiry, Crowley said.

Alcohol has been prohibited at Camp Sullivan, the offsite location near the embassy where the ArmorGroup guards live, and diplomatic security staff have been assigned to the camp, according to the embassy. Before the incident, the State Department did not have any personnel assigned to the camp, Wolfson reports.


On the Net:

Project on Government Oversight: www.pogo.org

U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan: kabul.usembassy.gov