Congressman helps launch criminal probe into Halliburton rape case

Marilyn Tennissen Dec. 13, 2007, 6:00am

Two years ago, U.S. Rep. Ted Poe received a call from one of his constituents, a frantic father who said his daughter had been gang raped while working in Baghdad for an American defense contractor.

The man's daughter, Jamie Leigh Jones, was an employee of Halliburton. She told her father she was being held in a shipping container without food or water after reporting the brutal assault.

Poe, a Republican representative from the 2nd District of Texas, said he contacted the State Department's Overseas Citizens Services who dispatched agents from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to remove Jones from the Halliburton facilities.

Jones since has filed a civil lawsuit against Halliburton and Kellogg Brown & Root, but Poe and other lawmakers now are urging the government to conduct a formal investigation.

Through letters to Attorney General Michael Mukasey and the State Department, the congressman helped get a Dec. 19 date for a Congressional Hearing on Jones' claims.

Poe wrote in a Dec. 10 letter to Overseas Citizens Services that he was "alarmed that no criminal charges have been brought in this case."

He said it is the "responsibility of our government to ensure justice is served."

Jones also claimed her employers told her she would be fired if she sought outside medical care, according to her lawsuit and a letter to the attorney general co-authored by Poe and John Conyers, chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary.

Jones claims that results of rape kit administered by the U.S. Army have now "disappeared," which the lawmakers said is "deeply troubling."

"It also raises broader concerns, which the Judiciary Committee has already been investigating, about the Department's role in enforcing laws protecting Americans who are working in Iraq," the Dec. 11 letter states.

Poe and Conyers ask Mukasey for answers to specific questions, including the current status of the investigation and whether it includes destruction of evidence, which offices of the Department of Justice are participating and which assistant attorney general is responsible.

In addition, the letter points out that television network ABC reported a statement by KBR that it was "instructed to cease its own investigation by U.S. government authorities because they were assuming sole responsibility for the criminal investigation."

"Did the Department issue such an instruction to KBR?" the congressmen asked Mukasey. "If so, please describe the exact terms of the instruction and explain when, why and by whom it was issued.

"If some other agency issued the instruction, what is the basis for an assertion that an agency of the U.S. Government, other than the Justice Department can have 'sole responsibility' for all related criminal investigations? Do you agree that the Department should be involved from the outset of an investigation into a serious criminal matter such as this one?"

The Hearing on "Enforcement of Federal Criminal Law to Protect Americans Working for U.S. Contractors in Iraq" is set for Dec. 19.

Poe is a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as well as founder of the Congressional Victim's Rights Caucus.

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