POSSIBLE BREAKTHROUGH IN ANTI-HALLIBURTON WAR PROFITEER CASE
Hopefully you had a chance to catch the exciting discussion we had last Saturday over at FDL with one of the most provocative and best qualified Democratic congressional candidates of the year, Alan Grayson (FL-08). He hopes to bring his tremendous expertise in prosecuting war profiteers to Washington next year. I can't think of much Washington needs more.
So when I saw an A.P. story about an appeals court reconsidering a quashed case against Halliburton, the first person I turned to was Alan.
A federal judge in Houston had thrown out lawsuits filed by truckers and their families against Halliburton and its former subsidiary, KBR Inc., over a deadly ambush on April 9, 2004, that killed six KBR drivers, wounded others and left one missing and presumed dead.
On Wednesday, lawyers for the truckers and their families asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to overturn the judge's ruling and reinstate their cases. The plaintiffs accuse KBR of knowingly sending its workers into harm's way while delivering fuel to U.S. troops at a Baghdad airport.
"We're cautiously optimistic that the 5th Circuit is going to get it right," said Roger Hawkins, lawyer for former KBR trucker Reginald Lane, who was wounded in the convoy attack.
A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit heard arguments from lawyers for both sides during a rare closed-door session. It could take several months for the court to issue a ruling.
Truckers' relatives were allowed into the courtroom, but the hearing was closed to the public and media.
Halliburton and Houston-based KBR asked for the closed hearing because they said "confidential information," including an Army investigative report on the ambush by Iraqi insurgents, would be discussed.
Tobias Cole, a lawyer for wounded trucker Kevin Smith-Idol, said he didn't hear any references to "top secret" information during the hearing. He questioned the companies' motives for seeking a closed hearing.
"They're just trying to hide their own negligence," Cole said.
Alan can relate. "The most interesting thing about this report on the appeals court argument," he told me yesterday, "is that Halliburton was able to get the court to conduct the argument in secret. Halliburton's central strategy, from beginning to end, is to keep the American public in the dark about what it's been doing in Iraq. That's why they insist on these closed-door sessions. That's why they require their employees to arbitrate their claims in secret. That's why they get draconian 'protective' orders (really, gag orders) in all their federal cases. That's why they block every FOIA request for their records. What they seem to forget is that they're bathing in OUR MONEY, taxpayer money, and we have a right to know how they've been spending it, wasting it, and stealing it."
Alan is challenging the ultimate rubber stamp nonentity in central Florida, a do-nothing lump named Ric Keller. Keller's biggest claim to fame was some kind of hysterical grandstanding to prevent customers from suing fast food chains like McDonald's-- just before he collected some hefty campaign contributions from OSI Restaurant Partners and the National Restaurant Association, helping bring his total of legalized bribes from the Food & Beverages industry to $64,450 in 2006 alone (not counting the further $34,600 he scooped up from the booze industry). Last year Keller outspent his Democratic opponent $1,691,408 to $984,771. Let's narrow that gap a little this year with a little Blue America action
UPDATE: AND BUSH LETS THEM GET AWAY WITHOUT PAYING TAXES
This from the March 6 Boston Globe: "Kellogg Brown & Root, the nation's top Iraq war contractor and until last year a subsidiary of Halliburton Corp., has avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicare and Social Security taxes by hiring workers through shell companies based in this tropical tax haven."