Whistleblower speaks out on KBR electrocutions
David Edwards and Jeremy Gantz
Published: Tuesday March 10, 2009

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Defense contractor Kellogg Brown & Root knowingly performed substandard electrical work in Iraq and threatened workers who "made a lot of noise" about shoddy construction and maintenance, according to ex-KBR electrician Debbie Crawford.

Crawford, appearing on The Rachel Maddow Show March 9th, detailed her experiences working for the embattled company, which is a former subsidiary of Halliburton, the massive energy company once led by former Vice President Dick Cheney.

"There was quite a few complaints about soldiers or civilians, other subcontractors, being shocked, yes," Crawford said. Late last year KBR denied a CBS News investigation that it knowingly exposed U.S. soldiers to toxic materials in Iraq. In January, the company came under fire in a U.S. Army investigation for "negligent homicide" in the fatal electrocution of a solider.

Crawford, who last year testified before a Senate panel investigating that death, told Maddow Monday that "[i]t was put up or shut up... People who pushed the issue and made a lot of noise were threatened to be transferred into other more hostile work environments...or they were sent home."

Maddow began the KBR segment with a photograph, provided by Crawford, that showed running water in a bathroom sink charged with 180.6 volts. A normal electrical socket's voltage is 120 volts, Maddow said.

"Clearly, that's an error," Crawford said, describing the photograph. "I haven't seen that anywhere but Iraq.

"KBR does have some very qualified people working for them," continued Crawford, who blogs at "But the majority of the work is done actually by third-country nationals.... And they may be very good electricians in their own country, but they're not up to the standards of the American-licensed electrician. The American electricians for the most part supervise third-country national workers."

Last week, lawyers for the family of an electrocuted soldier accused KBR of violating a court-ordered confidentiality agreement by releasing documents related to the family's lawsuit to media in February, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

The parents of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth sued KBR because their son died after turning on and stepping into his shower at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex in Iraq. The lawsuit claims the contractor performed shoddy work and failed to maintain the electrical infrastructure at the estate once owned by Saddam Hussein, the Tribune-Review reported.

The company has denied involvement in Maseth's electrocution, along with 17 others electrocuted since the Iraq War began in 2003.

This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast March 9th, 2009.

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