The lawsuit against KBR by the families of civilian drivers killed in an ambush in Iraq in 2004 have been strengthened by internal memos showing that KBR officials knew of the insurgent activity and high level of danger before sending them into harm’s way.
KBR is essentially arguing that they could not stop the convoy ordered by the military contractor. Yet, the company did precisely that with later convoys after the drivers were killed.
Most notably, KBR’s Iraq project manager said in 2003 that supervisors could “stop any activity which you believe to be unsafe.” The memos greatly strengthen these claims and could create new precedent for the future use of civilians in combat zones at a time when the military is outsourcing many such jobs. There is a dangerous blind spot in legal protection where the military cannot be sued for failure to protect the convoy while the contractor claims no independent obligation to judge the dangers of particular routes or convoys. I disagree with that legal argument. KBR clearly retains the right to withhold drivers from routes that it considers too dangerous and the military cannot order civilians into active combat areas with imminent dangers to their life or limb.
The case will go to trial in March. Fisher v. Halliburton, 05-cv-01731 U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).
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