In a civil complaint, Jamie Leigh Jones alleged that at the age of 19 while working for Halliburton/KBR in Houston, Texas, she was forced into a sexual relationship with her supervisor Eric Iler. She was able to obtain a transfer to another department Overseas Administrative Services (OAS) and a posting to Iraq. Iler made efforts to gain a supervisory position over her there. When this did not happen he filed a bad recommendation in her file. Jones arrived at Camp Hope in the Green Zone in Baghdad on July 25, 2005 and was quartered in essentially a male barracks. On July 28, 2007, she was drugged and brutally gang raped by KBR employees working as firefighters, including Charles Boartz named in the complaint. She informed a KBR official of the rape and was seen by KBR medical personnel. State Department officials were also notified and a rape kit was administered when she was seen at the Army hospital. The rape kit was turned over to KBR employees and subsequently disappeared. Jones was then held in a trailer against her will without food, water, or means of communication until she was able to persuade a guard to lend her his cell phone. She was able to get through to her father in Texas who contacted their Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX). Jones was then given the choice of either getting over it or returning to Texas with no assurance of a job. She filed suit in Texas against Halliburton, KBR, named and unnamed defendants, and the US government on May 16, 2007. Halliburton has sought to be removed from the suit because it has since divested itself of KBR. KBR has sought to enforce a provision of Jones’ contract for binding arbitration, where it has usually been successful. This would also keep the file sealed. Jones’ husband also being a plaintiff, however, is not so constrained. On December 19, 2007, Jones testified before Congress.
In some ways, this was inevitable. Bremer’s Order 17 placed contractors outside Iraqi law and US officials at State and Defense made no attempt to place them under American jurisdiction. Even after her rape no US government entity made a serious attempt to investigate the rape. Nor did Halliburton, KBR, and OAS exercise any meaningful guidance over their employees. The result was that contractors operated essentially outside any law, and they behaved accordingly. Shooting Iraqis or raping a young woman, the attitude of impunity is the same. They do it because they know they can.
Along these lines, in mid-December 2007, the Departments of Justice, State, and Defense all missed deadlines to respond to Congressional queries into the status of any of their investigations. Justice refused to send a spokesperson to Jones’ appearance before Congress on December 19. The DOD Inspector General Claude Kicklighter indicated that he would not investigate and defer to the Justice Department investigation but would look into other matters such as what happened to the rape kit.
Jones’ case is by no means an aberration. A Nation article recounts a similar brutal rape that occurred in January 2008 involving contractors and at least one serviceman. A KBR supervisor told her to keep it quiet and when she received an email from her attorney about the matter her computer was seized as “evidence”. It is not clear how much of an investigation the Army’s CID is conducting. One Houston law firm alone is handling 15 cases of sexual assault, harassment, and retaliation for reporting these involving KBR and related companies. KBR continues to force these cases into binding arbitration where they can be hushed up. By February 2008, 38 women who had worked for contractors had contacted Jones.