Brian X. Scott, a small-business owner, has become entangled in an unlikely, even strange, battle with the federal government. And while the possibility remains remote, he stands to derail a behemoth security and intelligence contract and the way work is done in Iraq.
Scott's fight, rooted in his deep belief that private security personnel in the conflict-plagued country are "mercenaries," has already triggered a complicated series of events that saw a federal judge at least temporarily prevent the awarding of the Iraq war's largest contract.
The $475 million contract that is sought by companies such as Erinys Iraq and Aegis Defence Services, Scott contends, challenges the "values of America."
"You've got to expect those people are killing innocent civilians," Scott says of the well-armed private security personnel the contract calls for.
Scott, an Army veteran and former government contract worker who resides in a quaint Colorado Springs home, now himself pursues contracting. The government doesn't consider him a substantial bidder for services stipulated in the contract at issue. But he's taking a little-known bureaucratic path that allows those seeking contracts to file bid protests through the Government Accountability Office.
It's an office that he says he has "learned a lot about" in the last year, during which he's filed several protests questioning the military's use of private security personnel in Iraq.
In each unsuccessful effort, he has cited the 1893 Anti-Pinkerton Act, a law created in the aftermath of the government's hiring of private Pinkerton detectives to crack down on labor strikers.
The act, he argues, bans the government from dealing with companies that use "mercenaries," as he calls them.
But the GAO has disagreed (see "Mercenary watch," Sept. 7, 2006, csindy.com/csindy/2006-09-07/news4.html). It concluded, in part, that security personnel in Iraq aren't similar to Pinkerton's mercenary or quasi-military forces, because they're not employed "as strikebreakers and armed guards."
When Scott protested the $475 million contract in March, the GAO simply cited its prior decisions. This time, however, Scott decided to bring his fight to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. This has caused a ruckus in the high-stakes world of contracting.
In his complaint, filed in April, Scott argues he's a contractor capable of carrying out a contract provision that calls for running an operations center with a small team of communications technicians. He says no contractor should be asked to provide personnel escorts or other such private security.
"There is some activity so close to the core of what the military is about that it cannot be farmed out to contractors," Scott's complaint states.
Court proceedings in Scott's case are scheduled for coming weeks. But his case has already affected other contracting firms that do wish to provide security personnel under the terms of the contract.
Because of Scott's court case, the GAO on May 31 dismissed two other bid protests one by the British Erinys, the other by Blackwater USA, of North Carolina.
Erinys immediately complained in a claims court case "associated" with Scott's. The company argues the Army unfairly excluded it from a pool of finalists. An Erinys lawyer declined comment.
Claims court judge Christine O.C. Miller temporarily halted the awarding of the contract earlier this month. By late last week, however, the impasse appeared resolved when the Army agreed to reconsider excluded companies like Erinys, according to the Washington Post on Saturday, which cited "sources familiar with the matter."
Aegis, a defendant in Erinys' complaint, holds the current Iraq security contract and wants to continue its work there. John S. Pachter, a lawyer for the British firm, declined to comment via phone.
The Justice Department argues that Scott "lacks standing" as an interested party, according to a motion the department filed in the claims court that asks Miller to dismiss the case.
Scott "filed this protest merely based upon a political disagreement with its terms, not an economic interest in being awarded the contract," according to the Justice Department motion.
Scott, who has no lawyer, is preparing to prove in court that he is a viable contractor. He declines to offer such proof to the Independent, citing concern that his "legal strategy" could be leaked.
But, he says, "you betcha I'm going to perform" the contract.
He's hoping his arguments about Pinkerton may come up in court and force an interpretation of the act that would either hinder or prevent employing private security contractors abroad.
The Defense Department last year addressed the use of private security personnel and specified in a rule that the personnel may apply deadly force in self-defense. The security contract reiterates that rule.
But to Scott, acting in self-defense is a blurry matter in Iraq.
Distinguishing civilians from insurgents is difficult, if not impossible, amid an emerging civil war, he says. Scott adds that the United States has scrutinized the use of "mercenaries" since the time of the Declaration of Independence. firstname.lastname@example.org