Sunday, May 22, 2011

USAID Casts Harry Potter Vanishing Spell on Kabul Bank OIG Report


And just like that the OIG report on the Kabul Bank scandal vanished into thin air and is no longer available from the USAID website.  Where do vanished reports go? Um, apparently, this one had been placed under a classification charm. It was posted online as an unclassified report fit for public consumption until it was belatedly classified and no longer fit for the eyes of the general reading public.

Why the vanishing spell?

Nate Jones of the blog, Unredacted:
The US Agency for International Development is attempting to make this Inspector General’s Report on  corruption within the Afghan banking system disappear.  The Afghan Central Bank regulates all private banks in Afghanistan, sets monetary policy for the country, and was responsible for overseeing Kabul Bank which lost as much as $850 million due to “fraud and mismanagement.”  (Steve Aftergood at Secrecy News originally broke this gem of a story.)

According to the report, US Embassy officials were concerned that the US accounting firm Deloitte –which was awarded a “$92 million task order” to “develop and implement sound economic and regulatory policies” and “provide the foundation for private sector growth in a market economy” — had been negligent in their failure to prevent the near collapse of Kabul bank, the largest bank in Afghanistan in late 2010.
So why doesn’t USAID want the US public to see this report?  After a close read of this report, I think that the only information that it reveals that could “harm” US national security is the information that shows that our presence in Afghanistan may be wasteful, futile, and possibly harmful to US interests.  Of course, President Obama instructed agencies that, “The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, [or] because errors and failures might be revealed.”  This instruction appears to have been ignored by officials at USAID.
A USAID official told Steve Aftergood that, “At the time our report was issued, it was written utilizing information from non-classified sources…After our report had been issued, USAID subsequently classified two documents that were cited in our report.  This action resulted in the report becoming classified and we removed it from the web site.”
 The bottom line is that USAID appears to be abusing the classification system so that it can prevent Americans from reading that USAID had virtually no leverage over the corrupt and fraudulent Afghan banking system.  These are facts –inconvenient or not– that Americans deserve to see.

The unclassified messy version of the report posted online before it was retroactively classified is still available online via the National Security Archive here

At a time when things are looking not too shiny for USAID, this does not make things any better or easier. Why did 
USAID subsequently classified two documents that were cited in the IG report; and which documents are these, pray tell?

Could it be that the embarrassment factor in the report fallout is so spectacularly um, crazy bad that it could lead to pies on the faces of.... pardon me, which office and who's in charge? -- USAID's Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, the Afghanistan Director of USAID, and up the command chain it goes...   

Or it could simply be that according to the OIG "Nearly all of the USAID staff members we interviewed stated that they learned of the fraud through the Washington Post article in February 2010?"" 

The only way this report could possibly "harm" national security is if we finally realize that Afghanistan is a glaringly monster money shredder, and we refused to see it for what it is. And continue feeding it money for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. 

Oh wait -- here's the fallout that USAID may have been trying to avoid in withdrawing the OIG report: the UK and IMF are now withholding funds to
bankroll hundreds of "nation-building" projects in Afghanistan.

Via The Independent, May 22:
Coalition plans to pull out of Afghanistan are being hampered by theft and fraud totalling nearly $1bn, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. Hopes of a timely withdrawal of British troops from the region have been dealt a critical blow by revelations about massive bank frauds which have forced donors to suspend vital international aid.  
The Department for International Development (DfID) confirmed last night that it had followed the lead of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in withholding contributions to bankroll hundreds of "nation-building" projects in Afghanistan. 
The move, to "protect taxpayers' money", came as the full extent of the scandal at Kabul Bank – described as the biggest fraud in modern times – became clear. A secret US government report into the debacle "indicates that insiders at Kabul Bank used fraudulent loans to misappropriate $850m (£525m), representing 94 per cent of outstanding loans".

Folks - game's up, put the original report back up; don't you think that retroactively classifying a report that now lives on forever in the unclassified internet is simply futile and laughable?

Seriously, can't you hear them laughing their heads off and stomping out mad as hell?

Nope, I don't think Harry Potter's obliviate charm would work here. sorry.


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