Army tries to halt retired general’s work as KBR expert
Posted by defensebaseactcomp on February 25, 2010
The U.S. Army is trying to stop retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who once led U.S. forces in Iraq, from continuing to be an expert for KBR in a lawsuit against it over civilian truck driver deaths and injuries.
Sanchez is being paid $650 an hour and has reviewed documents and written a report that support’s KBR’s contention it should not be held legally responsible for the deaths of six civilian truck drivers and the injuries of others in a 2004 ambush in Iraq.
The suing drivers and family members contend that KBR should have stopped the convoys when it was warned that attacks would increase on April 9, 2004, the first anniversary of the day allies in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq reached Baghdad.
KBR argues that the military approved sending the convoys out and several laws protect KBR from responsibility in a wartime situation. The Army contracts with KBR to provide transportation, food services and other logistical support.
Scott Allen, a plaintiff’s lawyer in the case, told U.S. District Judge Gray Miller this afternoon that lawyers for the Army have sent notice that Sanchez cannot be deposed and cannot give expert testimony.
Bruce Hurley, a lawyer for KBR, said the defense still plans to present Sanchez for deposition next week. “He stands ready,” Hurley said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Hu, who will represent the Army in further discussions about the deposition, declined to comment on the case.
Miller said the deposition should go on as planned and the parties can deal with the issue if Sanchez, who lives in San Antonio, doesn’t appear. “He’s retired from the Army,” the judge said. “I don’t know what control the Army has.”
Plaintiffs say they have a military expert who will support their position.
In his report for KBR on the 2004 ambush, Sanchez writes that KBR leadership was getting “emotional, hyperbolic, CNN-filtered, open source information, not intelligence” that was warning that the convoys could be ambushed.
Sanchez says no battlefield leader could have known the convoy would be attacked. KBR leadership did stop convoys the day after six civilians were killed and 14 injured in the truck convoy ambush.
Sanchez retired in 2006 after 33 years of service — under something of a cloud because the abuse of inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison that became an international scandal occurred on his watch. The Army cleared him of responsibility.
Milller previously tossed out the group of three lawsuits against KBR. But after an appellate court asked him to take a second look and new evidence came to light, Miller ruled on several issues differently, making it more likely the case actually will go to trial in a few months.