A cellphone video released Wednesday allegedly captures several U.S. defense contractors staggeringly drunk or high on narcotics while stationed at an operations center in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The video was given to ABC News by two former employees of Jorge Scientific who felt that the pattern of drug use and outrageous behavior jeopardized American lives. This behavior, they say, was undetected by the U.S. military, which is responsible for overseeing contractors, until the video was provided to ABC. One of the whistleblowers, John Melson, told ABC News: “It was going against everything that we were trying to do over there.”
The two employees, Melson and Kenny Smith, worked as armed security officers in Kabul as part of a $47 million government contract with the Arlington, Virginia-based defense company, which led efforts to train the Afghan National Police in counter-insurgency tactics, according to ABC. They have now filed a lawsuit against Jorge Scientific, alleging widespread misconduct and fraud under the False Claims Act.
In a statement, Jorge Scientific says that it has taken “decisive action to correct the unacceptable behavior of a limited number of employees that occurred at an administrative living facility in Afghanistan.” The U.S. military has launched an investigation into the incident. In a statement to ABC News, the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan said that the “behavior such as that described by ABC news is not acceptable for U.S. personnel, but it is not indicative of the outstanding work that thousands of contractors and service members perform every day in Afghanistan.”
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In the video, a shirtless man takes long swigs from a glass, slumps over and begins kicking the air. Nearby tables are cluttered with bottles of alcohol. Later in the video, the same man, alleged to be the security manager, engages another employee in a wrestling match.
“It was like a frat house for adults,” Melson told ABC. “Some of them to the point where they were passing out, there’s firearms laying around, some of them still carrying the firearms on them.”
Another segment of the video shows the unit’s medical officer, Kevin Carlson, after allegedly injecting himself with the narcotic Ketamine. During this portion of the video, Carlson is unresponsive, appears to be disoriented and has a confused look on his face, while a syringe lays on the floor nearby. He was dismissed by Jorge Scientific earlier this year but admitted to ABC News that there was “massive drug and alcohol abuse,” at the facility, which included executives, armed security personnel and himself, ABC reports.
Melson and Smith also told ABC News that personnel under the influence would often throw rounds of live ammunition into bonfires. More than just a personal hazard, the bonfires represented a professional hazard. The operations center was meant to be a covert location in Kabul because of the sensitivity of their mission. Having a raging bonfire blazing on the patio had the potential to jeopardize such secrecy. Early this year, Jorge Scientific said in a statement, “new leadership implemented a no-drinking policy and dismantled the bonfire pit at the center of the misbehavior.” The video, and the allegations made by Melson and Smith, predate these changes, the company noted.
The company’s operations manual states that the company has a “zero-tolerance for alcohol and drug use,” as all staff must be on alert in case of a possible terror attack. But what happened in Kabul didn’t stay in Kabul, and now the U.S. Army has also launched a criminal investigation into the employees’ alleged misconduct.