On the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, California Democrat Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter today to Defense Secretary Robert Gates seeking details about electrocutions of military and contract workers in Iraq and about KBR's role in making electrical repairs.Waxman has asked the Pentagon to respond to his inquiry by April 4.
Defense Department spokesman Chris Isleib said the Pentagon "considers this matter to be serious, and we have referred it to the (Department of Defense) Inspector General for a full investigation."
KBR officials pledged to cooperate fully with agencies involved in the probe.
The probe was sparked by the death of SSG Ryan Maseth who was electrocuted when he stepped into a shower in his living quarters. The military originally told his mother that he had a small electrical appliance in the shower with him, but that was a cover story; a lie. He was electrocuted because a water pump was improperly installed, and bypassed the circuit breaker.
At first, Maseth's mother tried to get answers on her own, but was unable to. So she contacted her congressman, Jason Altmire, a Democrat. Altmire started digging, and referred what he found to Representative Waxman, who chairs the Oversight Committee.
Those deaths, said Altmire, were "[e]asily preventable. You wonder how it even could happen one time. But if a tragedy does occur once — because of a mistake — how could it possibly occur 12 times?" he asked.
Congressman, don't be coy. Money. That's how it can happen.