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60 Minutes: Corruption In Iraq Killing US Troops With US Dollars

[media id=4957] [media id=4958] 60 Minutes on Sunday explored the rampant corruption going on throughout the Iraqi government, and how much of the u

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60 Minutes on Sunday explored the rampant corruption going on throughout the Iraqi government, and how much of the up to $18 billion missing or unaccounted for has been finding its way into the hands of militias that have been responsible for attacks on coalition forces. What's more, they detail how Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was able to immunize all current and former Iraqi officials, including himself and his family, from any further investigation or prosecution, the State Dept's refusal to cooperate with any investigation, the ostracism and apparent abandonment of the one Iraqi official who braved death threats, and the murder of dozens of his staff, to successfully prosecute corrupt officials before PM Malaki effectively shut him down, and how one such former official, Aiham Alsammarae, who had already been convicted and was set to face even more charges for billions of missing funds while he was the Minister of Electricity, brazenly escaped a Green Zone jail with the help of U.S. contractors (twice) and is currently living large in a Chicago suburb.

Full 13 minute report and transcript here. A look at some of the events, documents and key players after the jump.

Judge Radhi al-Radhi: The former head of the Commission on Public Integrity who was tasked with weeding out corruption in Iraqi government. Judge Radhi was pushed out of his job by PM Maliki and forced to flee Iraq, lucky to have gotten out alive, unlike the 31 members of his staff and their family members who were murdered. He currently resides in a Washington DC suburb as he seeks asylum in the US. Judge Radhi basically has been abandoned by the State Dept as they have thus far refused to cooperate, as Judge Radhi has, with ongoing Congressional investigations into corruption in Iraq.

Memo (PDF) banning Judge Radhi's Commission on Public Integrity (CPI) from investigating Iraqi officials without the consent of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Aiham Alsammarae: A wealthy Iraqi expatriate and Chicago area resident with dual citizenship recruited to become the Electricity Minister under Paul Bremer. Alsammarae was later the only Iraqi official found guilty, not in absentia, of corruption, and had more charges pending relating to billions in missing funds when he was busted out of a green zone jail - twice: The first time on Oct 11, 2006 when, reportedly, the two US contractors assigned to protect him overpowered Iraqi police and rushed him from a courtroom to the US embassy but later returned him. The two contractors later claimed they “were fired for doing our jobs, per protocol and with the full knowledge and blessings of our superiors” as Alsammarae claimed that his life was in danger. A spokesman for DynCorp later confirmed much of those details. A few weeks later investigators in the US looking into an Iraqi power plant deal involving Antoin "Tony" Rezko, leaked that they wanted to talk to Alsammarae about how his former college buddy managed to land that contract. Then the second time Alsammarae escaped he was apparently freed from a Green Zone jail on Dec 16, 2006 by a team working for Blackwater USA, and despite being wanted by Interpol he managed to return to the US a few weeks later. He currently resides in his gated Chicago suburb where homes range "from $1.5 million to $4 million."

While the following is speculation on my part, I must admit that the timing and manner of Alsammarae's escape, his ability to return to the US and resume his life apparently open and unimpeded, and the timing of his name popping up in a politically sensitive case nearly a year before Attorney General Gonzales resigned raises all kinds of flags for me, as I would think it might anyone who has followed closely the US Atty Scandal and the Don Siegelman saga. All that said, I really hope I'm wrong about that.

In Sept 2007 the State Department retroactively classified this previously "Sensitive but Unclassified" report detailing widespread fraud, intimidation and embezzlement within the Iraqi government, but not before it made its way onto the internets. Since then, the State Department has thus far refused to cooperate with Congressional investigations or turn over documents relating to corruption in Iraq.

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