Posted by: Lister | August 25, 2007

Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel

Decline and Fall has recently posted from Iraq. It’s worth reading them all, but I’ll only copy one.

Those who blow whistle on contractor fraud in Iraq face penalties

One after another, the men and women who have stepped forward to report corruption in the massive effort to rebuild Iraq have been vilified, fired and demoted.

Or worse.

For daring to report illegal arms sales, Navy veteran Donald Vance says he was imprisoned by the American military in a security compound outside Baghdad and subjected to harsh interrogation methods.

There were times, huddled on the floor in solitary confinement with that head-banging music blaring dawn to dusk and interrogators yelling the same questions over and over, that Vance began to wish he had just kept his mouth shut.

He had thought he was doing a good and noble thing when he started telling the FBI about the guns and the land mines and the rocket-launchers – all of them being sold for cash, no receipts necessary, he said. He told a federal agent the buyers were Iraqi insurgents, American soldiers, State Department workers, and Iraqi embassy and ministry employees.

[…] So Vance says he blew the whistle, supplying photos and documents and other intelligence to an FBI agent in his hometown of Chicago because he didn’t know whom to trust in Iraq.

For his trouble, he says, he got 97 days in Camp Cropper, an American military prison outside Baghdad that once held Saddam Hussein, and he was classified a security detainee.

Also held was colleague Nathan Ertel, who helped Vance gather evidence documenting the sales, according to a federal lawsuit both have filed in Chicago, alleging they were illegally imprisoned and subjected to physical and mental interrogation tactics “reserved for terrorists and so-called enemy combatants.”

[…] Navy Capt. John Fleming, a spokesman for U.S. detention operations in Iraq, confirmed the detentions but said he could provide no further details because of the lawsuit.

[…] Vance said things went terribly wrong in April 2006, when he and Ertel were stripped of their security passes and confined to the company compound.


[At Camp Cropper] their jailers said they were being held as security internees because their employer was suspected of selling weapons to terrorists and insurgents, the lawsuit said.

[…] Released first was Ertel, who has returned to work in Iraq for a different company. Vance said he has never learned why he was held longer. His own interrogations, he said, seemed focused on why he reported his information to someone outside Iraq.

And then one day, without explanation, he was released. “They drove me to Baghdad International Airport and dumped me,” he said.

When he got home, he decided to never call the FBI again. He called a lawyer, instead.

“There’s an unspoken rule in Baghdad,” he said. “Don’t snitch on people and don’t burn bridges.” For doing both, Vance said, he paid with 97 days of his life.

It’s good to know they’re not playing dead. Vance’s doubts while at Camp Cropper are one thing. Now he’s out, and he’s fighting. Good for him.

Wiki — Donald Vance confirms, although their NYTimes cite requires registration.

Donald Vance — 2007 recipient of the Ridenhour Truth-Telling Prize

Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran, had been a long-time supporter of the war in Iraq. But that changed last April when, serving as a security contractor in Baghdad, he was detained by U.S. forces and held without charges for more than three months at Camp Cropper, one of Iraq’s most notorious military prison camps. There, Vance and a colleague, Nathan Ertel, were denied counsel and were largely prevented from communicating with the outside world. They were held in isolation in extremely cold cells without adequate clothing or blankets. Vance was also subjected to sleep deprivation, interrogation for hours and periodically denied food and water for long periods. The U.S. military eventually released both Vance and Ertel without explanation, admitting that they had done nothing wrong.



  1. What is the name of the lawyer representing Vance? I reported the embezzlement of $20K at a US Air Force hospital in South Carolina and was promptly fired from my federal civil service position.

  2. […] cominciò a raccogliere le prove di un sistema di vendita di armi sottobanco attraverso la SGS che arrivava fino agli impiegati dei ministeri iracheni. Di più, per i due contractor la compagnia avrebbe addirittura pagato con denaro contante a […]

  3. I’m sorry, John, but I don’t know.
    The original article is no longer available but you might try getting in touch with Newspress and them for more details/help.

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