Democrats See Smoking Gun in E-Mail on Halliburton

Times Staff Writer

Democrats on Tuesday called for a full investigation of one of the most politicized issues in the reconstruction of Iraq: whether Vice President Dick Cheney was involved in a decision to award Halliburton Corp. a multibillion-dollar contract to rebuild the country’s oil infrastructure.

Democrats charged that a recently released U.S. Army e-mail showed that Cheney, president of Halliburton between 1995 and 2000, had coordinated action relating to the contract, awarded without bidding and worth up to $7 billion.

The nonprofit Judicial Watch obtained the one-page e-mail earlier this year as part of a Freedom of Information Act request to the Army Corps of Engineers, which awarded the contract in March 2003.


“Every single aspect of this is so out of the ordinary,” said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) at a teleconference organized by the Kerry campaign. “It raises the real question: Can the American people trust their government to do the right thing?”

Halliburton has repeatedly been questioned on its work in Iraq, with investigations into billing on fuel contracts.

The e-mail, apparently between two Army Corp officials, refers to a decision to publicize the awarding of the contract to Halliburton, which was negotiated in secret for months. The message says that Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of Defense for policy and a Cheney ally, had approved the decision to declassify the news “contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow.”

Democrats said it was highly unusual to have high-ranking officials review such a contract.

Cheney’s office, however, repeated the vice president’s earlier assertions that he had nothing to do with the decision to award the contract.

Pentagon officials said the word “coordination” was simply a reference to letting the vice president know about a decision that had been made.


“You can obviously understand the sensitivity to make sure there were no surprises,” said Lawrence Di Rita, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman. “That’s all it was.”