Headline of the day: “The CIA, Siberia, and the $5m bar bill”

Headline of the day: “The CIA, Siberia, and the $5m bar bill”

Wired correspondent Sharon Weinberger has a compelling investigative piece in the New York Post about the CIA’s quest for Russian helicopters to sneak into Afghanistan before the full-scale U.S. invasion. It’s a tale of secrecy, corruption, Siberian cold, and credit card rewards.

Here’s a bit of Weinbeger’s synopsis at Wired’s Danger Room:

As with many “black” programs, the contract had elements of craziness: Contracting officials paid the multimillion-dollar contract on a credit card at a local El Paso bar and then used the credit card rebate to redecorate their office; the team traveled under the guise of being private contractors; and the charter crew transporting the group abandoned the team in Russia in the middle of the night.

Ultimately, a five-year investigation into the mission led to the conviction of the Army official in charge and the contractor who bought the helicopters on charges of corruption. The two men, currently in federal prison, are appealing their convictions.

The full article is a thrilling read.

For more of Weinberger’s coverage of questionable helicopter contracting, check out her April piece, “How to get a no-bid contract for Russian choppers.” Turns out being a middleman in U.S.-Russian arms deals is pretty lucrative. 

When U.S. taxpayers shell out for these kinds of shenanigans, at least we’re getting some entertainment value.

Above, Russian Mi-17s in 2007.