After a pair of USA Today journalists started investigating wasteful spending in the Pentagon’s propaganda operations, one of the contractors singled out by the investigation struck back. Camille Chidiac, who owns nearly half of Leonie Industries, eventually admitted to setting up fake websites and online accounts to call the reputations of the USA Today journalists into question.
Chidiac’s actions earned a spot on the list of people who are not allowed to earn federal contractor dollars on May 30. But that doesn’t seem to be enough for Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), who already took up defending the journalists and callied for an investigation.
Johnson, USA Today reports, sent a letter to the Pentagon renewing his calls for a full investigation into the matter and for Leonie Industries — not just minority owner Chidiac — to be barred from receiving contracts. The letter said:
[The contractor's actions] suggest a pattern of malice, dishonesty, and incompetence that renders Leonie Industries unsuitable for continued service as a federal contractor. The intimidation of journalists, in particular, is unacceptable. The notion that taxpayers’ dollars would go to such a company is abhorrent.
The original USA Today feature investigative story that sparked Chidiac’s online retaliation laid out the level of money involved in the contracts — and exactly how unfit Leonie is to receive federal tax dollars. Chidiac and her brother and business partner Rema Dupont had more than $4 million dollars in liens for failing to pay their taxes. Their company nonetheless received gargantuan contracts:
Leonie Industries has Army contracts that could surpass $130 million; the Army has already paid them more than $90 million.
Those deals were to plant information in news items in Afghanistan and throw events that reflected well on the U.S. and the military with the aim of “bending the will of civilians and combatants to U.S. aims.”