Army e-mail clouds Cheney-KBR picture

WASHINGTON, June 20 (UPI) -- A government watchdog last week obtained new documents it says raises new questions about vice president Cheney's involvement in a Halliburton's Iraq contract.

"The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers may have publicly lied regarding the involvement of the vice president's office in awarding the contract," said Judicial Watch, citing documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Army Corps of Engineers awarded the "Restore Iraqi Oil" contract worth up to $7 billion to Halliburton subsidiary KBR. It maintains the contract was awarded on KBR's merits rather than under political influence. Cheney's job just prior to the White House was chairman of Halliburton.

In 2004, Judicial Watch obtained an e-mail from an Army Corps of Engineers employee that recounted a meeting with a Pentagon official about the declassification of part of the oil contract so Halliburton could share it with subcontractors.

The request was approved "contingent on informing (the White House) tomorrow. We anticipate no issue since action has been coordinated with (the vice president's) office," the March 5, 2003 email said.

Last week, however, Judicial Watch released another e-mail it claims shows the Army Corps of Engineers general counsel lied to a "60 Minutes" reporter. On April 22, 2003, a public affairs officer for the Corps recounted the taped interview. The e-mail states that the attorney told the reporter: "There was no contact whatsoever (with the VP office)."

Lt. Col. Stan Heath, a spokesman for the Corps, said the general counsel's comment referred to "no contact" with the vice president's office about the Restore Iraqi Oil contract.

The March 3, 2003 e-mail referenced "coordinating" with the vice president's office on whether to declassify part of the contract, not whether to give the contract to KBR. "The Corps maintains that (we) did not coordinate with the White House," he said, adding the Pentagon had "informed" the White House about the declassification in the March 2003 e-mail.