Homeland Security, ICE agents raid EOD Technology Inc. in Loudon
Unmarked cars are parked Wednesday outside EOD Technology Inc. headquarters in Lenoir City where federal agents executed a search warrant.

By Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com

LENOIR CITY - Federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Wednesday raided a defense contractor in Loudon County involved in security operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The agents, with assistance from the Lenoir City Police Department, descended on EOD Technology Inc. headquarters early Wednesday and spent the day poring through records. Employees were ushered from their workplace throughout the morning as federal agents entered the corporation's three-building campus on Old Highway 95 with boxes and carts.

As many as a dozen agents, most wearing blue, Federal Agent windbreakers, were on site during the day, going in and out of the buildings. Agents were seen unloading equipment from unmarked vehicles and carrying paperwork between the various buildings on the EOD Technology campus. The agents also were seen escorting several occupants of the buildings to their vehicles.

Agents declined to comment, instead referring all questions to ICE media relations and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Knoxville. A Homeland Security Department agent, however, did say the agencies were executing a federal search warrant on the company, and a Lenoir City dispatcher said police were providing support.

Temple Black, a spokesman with the Department of Homeland Security, confirmed the agency's role in the EODT investigation. Black also referred questions about the raid to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Knoxville.

"I can confirm that Homeland Security Investigations is involved in a law enforcement investigation in Lenoir City, Tenn.," Black said in a statement. "However, in order to preserve the integrity of the ongoing investigation, we are precluded from making any further comments at this time."

EODT then released a comment on the raid Wednesday afternoon.

"This event came as a complete surprise to us," the company said in a statement released by its Nashville public relations firm, McNeely Pigott & Fox.

"We are a very responsibly run company with a strong ethical standard, and do not know of anything that could have triggered this event. We are cooperating with the federal investigators to help clear up whatever concerns there are. We obviously would not have been selected for some of the sensitive and important projects we handle for our country around the world had we not been thoroughly investigated before and found to be trustworthy. We plan to continue serving our customers and keep our focus on our work. We hope this matter will be resolved swiftly."

EOD Technology has taken active roles in U.S. military action in Iraq and has operations and employees supporting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The company was named in an October New York Times story about Afghan private security forces with ties to the Taliban, Iranian intelligence and criminal networks being hired to guard American military bases in Afghanistan.

The story cited a Senate Armed Services Committee report that some Afghans hired by EOD, which was awarded a U.S. Army contract to provide security at a training center for Afghan police officers, were also providing information to Iran.

In October, a Kuwaiti manufacturer of temporary housing was among several plaintiffs that sued the company in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, alleging that the company stole more than $1 million worth of prefabricated shelters.

The suit alleged that the manufacturer was paying EOD to guard a manufacturing compound in Kabul, Afghanistan, and that in October, 2009, EOD security personnel stormed the compound, loaded housing modules onto 15 flatbed trucks, and held employees of the manufacturer at gunpoint before leaving.

EOD Technology was founded in 1987 by two retired Marine sergeants, and was initially focused on the task of removing unexploded ordnance from former military sites in the U.S. and hot spots overseas. Since then it has grown significantly, and came in at No. 86 in Government Executive magazine's ranking of the Top 100 defense contractors for 2008. For fiscal year 2009, a federal government listing of contractors at www.USAspending.gov found that EODT had received contracts worth $66.8 million. In 2009, the company received a $99.9 million contract to provide security services in eastern Afghanistan.