Then several representatives from Halliburton entered. Greenhouse, a top contracting specialist for the Army Corps of Engineers, grew increasingly concerned that they were privy to internal discussions of the contract's terms, so she whispered to the presiding general, insisting that he ask the Halliburton employees to leave the room.
Once they had gone, Greenhouse raised other concerns. She argued that the five-year term for the contract, which had not been put out for competitive bid, was not justified, that it should be for one year only and then be opened to competition. But when the contract-approval document arrived the next day for Greenhouse's signature, the term was five years. With war imminent, she had little choice but to sign. But she added a handwritten reservation that extending a no-bid contract beyond one year could send a message that "there is not strong intent for a limited competition."
Greenhouse seems to have got nothing but trouble for questioning the deal. Warned to stop interfering and threatened with a demotion, the career Corps employee decided to act on her conscience, according to her lawyer, Michael Kohn. Kohn, who has represented other federal whistle-blowers, last week sent a letter—obtained by TIME from congressional sources—on her behalf to the acting Secretary of the Army. In it Kohn recounts Greenhouse's Pentagon meeting and demands an investigation of alleged violations of Army regulations in the contract's awarding. (The Pentagon justified the contract procedures as necessary in a time of war, saying KBR was the only choice because of security clearances that it had received earlier.) Kohn charges that Greenhouse's superiors have tried to silence her; he says she has agreed to be interviewed, pending approval from her employer, but the Army failed to make her available despite repeated requests from TIME.
The Pentagon maintains that it awarded Halliburton's Iraq contracts appropriately, as does a Halliburton spokeswoman. A senior military official says the Army "has referred the matter to the inspector general of the Department of Defense." As for Halliburton, it has faced alleged cost overruns, lost profits and seen at least 54 company contractors killed in Iraq. Greenhouse, meanwhile, has requested protection from retaliation. But her career—and reputation—are on the line.