Scottish Census 2011

Key work for the 2011 Scottish Census was carried out by CACI, a firm whose US-based parent company was involved in human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq., despite a campaign by SACC and others to persuade the Scottish Government to cancel the contract with CACI

US courts have given CACI International immunity from lawsuits relating to its involvement in torture and abuse. But people in Scotland who refused, as a matter of conscience, to participate fully in the census are being pursued as criminals through the Scottish courts. We need to do everything possible to make sure that every one of these cases puts CACI into the dock of public opinion, even if we can't get them into the dock of a courtroom.

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Scotland's Census - the Facts

The 2011 Scottish census will be run by CACI Ltd. CACI Ltd has been given an £18.5 million contract for key information technology work and other services for the 2011 Scottish Census. CACI Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of CACI International. That means that all the money it makes belongs to CACI International. But CACI International remains beyond the reach of Scottish and British law.

CACI International is a US-based defence contractor. From August 2003 until the early autumn of 2005 it was contracted to provide "interrogation services" for the US Army at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. While CACI staff were employed as interrogators at Abu Ghraib, prisoners were humiliated and tortured there by US military police. Photographs of the abuse shocked the world and led to the conviction of a number of low-ranking US soldiers by courts martial.

CACI denies any wrongdoing. But CACI is trying to block lawsuits brought against it by former Abu Ghraib prisoners by claiming "official immunity." The US Supreme Court is currently considering whether to allow one of the lawsuits (involving over 250 Iraqi plaintiffs) to go ahead. Another case (involving 4 Iraqi plaintiffs) is currently before the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Virginia.

Former Abu Ghraib detainees say they were tortured in various ways by CACI and its co-conspirators, including torture with electric shocks, beating, forced nakedness, forced participation in physical activities to the point of exhaustion, sensory deprivation, deprivation of food, deprivation of oxygen and torture with extremely hot and cold water.

CACI staff interrogated people held without charge or trial at Abu Ghraib. Prisoners they questioned were deprived of human rights guaranteed in international norms. The "rules of engagement" at Abu Ghraib permitted sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation and intimidation by dogs.

SACC launched a petition in 2008 calling on the Scottish Government to cancel the contract with CACI. CACI International threatened two SACC members with legal action over the petition. After taking legal advice, SACC declined to remove or change the petition. No legal action has followed. The petition is now closed for signatures but it can still be read on our website.

The Scottish Government says it "understands the views" of people who have written to it about the contract. It says it has set up a new "contract structure" to "distance" CACI from personal data collected by the census. But it has not explained in detail how data protection under the new contract structure will be enforced. The Scottish and British Governments accept that data held by any US-based company can be accessed by the US Government under powers provided by the Patriot Act.

EU Procurement rules set out in Directive 2004/18/EC give contacting authorities discretion to exclude a contractor that "has been guilty of grave professional misconduct proven by any means which the contracting authorities can demonstrate." The Scottish Government has chosen not to use this discretionary power.

It's completely unacceptable that Scottish taxpayers are being asked to support a company that has been involved in shameful human rights abuses and is trying to use its status as a military contractor to duck accountability in US courts.

The use of contractors is just one of the methods used to protect abusers from accountability. In Britain, secrecy, deception and stonewalling have all been employed to protect British soldiers and officials from serious investigation. The British Government is trying to limit investigations into military involvement in abuse in Iraq to the insultingly-named "Iraq Historic Allegations Team."

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What should the Scottish Government do?

  • It still isn't too late for the Scottish Government must cancel the census contract with CACI. It could then make arrangementsfor an ethically-conducted census to be held at a later date - perhaps in 2012.
  • The Scottish Government should seek compensation from CACI for any costs incurred by cancelling the contract. It appears from material provided by the General Register Office of Scotland (GROS) in response to Freedom of Information requests that CACI may have failed to inform GROS adequately about its role at Abu Ghraib and about the lawsuits brought against it in the US.

What You can Do

The Scottish Government says:

"It would be impossible to carry out a census without the willing co-operation of the public"

So DON'T give the census your willing co-operation. You wouldn't want to co-operate with human rights abusers, would you?

  • You aren't obliged to co-operate with the census enumerators, so don't do it. Be courteous. The enumerators and other census staff are only doing a job. But don't give them any useful information. Don't tell them whether or not you intend to fill in your census form. Don't accept any offers from them to help you fill it in.
  • You are legally obliged to complete your census form. If you don't, you could be prosecuted and, if convicted, you could be fined a maximum of £1000. But the risk of prosecution is very slight indeed. According to official estimates, over 200,000 people were missed from the 2001 Scottish census. Just 8 cases were forwarded to the Procurator Fiscal and 3 were "successfully" prosecuted. We expect that a lot of people will be ignoring their census forms this year.
  • You are legally obliged to complete your census form truthfully. If you don't, you could be prosecuted and, if convicted, you could be fined a maximum of £1000. But it would be extremely difficult - in most cases impossible - for the authorities to bring a successful prosecution for inaccuracies on a census form. Many kinds of inaccuracy could be the result of simple mistakes. The authorities have no legitimate means of checking much of the information. If a large number of people garbled their census forms a little bit, that would strengthen our campaign to persuade researchers to boycott the results of the 2011 census.
  • Write to your MSPs and Councillors to let them know your concerns over CACI's involvement with the census. For guidance on issues to raise, see:
    Write to your MSPs

After Census Day - a Monument to the Victims of Abuse

If you are a researcher, DON'T make any use of data from the 2011 Scottish Census. Explain in your publications why you aren't using the 2011 data. That way the census will stand, for as long as the records exist, as a monument to the victims of Abu Ghraib and the victims of corporate human rights abuse everywhere.

Also See

EthicalCensus - Campaign for an Ethical Scottish Census in 2011

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