SACC condemns award of census contract to subsidiary of "Abu Ghraib" firm

Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities. 5 September 2008

SACC is deeply concerned that CACI Ltd, a UK subsidiary of a company that has been involved in interrogating prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison, was in June awarded the contract to run the 2011 Scottish Census. We think that it is wrong to give business to a company that helped run Abu Ghraib and that it is unwise to ask Scots to give personal information to a company whose parent company is closely linked to the US military and intelligence communities.

CACI International Inc has a track record of trying to silence its critics by means of implausible threats of litigation. That's one more reason why Scotland should have nothing to do with it.

In common with other human rights organisations, SACC believes that the internment policies applied by the US-led Multi National Force (MNF) in Iraq deprive detainees of human rights guaranteed in international human rights norms.

People detained by MNF lack effective access to courts and are therefore vulnerable to further ill-treatment and torture in addition to the deprivation of liberty that they in any case suffer. A number of instances of ill-treatment and torture have been proven in US courts (the US courts didn't call it torture, but we do). A US military investigation in Iraq headed by Major General Antonio Taguba concluded in 2004 that Coalition forces were responsible for "systemic" and "illegal abuse of detainees" held at Abu Ghraib prison between August 2003 and February 2004.

SACC believes that the involvement of the US-based arm of CACI Ltd's parent company, CACI International Inc, in the abusive regime at Abu Ghraib Prison makes CACI Ltd unfit to run the Scottish census. We think that the Scottish Government needs to reconsider its decision urgently.

A question of trust

Following the award of the contract to CACI Ltd, Greg Bradford, Chief Executive Officer of CACI Ltd, said:

"We are honoured that GROS [General Register Office for Scotland] has placed its trust in us."

Before deciding to trust CACI, GROS should have asked "who are they?"

CACI Ltd is a wholly owned UK subsidiary of CACI International Inc. It is one of two major business groups that make up CACI International. It is sometimes referred to as CACI (UK). CACI International says that the UK operations "offer marketing systems software and database products for use by the retail community and builds large complex computer systems."

The other business group - CACI Inc - is based in the US. Its operations are said to "develop and implement complex systems integration solutions for federal, state and local and commercial customers." Much of its work is in the defence and intelligence sectors.

The General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) emphasises that the census contract was awarded to CACI Ltd, not to CACI International Inc. But CACI's corporate FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) web page presents the two CACI business groups (the UK and the much larger US group) as having comparable places in the CACI organisation. CACI's own material frequently makes no clear distinction between the US-based group (CACI Inc) and the parent company (CACI International Inc). This makes it very difficult to argue that the organisationally comparable UK-based group is so distinct from the parent company that the nature of the parent company should not be taken into account in assessing the UK company.

CACI International Inc says that CACI was contracted to provide interrogation services in Iraq between August 2003 and the early fall of 2005. It says that it no longer provides such services and that it has never provided them anywhere in the world except Iraq.

The mission statement of CACI International Inc - the parent company for both the US and UK-based business groups - begins by saying:

"CACI's mission is to be a leader in providing the information technology and consulting solutions America needs to defeat global terrorism, secure our homeland and improve government services."

SACC believes that the Scottish Government has not paid sufficient attention to the issues of data security inherent in asking Scottish households to provide information to a company whose mission is to advance the interests of the United States government.

According to a spokeswoman for General Register Office for Scotland (GROS):

"GROS staff will work closely with CACI (UK). We will commission independent audits of security arrangements and procedures to confirm that all security measures are being adhered to and continue to provide effective protection for personal information."

SACC fears that it will be difficult and extremely expensive to conduct audits that could establish to an acceptable standard whether CACI (UK) meets its obligations under UK data protection and census confidentiality legislation.

Torture allegations

As well as being involved in a detention regime characterised by the systemic denial of human rights, CACI International Inc has been accused in US courts by former Abu Ghraib detainees of involvement in their wrongful imprisonment and torture. Four former detainees, helped by the Center for Constitutional Rights, recently (June 2008) filed cases against CACI International Inc, CACI Premier Technology Inc and L-3 Services as well as against two former employees of CACI and a former employee of L3 (then Titan Corporation). CACI International strongly rejects these and other outstanding allegations and says:

"CACI has unequivocally renounced the abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib prison and has cooperated fully in all government inquiries of this matter. CACI does not condone or tolerate illegal or inappropriate behavior by any employee when engaged in CACI business."

But it also says elsewhere on its website:

"While these interrogator services were a small part of our overall business, they were crucial to our customer at war with a determined enemy. When the customer needs our services, we are proud to be of assistance."

SACC believes that CACI and its employees, like anyone else, are entitled to a fair hearing and to a presumption of innocence unless proven guilty. But we think that, in awarding the census contract, the Scottish Government should have taken into account CACI International's undisputed involvement in the scandalous detention regime at Abu Ghraib. Most people in Scotland view that regime with repugnance and will want no share in CACI's pride at the assistance it gave to the military torturers who were its customers.

Holding Torturers to account

The US stopped using Abu Ghraib Prison in 2006, but it continues to hold detainees at other locations in Iraq. In February 2008, the US military stated that the MNF was holding 23,900 people. Amnesty International says that ill-treatment and torture is still being reported. Torture and ill-treatment of detainees have been proven in US courts and there is copious evidence that, at least at the time of CACI's involvement with Abu Ghraib, there was a pervasive culture of abuse within the MNF. Yet no senior US administration official or military officer has so far been held to account, nor has any corporation that provided services to the military.

CACI chairman J Phillip London has authored a book called "Our Good Name" that claims to show "how CACI battled to defend itself against erroneous and malicious reports by a rampaging media." It looks like an attempt not just to launder CACI's reputation, but also to replace the story of the suffering of tortured detainees with the story of CACI's fight against embarrasment.

CACI says that it has cooperated fully with every government investigation. But it has also acted aggressively to suppress a number non-governmental attempts to get at the truth of Abu Ghraib.

At the beginning of August the US Appeals Court in Richmond threw out CACI's most famous lawsuit. Citing the First Amendment right to freedom of expression, it upheld a lower court's dismissal of CACI's defamation suit against former Air America radio host Randi Rhodes.

Scottish Government "sleeping at its post"

The Scottish Government must have been sleeping at its post to allow this music-hall joke of a company to get its hands on our census forms. Perhaps the Scottish public will be more alert. In all likelihood, unprecedented numbers of people will either risk the wrath of the law by failing to complete their forms, or will just choose to protect their privacy by filling the forms with nonsense.

GROS says that CACI (UK)'s proposals will deliver "best value for taxpayers' money." Some hope. So why not think again?

Notes and Background

  1. Online petition for an ethical Scottish Census in 2011
  2. For more on CACI's track record of litigation, see Torture in Iraq, Intimidation at Home by Joshua Holland (Alternet, November 21 2006),
  3. For background about detention and torture in Iraq, see the Amnesty International report Beyond Abu Ghraib: detention and torture in Iraq (pdf, March 2006) and their report Carnage and Despair (pdf, March 2008)
  4. For background about corporations and torture at Abu Ghraib, see the Center for Constitutional Rights factsheet (2008, no longer online)
  5. For responses by GROS and the Scottish Government to questions regarding the award of the census contract to CACI, see SNP response on CACI and the Scottish census
  6. For the lawsuit against CACI recently filed by four Iraqi detainees, see CCR Files Four New Abu Ghraib Torture Lawsuits Targeting Military Contractors in U.S. Courts (Center for Constitutional Rights Press Release, 30 June 2008),
  7. For the recent US Appeal Court judgement in the Randi Rhodes defamation case, see Appeals court sides with Air America host in defamation suit
  8. For more on the controversy created in Scotland by the census contract, see Scottish government hires firm accused of torture in Iraq by Neil Mackay, Sunday Herald, 27 July 2008 and SNP face backlash for hiring firm accused of Iraq torture by Neil Mackay, Sunday Herald, 24 August 2008

Supplementary Notes

According to Investor Glossary

"A wholly-owned subsidiary is a company whose stock is entirely owned by another company. The owner of a wholly-owned subsidiary is known as the parent company or holding company. Because the parent company owns all of the stock of the wholly-owned subsidiary, the parent company can control all of its activities. Moreover, under GAAP, all of the financial transactions of a wholly-owned subsidiary are consolidated with those of the parent company. Thus, all of the activities of the wholly-owned subsidiary are part and parcel of the parent company for both operating and reporting purposes. Why, then, does a company establish a wholly-owned subsidiary? A wholly-owned subsidiary is a separate entity for legal purposes. Thus the laws of the state or country in which the wholly-owned subsidiary is incorporated apply to the subsidiary, but not the parent company."

So all the financial activities of CACI limited are consolidated with those of CACI International Inc. Wealth generated by CACI Ltd benefits CACI International shareholders. CACI International Inc can control the actions of CACI Ltd, but British law cannot reach CACI International Inc.