census - GROS is hand in glove with Abu Ghraib firm

Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) www.sacc.org.uk
Friday 21 November 2008

New revelations from the General Register Office of Scotland (GROS) will add to the controversy surrounding its decision to award a contract for the next Scottish census to a UK subsidiary of CACI International, a company that provided interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison and and has been linked to allegations of torture.

GROS says that it was informed in advance of plans by CACI to threaten legal action against The Sunday Herald, Stop The War Coalition, PetitionOnline.com and SACC. GROS says it received copies of the letters that would be issued by CACI's lawyers. It also says that it sent 'drafts' of its own responses to Freedom of Information to CACI "to ensure the accuracy of the information regarding CACI (UK)."

The new information reveals that GROS has been working hand in glove with CACI to manage the adverse publicity that followed its decision on the census contract, announced at the end of June. It also shows that GROS's decision to award the to contract to CACI was based on a childishly uncritical reading of information supplied by the firm.

GROS says that its knowledge of CACI's work at Abu Ghraib was obtained from an oral presentation by CACI and from a copy of the book "Our Good Name" by CACI CEO Jack London, supplied to GROS by CACI. It didn't ask human rights organisations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch or the Center for Consititutional Rights for any background or for their views on human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib.

SACC believes that GROS's cavalier treatment of a major human rights issue was negligent and unprofessional.

GROS says it didn't obtain legal advice about CACI's plans to sue critics because it "had no reason to seek legal advice." That means that the letters to SACC and others from CACI's lawyers, Steptoe and Johnson, became, in effect, GROS's legal advice. So it's no surprise that much of the information provided by GROS reads like a corporate press statement from CACI.

The statement complained of by CACI's lawyers can still be read on the SACC website . Despite its threats, CACI has yet to initiate court proceedings over the statement. We think that speaks for itself.

We think that GROS's collusion with a firm involved in human rights abuses is a disgrace, and that the sooner the Scottish Government steps in to cancel the contract, the better.

Letter from the General Register Office of Scotland in response to a Freedom of Information Request

13 November 2008

Thank you for your request dated 21 October 2008 for information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 in regard to the Scottish census contract with CACI.

Answers to each of your questions are given below.

  1. Please provide a copy of the information supplied to GROS by CACI detailing work undertaken by CACI at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq, and the legal cases arising from this. Please indicate dates at which this material was supplied to GROS and the context in which it was presented to GROS eg whether it formed part of CACI's proposal for the census contract or was presented separately.

    Response: In early June, CACI (UK) gave GROS an oral briefing on the matter, and provided a copy of the book, authored by CACI Inc's CEO Jack London, entitled 'Defending our Good Name'. This information was presented separately, not as part of CACI (UK)�s proposal.
  2. What information, if any, about CACI's involvement in Abu Ghraib Prison has GROS obtained from sources other than CACI? At what dates did it obtain this information?

    Response: As part of the procurement process in early June GROS carried out a web search on CACI (UK) which provided information about the unproven allegations against CACI (UK)'s parent company, although these allegations had occurred approximately 4 years earlier. However, as unproven allegations against a parent company cannot be taken into account under EU Procurement rules, no further investigation was considered necessary.
  3. A letter to me from GROS, dated 20 October (GROS/11/32/01) and responding to an earlier FOI request, says "I can confirm that GROS was informed about legal action that could be initiated by CACI in response to criticism of the company following a number of media reports." In relation to this:

    a) What information has GROS received (and from whom) about which particular individuals, organisations or media outlets CACI was considering taking legal action against?

    Response: As a courtesy CACI (UK) informed GROS of its proposal to respond to media reports which CACI (UK) considered defamatory. We understood that CACI (UK) would respond to The Sunday Herald, Stop The War Coalition, PetitionOnline.com and SACC. GROS received copies of the letters that would be issued.

    b) What legal advice did GROS obtain or have access to in relation to this?Response: We had no reason to seek legal advice.

    c) What information was given by GROS to CACI or its legal representatives in relation to possible legal action?Response: No information was given by GROS to CACI (UK) or its legal representatives in relation to possible legal action.

    d) What information, if any, is GROS aware was given to CACI or its legal representatives by the Scottish Government in relation to possible legal action?

    Response: GROS is not aware of any information given by the Scottish Government to CACI (UK) or its legal representatives in relation to possible legal action.
  4. What consultations did GROS have with CACI in compiling its response to my previous Freedom of Information request (ie the responses in the two separate letters from GROS each with reference GROS/11/32/01) and the present Freedom of Information request?

    Response: GROS provided a draft copy to CACI (UK) of the response to your previous FOI request to ensure the accuracy of the information regarding CACI (UK). The present FOI request has been handled in a similar manner.
  5. What involvement will CACI have in the census rehearsals?

    Response: The contract with CACI (UK) includes provision of back-office support for the census rehearsal. This includes systems and services for printing of questionnaires, processing of data, and development of internet services.
  6. What are the dates for the census rehearsals?

    Response: The date for the census rehearsal in Scotland is 29th March 2009.

PETER SCRIMGEOUR
Census Director

Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence.http://www.opsi.gov.uk/click-use/index.htm