Operation Enduring Torture
Officials at CACI, the giant defense contractor implicated in the Abu Ghraib scandal, must be watching the Athens Olympics. Yesterday, they attempted a double-reverse-flip-with-a-high-degree-of-difficulty media spin that, fairly judged, wouldn't have outscored even one of Paul Hamm's routine routines.
CACI, because it's a publicly traded company and is required to report events that may affect its market value, filed a "current report" yesterday with the SEC, prompted by the release of the Fay report, the latest probe of the Abu Ghraib scandal. The report by CACI (which uses the trademarked slogan "Ever Vigilant") was a press release titled "CACI Says the Fay Report Clearly Shifts Focus of Blame Away From Its Employee Named in a Previous Report." The equally compelling subhead: "Company Notes Employees Were Not Involved in Any Horrendous Acts." In the press release, CACI Chairman and CEO Jack London, trying not to build a fire, said:
We've endeavored to act responsibly at every turn. We were pleased to note that the Fay report clearly demonstrates that the responsibility for misconduct at Abu Ghraib was not that of the single CACI employee that had been vilified in the Taguba report. Nothing in the Fay report can be construed as CACI employees directing, participating in, or even observing anything close to what we have all seen in the dozens of horrendous photos. No CACI employee appeared in any of the photos released earlier. And from this report and the Schlesinger report yesterday, there certainly seems to have been plenty of confusion present, about what interrogation methods were authorized and under what conditions.
Nonetheless, we are disappointed and disheartened by the news that any of our employees or former employees are alleged to have engaged in any improper or inappropriate behavior at any time in our efforts to assist the U.S. Army in their intelligence efforts abroad.
OK, now back to the real world.
The Fay report (named after one of the generals who conducted the inquiry), alleges that CACI interrogators "used dogs to scare prisoners" and "encouraged soldiers to abuse prisoners at Abu Ghraib," The Washington Post reported.
One CACI interrogator, the paper said, "is accused of humiliating a prisoner by shaving his head and forcing him to wear red women's underwear." It's believed that this interrogation technique proved to U.S. officials that women's panties, even red ones, are insufficient to provide the kind of support that a man, even an Iraqi man, needs.
The Fay report also alleged, as the Post put it, that a CACI interrogator "grabbed a prisoner from a vehicle, pulled him to the ground, and dragged him to an interrogation booth as the prisoner tried to stand." The same interrogator refused orders from a military officer, saying, "I have been doing my job for 20 years and do not need a 20-year-old to tell me how to do my job."
Apparently, these activities never became Kodak moments.
The report also found that about half of CACI's interrogators weren't properly trained. The Post noted that CACI employee Steve A. Stefanowicz, who was accused in an earlier Army report of a role in the abuses, wasn't mentioned in the Fay report. (Stefanowicz has denied wrongdoing.)
The Fay report did, however, refer the names of six CACI employees to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.
Luckily, things are going great for CACI. Just last week, the company reported that heavier demand for its homeland security and intelligence services helped hike its fourth-quarter profit by 56 percent, compared with a year ago.
It was a record-setting personal best by this corporate citizen.
"This growth," a thrilled CACI said, "is a result of the company's strategic focus on national security, the global war against terrorism, and the reshaping of the way government agencies communicate, use and disseminate information, and deliver services to the citizens."
Just last week, CACI won a $126 million contract from the U.S. Navy. But for another view of CACI, go to the Project on Government Oversight's "Federal Contractor Misconduct" page, where you'll find a May 28 POGO report that said the government was considering barring CACI from future contracts. Or read this May 17 Washington Post overview of CACI's dealings with the government.