Contracting intelligence

Department of Interior releases Abu Ghraib contract



The Center for Public Integrity has obtained the 11 work orders worth $66.2 million awarded to CACI International Inc., the company at the heart of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal in Iraq. Details of the work orders did not come to light until last April, when reports emerged of U.S. interrogators allegedly abusing prisoners at the notorious Baghdad prison.

In Iraq, Virginia-based CACI provides "interrogation support and analysis work for the U.S. Army in Iraq," according to the company. Job descriptions obtained by the Center show that CACI employees performed a variety of tasks in Iraq. Contractors were tasked with missions such as "debriefing of personnel ... intelligence report writing/quality control, and screening/interrogation of detainees at established holding areas." These contractors worked closely with military personnel. For example, those hired as interrogators were assigned to "coordinate and work in conjunction with [Military Police] unit and [Military Intelligence] interrogation units assigned to support operations of the Theater/Division Interrogation Facility."

First reported by The New Yorker, an Army investigation led by Major General Antonio M. Taguba, accused a CACI employee of being complicit in the physical abuse of prisoners. There have been several government investigations into the role of CACI and its employees surrounding the prison scandal. The firm says it is cooperating with the government's probes and has denied any wrongdoing.

In order to make up for the lack of interrogators, the Army decided to hire contractors to aid in the work. According to an Army Inspector General's report, CACI has had 31 interrogators in Iraq since beginning work on Aug. 14, 2003, and as of May 2004, 19 are still in the country. Thirty-five percent of the 31 interrogators provided by CACI did not have any "formal training in military interrogation policies and techniques," according to the Army Inspector General. The rest of the contract staff had prior experience as military interrogators.

Although the Army's IG was told that there was a training program for the interrogators hired through CACI, the IG did not find any evidence of a formal program during its inspections in Iraq. When the IG requested proof of a training program, he was told that documentation for the training only began in May 2004, after pictures of the prison abuses appeared in media around the world. Prior to this, neither the Army nor the company required that contract interrogators receive "formal, comprehensive, military-specific interrogator training," according to the Army IG.

When the Center for Public Integrity first published its report on contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan in October 2003, CACI did not appear on any lists of contracts provided by the Army. This may be due to the number of agencies often involved in the contracting process. CACI's work orders, for example, are funded by the Army but were awarded through the Department of the Interior, which used a General Services Administration contract designed for information technology purchases.

The GSA negotiates contracts with private companies, which then can be used throughout the government to acquire goods and services. Also known as a blanket-purchase agreement, the CACI contract was originally awarded in 1998 with a $500 million limit. Work orders awarded through these GSA contracts do not have to be competitively bid.

After the Army IG report was released, which broadly determined there were no systemic problems that resulted in the prisoner abuses, CACI issued a statement saying the company was "pleased that the report by the U.S. Army Inspector General has determined that all interrogators provided by the company satisfied the Army's statement of work criteria."

Interrogation services, however, were not among the items that agencies could purchase from CACI under this contract.

CACI's work orders for interrogation and logistics should not have been awarded as part of the larger information technology contract, according to a report released by the Department of the Interior's Inspector General on July 16. Using this GSA contract for these services "was therefore improper," wrote the Inspector General. Only one out of the 11 orders awarded to CACI was determined to follow the original contract scope.

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