Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Sky's the Limit

The Natio

The Sky's the Limit

Ari Berman

Talk about under the radar: Just before the New Year, the Washington Post disclosed a $16 million contract renewal from the Pentagon to defense company CACI. The piece neglected to note CACI's role as one of the two main civilian contractors implicated in the prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. And just yesterday, the other major contractor, the Titan Corporation, won a new $164 million deal from the Defense Department.

Though Spc. Charles Graner and his girlfriend, Private Lynndie England, became the Bush Administration's hand-picked scapegoats--with Graner currently on trial facing seventeen years in jail--CACI and Titan were intimately involved in the prison's torture tactics. As part of CACI's $66 million contract for "tasks" in Iraq, it employed nearly half of the interrogators and analysts at Abu Ghraib. Roughly a third never received formal military interrogation training, and at least one civilian interrogator was hired without a resume, follow-up interview, fingerprints or a criminal records check, according to Titan had a much larger $657 million contract for Iraq and Afghanistan, supplying all the translators for Abu Ghraib.

The Army's official Taguba Report on the Abu Ghraib scandal implicated three civilian contractors in the abuses: Steven Stefanowicz from CACI and John Israel and Adel Nakhla from Titan. Stefanowicz was charged with giving orders that "equated to physical abuse," Israel of lying under oath and Naklha of raping an Iraqi boy. The Justice Department, on referral from DoD, opened a criminal investigation into an unnamed civilian contractor, but no criminal charges have since been filed. In June the Center for Constitutional Rights asked the US government to bar CACI and Titan from any future contacts.

Instead the Pentagon turned agony into ecstasy, awarding CACI over $500 million and Titan at least $1.5 billion in new or renewed contracts if all options are exercised. CACI recently reported $388 million in revenue for the first quarter of this year, a 65 percent jump from last year. Titan has yet to announce.

"We are very close to this client," CACI's acting COO Bill Fairl told the Post after winning December's contract to improve supply operation and fleet readiness for the Navy and Marine Corps. "We stay so close we are on board ship with them."

So close that not even the serious possibility of institutionalized torture can stop CACI and Titan from raking it in.

Originaly published Jan 13, 2005