As prison ringleader awaits sentence, defence contractors win multi-million Pentagon contracts
Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor
Sunday January 16, 2005
Two US defence contractors being sued over allegations of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison have been awarded valuable new contracts by the Pentagon, despite demands that they should be barred from any new government work.
Three employees of CACI International and Titan - working at Abu Ghraib as civilian contractors - were separately accused of abusive behaviour.
The report on the Abu Ghraib scandal implicated three civilian contractors in the abuses: Steven Stefanowicz from CACI International 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.
It was also alleged that CACI interrogators used dogs to scare prisoners, placed detainees in unauthorised 'stress positions' and encouraged soldiers to abuse prisoners. Titan employees, it has been alleged, hit detainees and stood by while soldiers physically abused prisoners.
Investigators also discovered systemic problems of management and training - including the fact that a third of CACI International's staff at Abu Ghraib had never received formal military interrogation training.
Despite demands by human rights groups in the US that the two companies be barred from further contracts in Iraq - where CACI alone employed almost half of all interrogators and analysts at Abu Ghraib - CACI International has been awarded a $16 million renewal of its contract. Titan, meanwhile, has been awarded a new contract worth $164m.
Despite the allegations in the internal US army report, the two companies have described the claims against them 'baseless' and as 'a malicious recitation of false statements and intentional distortions'.
The disclosure of the new contracts comes as Specialist Charles Graner - described as the ringleader in the group of soldiers leading the abuse of Iraqi prisoners - was found guilty on Friday after a court martial rejected his claim that he was only following orders.
Some of the most graphic evidence against Graner came from Hussein Mutar, an Iraqi who arrived at Abu Ghraib accused of car theft.
He testified how, after jumping on him, Graner and other guards ordered him to strip, masturbate and simulate oral sex, and then photographed him and led him back to a cell, which they had soaked with water, where he had to sleep naked. Graner is now awaiting a sentence of up to 15 years in jail.
The jury of 10 soldiers deliberated for five hours before convicting the reser-vist of assault, conspiracy, maltreatment of detainees, committing indecent acts and dereliction of duty, as well as one battery count.
However the controversy over abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay is likely to be reignited later this month with the publication of The Torture Papers: The Legal Road to Abu Ghraib by Cambridge University Press, the first compendium of the so called 'torture memos' of the Bush administration.
Compiled from material already in the public domain and other material acquired under the US Freedom of Information Act, it documents the chilling progress in the Bush administration's legal advice that allowed it to redefine the meaning of torture so much that it felt able to use interrogation techniques that amounted to the most serious physical abuse.
In one memo, Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee advises the legal counsel to the president, Alberto Gonza les, that 'physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death'.
He adds that actions by interrogators 'may be cruel, inhuman or degrading, but still not produce the pain and suffering of requisite intensity [to be torture]'.
In a new development, the New York Times revealed last week that Congressional leaders have scrapped fresh legal measures that would have imposed strict new restrictions on the use of extreme interrogation techniques by US intelligence interrogators.
The proposal - which emerged in the fall-out of the Abu Ghraib scandal and complaints over the treatment of internees at Guantanamo Bay - had been approved by the Senate by almost a unanimous vote.
It would have explicitly ensured that US intelligence officers were covered by the same prohibitions on the use of torture, and required the CIA and Pentagon to report to Congress on the techniques that they were using.
The issue of the CIA's treat ment of detainees first arose after agency officials sought legal guidance on how far its employees and contractors could go in interrogating suspects and whether the law barred the CIA from using extreme methods, including feigned drowning, in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, the first of the al-Qaeda leaders captured by the US. He was apprehended in Pakistan in early 2002.It was in response to this reply that Bybee gave his ruling defining the scope of torture, which was later swiftly revoked when it became public.
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