In a blow to defense contracting giant, CACI International Inc., U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee ruled on March 18 that a lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of torture victims held at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq can proceed.
Denying CACI’s motion to dismiss the former prisoners’ claims, which allege multiple violations of U.S. law, including torture, war crimes and conspiracy, Judge Lee ruled that “[t]he fact that CACI’s business involves conducting interrogations on the government’s behalf is incidental; courts can and do entertain civil suits against government contractors for the manner in which they carry out government business. CACI conveniently ignores the long line of cases where private plaintiffs were allowed to bring tort actions for wartime injuries.” According to CCR:
The Court also rejected CACI’s effort to shield itself from accountability by invoking the political question doctrine. The Court found “the policy is clear: what happened at Abu Ghraib was wrong.” The Court reasoned “While it is true that the events at Abu Ghraib pose an embarrassment to this country, it is the misconduct alleged and not the litigation surrounding that misconduct that creates the embarrassment. This Court finds that the only potential for embarrassment would be if the Court declined to hear these claims on political questions grounds. Consequently, the Court holds that Plaintiffs’ claims pose no political question and are therefore justiciable.” (“Court Rules Abu Ghraib Torture Victims Can Sue Contractor CACI, According to Legal Team for Former Detainees,” Center for Constitutional Rights, Press Release, March 19, 2009)
According to CCR, CACI employees “not only participated in physical and mental abuse of the detainees, but also destroyed documents, videos and photographs; prevented the reporting of the torture and abuse to the International Committee of the Red Cross; hid detainees and other prisoners from the International Committee of the Red Cross; and misled non-conspiring military and government officials about the state of affairs at the Iraq prisons.”
Filed in January 2008 under the Alien Tort Statute, the suit originally included defense contracting giant L-3 Services (the former Titan Corporation) but were “dismissed without prejudice” last year. This means the plaintiff would be allowed to bring a new suit on the same claim.
While CACI believes “it is improper for the courts to allow lawsuits against either the government or contractors by aliens detained as enemies during wartime,” Washington Technology reported, the court shot down their argument.
The insider tech publication averred, “CACI sought immunity against the lawsuits and claimed that the actions of its contract interrogators at Abu Ghraib were beyond judicial review. But court martial and other testimony of the soldiers convicted of abuse linked CACI personnel to the abuse.”
The giant defense firm claimed in a 2008 book, “Our Good Name,” that after five years of numerous investigations no CACI employee or former employee has been charged with misconduct in connection with CACI’s interrogation work.
True enough as far as it goes, the Bush gang sought to cover their tracks by crafting a legal smokescreen meant to conceal state policies that can only be described as torture in Iraq, Afghanistan, indeed on a planetary scale, and engaged in a systematic cover-up meant to shield high administration officials from the consequences.
Despite a pledge to be a “change administration,” the Obama national security team has reprised many of the same policies of their predecessors. While the administration has issued orders requiring strict adherence to antitorture statutes, vowed to close the Guantánamo Bay Detention facility, has dropped the term “enemy combatant” from its lexicon and is considering to kick the phrase “global war on terror” to the curb, the substance of their policies retain many features of the previous regime in Washington.