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Intel Firm Denies Torture Conspiracy
CACI says Canyon Country translator was misidentified; Titan says attorneys manipulated documents.
By Leon Worden
Signal City Editor
Friday, June 11, 2004
n intelligence firm accused in a new lawsuit of conspiring to torture Abu Ghraib prisoners denounced the allegations as malicious Thursday and disavowed any connection to a Santa Clarita man targeted in the suit.
A spokesman for a second firm named in the lawsuit said lawyers manipulated documents to make it appear the two companies acted together.
CACI International Inc., a Virginia-based information technology firm that provided civilian interrogators to Army intelligence at Abu Ghraib last fall, said in a statement that it "rejects and denies the allegations of the suit as being a malicious recitation of false statements and intentional distortions."
The federal lawsuit was filed Wednesday on behalf of nine former Iraqi prisoners who claimed they were stripped and beaten as part of a conspiracy to extract answers from them during interrogation sessions at Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run prisons.
The lawsuit alleges that John B. Israel, 48, of Canyon Country, and two other civilian contractors inflicted cruel and unusual punishment upon the prisoners. Israel's attorney has not replied to queries.
The lawsuit identifies Israel as an associate of CACI, but CACI said he didn't work for the company.
"John Israel is not, and has never been, an employee of CACI," the statement said.
Israel is actually an employee of SOS Interpreting Ltd., a New York-based translation firm that provided civilian linguists to the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) under a subcontract with Titan Corp., which is named as a co-defendant.
Titan spokesman Ralph "Wil" Williams termed the lawsuit frivolous and said his employees didn't have control over the treatment of prisoners.
SOS is not directly named in the suit.
Susan Burke, a lead attorney for the ex-prisoners, said the lawsuit identified Israel with CACI because that's the way he appears in Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba's report on the actions of military police officers at Abu Ghraib.
Taguba listed Israel as a CACI associate in one section and as a Titan associate in two other sections of his report, where he concluded that Israel was one of four men who bore overall responsibility for the abuse. Israel has not been charged with a crime.
Asked for Taguba's explanation of the discrepancy, an Army spokesperson in Baghdad told The Signal on Thursday that the report has not been officially declassified, and declined further comment.
CACI and Titan took issue with the allegation that they formed an alliance to maximize profits through their employees' wrongful actions, in violation of racketeering laws.
"CACI does not have and has never had any agreement with Titan Corporation or anyone else pertaining to conspiring with the government, or to perpetrate abuses of any kind on anyone," the statement said.
Williams, of Titan, characterized the two companies as competitors for government contracts and said CACI "has absolutely nothing to do with Titan's linguist contract in Iraq."
To show evidence of an alliance, the lawsuit cites what purports to be an undated advertisement from "Titan Corporation and its partners CACI and Alion, collectively known as Team Titan" for translators at Camp X-ray in Cuba and in Iraq.
But Williams said the lawyers for the ex-prisoners cut-and-pasted two or more unrelated Titan job postings to turn them into a single document.
Williams said the reference to "Team Titan" came from an old advertisement for a job in Europe that had "nothing whatsoever to do with" online postings for Titan jobs in Cuba and Iraq that were reproduced in subsequent pages of the legal exhibit.
"What they've done is, they have commingled these things together to make them appear as if they are one," Williams said.
Burke said, "What's up on the Web reveals the existence of Team Titan. There are a variety of job postings for Titan up on the Web as well."
The lawsuit contends that interrogation teams were sent from Guantanamo Bay, aka Gitmo, to Iraq last October in order to set up a "Gitmo-style" prison system at Abu Ghraib. Geneva convention protections don't apply to stateless al-Qaida terrorists and Taliban fighters at Guantanamo Bay, but they are supposed to be honored for prisoners of war and civilian detainees in Iraq.
CACI disavowed having personnel in Cuba, labeling "false" the allegation that it had "contracts for interrogation work in Guantanamo Bay."
Williams said Titan has employees at Guantanamo Bay, but they are not interrogators. Like those in Iraq, they are interpreters who perform a "passive" function, he said, translating and transcribing verbal and written communications. He didn't know if any Titan translators had been transferred from Cuba to Iraq.
CACI said it may counter-sue.
"In light of the frivolous and malicious nature of this lawsuit, (CACI is) examining its options for sanctions against the lawyers who participated in the filing of this lawsuit."
Burke said the threat may be an intimidation ploy.
"I think they'll obviously have to assess their legal remedies," she said. "We're more than prepared to respond to anything they throw our way."
The suit was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York; Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoades LLP in Philadelphia; Melamed, Dailey & Akeel in Michigan; Susan Feathers of the University of Pennsylvania Law School; and attorney William J. Aceves of San Diego.
Burke, of Montgomery McCracken, said all eight Iraqi ex-detainee plaintiffs and the estate of a ninth who died at Abu Ghraib individually hired one of the law firms to represent them.
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