Defense contractor CACI International Inc. said yesterday it launched an independent investigation of its employees in connection with allegations that Iraqi detainees were abused by U.S. soldiers at an Army-run prison in Iraq.
Six Army soldiers have been charged with the physical and sexual abuse of 20 prisoners at the Abu Ghraib facility, which is about 20 miles west of Baghdad, and others remain under investigation. Employees for Arlington-based CACI were serving as interrogators at the facility, according to an attorney for one of the soldiers facing criminal charges.
Two CACI employees were named in an unreleased internal Army report about abuses at Abu Ghraib, according to a New Yorker article published last week on the magazine's Web site. The report alleges that one employee allowed or ordered untrained military police to set conditions for interrogations that amounted to abuse, and recommends he be fired, according to the New Yorker account. It recommends that the other be disciplined.
CACI acknowledged that its employees had been interviewed by Army officials as part of the investigation, but said in an e-mailed statement that it has "received no indication from the Army that any CACI employee was involved in any alleged improper conduct with Iraqi prisoners."
"CACI has initiated an independent investigation of the actions of Company employees in connection with this matter," the statement said. It was unclear who was conducting the investigation. Company spokeswoman Jody Brown and the company's chief executive and chairman, Jack London, did not return calls yesterday for comment.
"We are appalled by the reported actions of a few," the company statement said. "The Company does not condone or tolerate illegal behavior on the part of its employees when conducting CACI business in any circumstance at any time."
CACI, which gets about 64 percent of its revenue from the Pentagon, has declined to disclose how many employees are working in Iraq or Afghanistan.
According to several Internet job sites, CACI has been recruiting interrogators, senior counterintelligence agents and intelligence analysts for work in Iraq for more than a year, requiring some to have active and current top-secret security clearances. An ad posted on Yahoo's HotJobs Web site in February, under the headline "Exciting intelligence opportunities in Iraq!," sought to recruit interrogators with two or more years "conducting tactical and strategic interrogations." Another posting on IntelligenceCareers.com lists opening for senior counterintelligence agent with 10 years experience and intelligence analysts with a minimum of three years' experience.
The increasingly prominent and important roles played by civilian contractors in Iraq have stirred criticism from some industry analysts, who said private contractors cannot be held to the same standards as soldiers. The Pentagon's oversight of private contractors around the world is "inconsistent and sometimes incomplete," according to a 2003 General Accounting Office report.
"The use of private contractors in Iraq is becoming an increasingly volatile political issue," the International Peace Operations Association, a Virginia-based nonprofit group representing private military service companies. "This incident could adversely impact an industry that has been instrumental in supporting stability and reconstruction efforts not just in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan, Liberia, Haiti and all over the world."
There are 15,000 to 20,000 civilian military contractors in Iraq working at jobs once reserved for soldiers, said Peter Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of "Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry." The duties have veered from the mundane, such as delivering mail and serving food, to critical activities that include conducting interrogations and coordinating logistics, Singer said. "We have truly pushed the boundaries to this," he said.
Staff writer Sewell Chan contributed to this report from Baghdad.