CACI International is a US-based defence contractor. From August 2003 until the early autumn of 2005 it was contracted to provide “interrogation services” for the US Army at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. While CACI staff were employed as interrogators at Abu Ghraib, prisoners were humiliated and tortured there by US military police. Photographs of the abuse shocked the world and led to the conviction of a number of low-ranking US soldiers by courts martial.
CACI denies any responsibility for the abuse that was photographed and denies any wrongdoing. But it is trying to block lawsuits brought against it by former Abu Ghraib prisoners by claiming “official immunity.” The US Supreme Court is currently considering whether to allow one of the lawsuits (Saleh et al v. Titan et al.. involving over 250 Iraqi plaintiffs) to go ahead. Another case (Al Shimari v. CACI et al., involving 4 Iraqi plaintiffs) is currently before the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Virginia.
CACI staff interrogated people held without charge or trial at Abu Ghraib. Prisoners they questioned were deprived of human rights guaranteed in international norms. The “rules of engagement” at Abu Ghraib permitted sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation and intimidation by dogs.
Scotland’s census will be conducted by CACI Ltd. CACI Ltd has been given an £18.5 million contract for key information technology work and other services for the 2011 Scottish Census. CACI Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of CACI International. That means that all the money it makes belongs to CACI International. But CACI International remains beyond the reach of Scottish and British law.
CACI’s involvement puts the privacy of people in Scotland at risk. Any data held by CACI International is available to the US Government under the Patriot Act. The Scottish Government says it has set up a special“contract structure” to “distance” CACI from personal data. But these safeguards may not be enough.
EU Procurement rules give contracting authorities the discretion to exclude a contractor that “has been guilty of grave professional misconduct proven by any means which the contracting authorities can demonstrate.” The Scottish Government chose not to use this discretionary power.
Census data isn’t essential for policy-making. It’s just one of a range of statistical tools. Census data has often in the past been used to justify fewer services. In any case why should we trust a Government that can’t keep a human rights abuser out of the census trough to make good use of census data?
The Scottish Government. says “It would be impossible to carry out a census without the willing co-operation of the public.” Quite right. So people in Scotland should withdraw their “willing co-operation” from the census.
That won’t stop CACI pocketing its fee from Scottish taxpayers. But it might stop CACI labelling the census as a success and using it to whitewash its reputation.
There are many ways, legal and illegal, for people to withhold their co-operation. There is no legal obligation on anyone to co-operate with census enumerators and other census staff. But failing to fill in and return a census form, or providing false information, is a criminal offence carrying a maximum fine of £1000. The chances of prosecution are small. Over 200,000 people were missed from the 2001 Scottish census. Only 3 were convicted. Prosecution for providing false information is even more difficult than prosecution for failing to return a form. In most cases it is probably impossible. Many people may choose to supply inaccurate information to protect their privacy, just in case the census arrangements turn out not to be capable of keeping US hands off the data.
People and organisations responsible for gross human rights abuses in the wars in Iraq an Afghanistan and in the wider “war on terror” have so far mostly got away with it. The census provides an opportunity to hold one abuser to account. The Scottish Government has bottled it. Now it’s the people’s turn.