CACI Defense Contracts Hazy on Civilian Authority

Language Reserves Direction for Military

By Ellen McCarthy

Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, July 29, 2004; Page E05

Contracts released by the Defense Department raise new questions about whether civilian employees of CACI International Inc. supervised the interrogation of some prison detainees in Iraq.

The Pentagon provided copies of the Arlington company's government contracts to the Center for Public Integrity, which sought them under the Freedom of Information Act. The center, based in the District, made the documents public yesterday.

The $19.9 million contract for CACI to provide interrogators, awarded last August, calls for the civilian workers to "provide oversight and other directed intelligence support to [military] screening and interrogation operations, with special emphasis on High-Value detainees."

But the contract for interrogation services also says that CACI employees are to be "directed by military authority" and that "the contractor is responsible for providing supervision of all contractor personnel."

The role played by CACI's civilian interrogators has been debated since one of them, Steven A. Stefanowicz, was implicated in an internal Army report on abuses at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. The report said Stefanowicz encouraged soldiers to set conditions for interrogations and "clearly knew his instructions equated to physical abuse." Stefanowicz's lawyer has said his client did nothing wrong.

Controversy also arose over the government's use of a contract intended to provide information technology services to hire the civilian interrogators.

Using an umbrella contract managed by the Interior Department, the government awarded CACI 11 task orders for duties in Iraq including inventory management and intelligence analysis.

Critics said the newly released CACI contracts add to questions about the government's use of private contractors to carry out sensitive wartime operations.

"This once again just shows how far we've pushed it," said Peter W. Singer, a fellow with the Brookings Institution. "When you see contracts written this way, they are ignoring a fundamental fact. . . . You are hiring someone to do a military job even through they are not in the military."

Harry Thornsvard, a senior vice president at CACI, said that even though the contract language is not clear, the company's employees had no authority over soldiers.

"Civilian contractors do not give orders to military personnel. CACI at all times has been under the operational control and direction of the United States military," Thornsvard said. "This has been confirmed by the sworn testimony of the Army generals responsible for operations in Iraq and the secretary of the Department of Defense."

CACI also was awarded a $21.8 million contract to provide human intelligence support and a $3.2 million contract to screen Iraqis for access to U.S. bases. CACI also was retained to analyze Iraq's local media for clues to potential security threats.

Several of the contracts call for CACI employees to "function as resident experts."

Some contracting experts said such language creates confusion about how civilian contractors interact with enlisted soldiers and officers.

"This is telling us that the buck stops at the contractors. . . . There may be a chain of command, but the people who are the experts, who know the rules, are outside the government," said Daniel J. Guttman, a fellow at the Center for Study of the American Government at Johns Hopkins University.