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Military contractor CACI seeks payment from Abu Ghraib prisoners who sued over torture allegations

A photograph from Abu Ghraib prison, where American military officials tortured Iraqis. A now-dismissed lawsuit alleged private contractors took part in abuses.

Military and intelligence contractor CACI, a huge corporation on the list of the Fortune 1000 Largest Companies and the Russell 2000 Index, is suing former Abu Ghraib prisoners after a lawsuit alleging the company participated in torture against them was thrown out of court.

CACI, a company that routinely nets contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars from the US government, is seeking just over $15k from the formerly incarcerated torture victims.

From the Washington Post:

Weeks after winning dismissal of a case alleging that CACI International employees directed mistreatment of Abu Ghraib detainees, the company has asked its accusers to pay a $15,580 bill for legal expenses.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs, all Iraqis who served time at the prison, opposed the request in a federal court filing on Monday.

In July, CACI secured a long-fought victory when a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit against one of the company’s units, deciding that because the alleged abuse happened overseas, the U.S. District Court in Alexandria did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.

According to a recent court filing, nearly two-thirds of the $15,580 bill relates to depositions CACI took, including costs for witness per diem fees and travel allowances as well as deposition transcripts.

About $3,500 of the total would cover the costs CACI said it incurred for medical examinations and to hire an interpreter for plaintiff depositions. That figure, the filing added, includes a fee the company paid when examinations were canceled without enough advance notice.

The plaintiffs oppose the move, arguing that CACI is out of time and that the request is unjust.

The plaintiffs “have very limited financial means, even by non-U.S. standards, and dramatically so when compared to the corporate defendants in this case,” the filing said. “At the same time, plaintiffs’ serious claims of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and war crimes were dismissed on very close, difficult — and only recently arguable — grounds.”

Baher Azmy, the attorney for the plaintiffs and legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the effort “appears to me an attempt to intimidate the plaintiffs.”

Do you trust this corporation to manage and process your FOIA requests to the federal government? It does. The corporation also receives funds to operate government surveillance programs, making it just one of the many contractors that take in 70% of the national intelligence budget. 

The decision to let CACI off the hook in the torture lawsuit is striking when viewed in light of news about another US corporation's overseas activities. While the judge in the CACI case said the plaintiffs didn't have standing to bring the lawsuit in the United States because the alleged crimes took place in Iraq, another federal judge recently authorized Chevron to access the internet metadata of hundreds of people involved in anti-Chvron protests in Ecuador.

I guess sometimes the courts have jurisdiction over foreign activity, and sometimes they don't.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.