U.S. contractors say they served as interrogators when asked

Thursday, May 13, 2004

U.S. security contractors said their primary role was translation, not the interrogation of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Gharib prison north of Baghdad.

But U.S. officials said that under the terms of the Defense Department contract, private security personnel could be asked to serve as interrogators in case of a shortage of U.S. military personnel.

The contractors denied involvement n the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. At least two U.S. contractors were hired to provide services at Abu Gharib.

The two contractors were identified as CACI International and Titan Corp. Both companies said they provided Arabic interpreters to translate for military intelligence during interrogations, Middle East Newsline reported.

"The company's contract is for linguists, not interrogators," Titan said in a statement. "For security and safety reasons, we do not discuss individual assignments, military operations or duty locations."

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But Pentagon officials said security contractors agreed to also serve as interrogators at Abu Gharib and other detention centers in Iraq. The officials said interrogations conducted by the private security personnel were under U.S. Army supervision.

"In the theatre we have employed civilian contract interrogators and linguists," Acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee told the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 6. "The Central Command has done this. And these people have no supervisory capabilities at all. They work under the supervision of officers in charge or non-commissioned officers in charge of whatever team or unit they are on."

Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, deputy chief of U.S. Central Command, said security contractors at Abu Gharib provided a range of services for intelligence officers. Smith said contractors were expected to provide both translation and interrogation services depending on needs of military intelligence.

"In this particular case, there is a tiger team that interrogates and goes through that process," Smith said. "One is an interpreter normally. One is an analyst. And one is an interrogator. And where we have a shortage in the military of interrogators and translators we go to contractors to do that."

Neither CACI nor Titan explained the assertion by the Pentagon officials regarding the use of security contractors in the interrogation of Irarqi prisoners. But the companies said they have ordered their personnel stationed at Abu Gharib to cooperate in the army investigation. So far, neither company reported that its employees had been charged with the abuse of prisoners at the detention facility.

"There is an ongoing investigation underway in which our people have cooperated in the interview process," CACI president Jack London said. "CACI will continue to cooperate with all U.S. government investigations when requested and is now conducting its own analysis and investigation of events."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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