CACI, plaintiffs preparing for trial over Abu Ghraib allegations

April 7, 2013

CACI International has won some early legal skirmishes in advance of a trial based on allegations that employees of one of its units were part of a group that abused detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Last month, the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia granted CACI’s motion to dismiss conspiracy claims associated with the case. The plaintiffs had argued that CACI interrogators conspired with soldiers to abuse detainees.

The court also granted CACI’s request to remove parent company CACI International as a defendant. Now, business unit CACI Premier Technology is the only defendant.

Perhaps most troublesome for the plaintiffs is the fact that some of the former detainees are still seeking to enter the country for depositions.

The case has four plaintiffs, all Iraqis who spent time at Abu Ghraib, according to court documents. They allege they were tortured by conspirators that included CACI employees.

Three of the plaintiffs are having trouble getting to the United States to provide depositions (one plaintiff, who lives in Qatar, has already given his in person, according to a court document filed by the plaintiffs).

Despite having visas and airline tickets, they were not permitted to travel to the United States last month, according to the same court document.

“There is some inexplicable block by some agency in the U.S. government that’s preventing them from coming here,” said Baher Azmy, an attorney for the detainees and legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “We’re trying to expedite the process.”

On Friday, CACI filed a motion to dismiss the three plaintiffs’ claims because of their failure to appear.

In dismissing the conspiracy allegation, the court did so without prejudice, meaning the plaintiffs were given an opportunity to amend their complaint and file new allegations. The former detainees did just that, filing an amended complaint last month, which again alleges conspiracy among CACI PT employees, other contractors and soldiers.

Azmy played down the removal of CACI International from the case.

“We had hoped to include the parent ... because we believe they were thoroughly enmeshed in the interrogation activities and the cover-up of the abuse,” he said. “But fundamentally it doesn’t change the responsibility of the [subsidiary] corporate entity for the actions their employees took.”

William Koegel, CACI’s counsel, declined to comment on the proceedings.

In a February filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it is “vigorously defending” itself against the suit. “[B]ased on our present knowledge of the facts, [we] believe the lawsuit is completely without merit,” the company added.

In 2008, J. Phillip “Jack” London, CACI’s former chief executive, published a book titled “Our Good Name: A Company’s Fight to Defend Its Honor and Get the Truth Told About Abu Ghraib.”

“[T]he results of all inquiries — government, military and the company’s — clearly show from all the information available at the time and to date that no one associated with CACI participated in any behavior that remotely approached the kinds of heinous acts depicted in the Abu Ghraib abuse photos,” the book said.

Last year, Chantilly-based defense contractor Engility, a government-services business spun off by L-3 Communications, paid $5.28 million in a settlement with former Abu Ghraib inmates.

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