Judge Advances Conspiracy Claims Over Abu Ghraib Torture

Photo of a Iraqi prisoner in Abu Ghraib. (U.S. Armed Forces)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – The defense contractor CACI must face conspiracy but not direct-liability claims from men who say they endured tortured at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

Now in its third-amended version, the suit filed a decade ago by lead plaintiff Suhail Najim Abdullah Al Shimari has been navigating the courts here for roughly a full decade.

CACI provided the Pentagon with linguistic services during the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, but former Abu Ghraib detainees say the defense contractor’s employees were responsible or complicit in a host of abuses that first came to light in 2004 with the release of photographs depicting the abuse and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners by grinning soldiers.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema devotes much of Wednesday’s ruling to laying out the abuses allegedly suffered by the three named plaintiffs.

CACI wanted the nine-count complaint dismissed in full but Brinkema agreed to toss only counts 1, 4 and 7, which alleged direct liability.

Although the third amended complaint “alleges some direct contact between CACI personnel and plaintiffs,” Brinkema said the “few connections … are insufficient to state a plausible claim for relief.”

Multiple redactions pockmark the ruling to protect portions of the complaint and the parties’ briefs that were filed under seal. Brinkema noted that the seals may be unnecessary, however, and that the parties should show cause if they disagree.

Unlike the direct-liability claims, Brinkema found no reason to dismiss the plaintiffs’ conspiracy claims.

She said the complaint sufficiently alleged that “CACI interrogators explicitly instructed MPs [military police] to ‘soften up’ detainees to prepare them for interrogation and that CACI interrogators … ‘actually ordered’ the most severe forms of abuse.”

“Because the alleged conspiracies were directly related to the interrogators’ employment, CACI had an ability to monitor the interrogators to ensure that they did not enter into the conspiracies,” the ruling states.

CACI also “stood to benefit directly from its interrogators’ actions,” the ruling continues, “because the facilitation of successful interrogation would please its most important client, the United States military, and perhaps position it to gain future contracts.”

Brinkema advanced three aiding-and-abetting claims as well.

As the plaintiffs have alleged, “upper-level management at CACI substantially aided these continued abuses by refusing to inform the military of reports that CACI and military personnel were abusing detainees by continuing to employ — and even promote — interrogators engaging in the abuses,” the 54-page ruling states.

A CACI representative did not respond to a request for comment.

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