Iraq Torture Incorporated

June 17 02:34 2004 Print This Article

Remember Oliver North, Ronald Reagan’s national security advisor and focal point of the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s? He’s back in the war crimes business, this time as an industry associate involved with military contractors responsible for the torture of Iraqis in US-administered jails. And, since North is back in business, the infamous Carlyle Group couldn’t be far behind. News Insider columnists John Stanton and Wayne Madsen investigate.

The US Army has employed as many as 27 contractors to run its interrogation operations, according to media reports. But while CACI and Titan are getting all the mainstream media play, it appears that far more than 27 contract employees were involved in recruiting and placing interrogators in various locations.

Some of the firms involved in the Bush administration’s Torture-Gate include an odd assortment of telecommunications companies and executive placement firms that have jumped into the lucrative torture business in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, Iraq and at secret locations throughout Central Asia and North Africa.

Interrogators can earn up to $120,000 per year plying their trade and most are former military and law enforcement personnel. More ominously, these so-called ‘private military contractors’ are nothing of the sort. They are paramilitary organizations that are funded by the US Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, and assorted other agencies through contract vehicles known as Basic Ordering Agreements, or BOAs, hidden throughout the vast US government bureaucracy. It is now well known that CACI got its money through a BOA with the Department of the Interior.

Ollie He’s Baaack!

On January 12, 2004, United Placements ran an advertisement for Army Interrogators. “Job State: IRAQ, Job Number: 8. Interrogators: 30 Positions. Compensation to $120,000. Individuals must be trained interrogators with at least five years of experience in interrogation. Individuals must be knowledgeable of Army/Joint interrogation procedures, data processing systems such as CHIMs and SIPRNET search engines.

Knowledge of the Arabic language and culture a plus […]. Candidates must have documented in their resumes five years of HUMINT [human intelligence] collection and/or interrogation experience. This is a requirement of the client. Some locations require individuals to work and live in a field environment with minimum medical facilities. Must possess the ability to work extended work hours in difficult surroundings for up to one year.”

United Placements’ lists none other than Oliver North -a member of Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council and focal point of the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980’s- as one of its two “Industry Associates.” North is currently the host of Fox News Channel’s War Stories. United Placement’s second “Industry Associate” is Intelligence Careers, run by former intelligence analyst Bill Goldman.

While Torture-Gate festers, it is noteworthy that as late as May 7, 2004 the same posting for interrogators was listed through Design Staffing LLC. Evidently, a new batch of interrogators is needed to replace those now under criminal investigation. “Job Nr 85832 -Conduct interrogations.

Conduct pre-brief and debrief preparation which includes researching, compiling, and preparing supporting material; prepare all-source target overview/summaries to include cultural, religious, and sociological factors; and identify the information required for immediate processing and dissemination including support to ongoing and planned operations and force protection.

This listing opened 07-May-04 and is valid for 90 days.” The listing goes on to say that the openings will be available “until filled.” It was listed under the categories “Analyst (Intelligence) & Knowledge Specialists”.

Another company, ZKD, Inc., ran advertisements for interrogators on February 4, 2004. “This listing opened 10-Feb-04 and is valid for 180 days”. The company’s closing date comments for this listing are: “Open Till Filled. Category: Military Arts, Operations and Science. Send resume to” It seems interrogators are not only knowledge specialists, but artists too.

Who Are Those Guys?

Just who are these people? It shouldn’t be a surprise that Oliver North is back in the war crimes business, but some of the organizations getting into the act seemingly don’t belong in the murky field of recruitment for the US military’s shadow paramilitary force. But, then again, some of these groups have some of the trademarks of CIA or other intelligence agency cutout operations.

Flush with seed money from existing government contracts, small and medium-sized government contractors and recruiting firms were able to launch major drives to draft language-capable interrogators from the ranks of America’s ex-military, law enforcement, and intelligence cadres and the immigrant community.

ZKD, Inc., located in Fairfax, Virginia, bills itself as a veteran-, minority- and women-owned firm that provides “Staffing Solutions, Security and Language Services.” It’s President and CEO is Zachary K. Duck. The May 2004 issue of Black Enterprise states that ZKD, “as a staffing agency, analyzes current labor market trends and matches qualified applicants with employment opportunities.

After 9-11, the company doubled its efforts to provide security services to meet increased demand. ZKD also offers a comprehensive communications service.” ZKD has seen a meteoric rise in profits thanks mostly to the Pentagon and the Transportation Security Administration. Black Enterprise states that ZKD was founded in 2001 with only two employees but now has more than 250 people, with revenues totalling more than $10 million in 2003.

ZKD has a growing roster of clients, including the Transportation Security Administration and McNeil Technologies. In January of this year, ZKD was awarded a five-year, $53.7 million contract from the Department of Defense. The company now enjoys a solid $34.5 million in contracts for 2004 with another $13 million in the contracting queue.

It is noteworthy that according to The Washington Post, CACI and McNeil Technologies are the recipients of Federal contracts to process Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for Federal agencies, including the Pentagon, Homeland Security and Justice Departments.

In what could be a major conflict of interest, any FOIA request from the public or the media for information on Pentagon or intelligence agency contracts with CACI or ZKD on their interrogation/translation work abroad could be handled by employees of CACI, an interrogation contractor, or McNeil, a client of ZKD, another interrogation contractor.

Design Staffing, LLC is located in Boyds, Maryland, and has all the trademarks of an operation run by an ex-military or intelligence agency veteran. The language is classic military gangland style: “Beyond [the] core categories, we also assist companies with those hard-to-fill positions that do not fit in the traditional molds. Our method, which we call the Design Staffing Approach, DSA, is critical to the success of our business -and yours. The DSA model is an innovative systematic, seven-tier approach […].”

A search in the US Business Directory reveals Design Staffing, LLC, is an “employment agency and opportunities firm” and has one employee, an unknown credit status, and a business address at 14024 Clopper Road, Boyds, Maryland. Its principal -listed by email as is very particular about what he/she is looking for in an interrogator:

“For interrogators I look for experience conducting interrogations, conduct of personnel screenings of local nationals and conduct of tactical debriefings.” He/she goes on to imply that embellishment of experience may not be a bad idea to make the resume look stronger to the customer.

If North is There the Carlyle Group Can’t be Far Behind

Then there’s CalNet, a Vienna, Virginia-based company that says it provides “Agile Solutions for the New Customer Economy.” It is run by President and CEO Kaleem Shah. The US Business Directory provides the following sketchy information on CalNet: its description is “Computer-Systems Designers and Consultants,” and it has four employees. A CalNet Ltd., also listed as a “computer related” company and located in West Yorkshire, England, was dissolved on March 20, 2001.

According to its website, “Since 1989, CalNet has used its business and technology consultancy to help many of the largest telecom, financial, public sector, high-tech and services organizations remain agile by obtaining explicit business results through the rapid application and delivery of advanced information and telecom solutions.” That may be so, but CalNet posted the same interrogators-wanted ad that United Placements ran in January of 2004.

Interested parties are encouraged to apply for a position with the Iraq Survey Group. “[…] please send resume to Reference job number DISG2.”

USIS, or US Investigations Services, bills itself as “one of the largest Intelligence and Security Services companies in North America.” Hoover’s Company Capsules has a very unusual descriptive background for the firm. “Formally a US government agency, USIS was spun off as a private company in 1996.” A recent job fair it hosted in Falls Church, Virginia, sought “Interrogators, Strategic Debriefers and Protection Specialists for Overseas Assignments.”

One of the USIS investors is the omnipresent Carlyle Group, a multibillion-dollar venture capital firm with close ties to George H.W. Bush, former British Prime Minister John Major, and former Secretary of State James Baker, and past ties to the Saudi bin Laden Companies, which has its tentacles into many of the Bush administration’s major foreign adventures.

USIS also owns a subsidiary, Total Information Services, Inc., of Tulsa, Oklahoma, which ironically is similar to the name of the defunct Pentagon program to glean personal information from databases on US and foreign citizens. That program, called the Total Information Awareness (TIA) system was headed by Iran-contra felon retired Admiral John Poindexter before he resigned. TIA, according to media reports, is alive and well in the offices of DARPA in northern Virginia.

Since the US Congress, the Pentagon, the White House and US Department of Justice seem determined to sweep the entire Torture-Gate disaster under the rug before the November 2004 elections, the only check on their power appears to be the financial markets.

As was recently reported by the Washington Post, directors of one of CACI’s pension funds, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or Calpers, planned to meet with CACI in early July “to discuss concerns about [CACI] management controls, training and legal procedures at the Arlington-based government contractor […].

What the management of this company owes [shareholders] is a full explanation of exactly what has occurred, exactly who was responsible and a full accounting of what will be done to reform its practices.”

Maybe if the money talks, Bush -and the Gordon Geckos of the defense contracting world- will walk too.

John Stanton and Wayne Madsen

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