Eight Iraqis Sue Contractors Over Tortune

WASHINGTON — Eight Iraqis filed a federal lawsuit today charging that private contractors working for the U.S. government had systematically tortured them at U.S.-run prisons in Iraq as part of a criminal conspiracy to boost profits.

The lawsuit against San Diego-based Titan Corp. and Virginia-based CACI International charged that employees working as interrogators systematically abused prisoners to extract better intelligence and increase the firms' chances of winning future government contracts.

The lawsuit alleged that the two companies resorted to torture practices far beyond what has been disclosed in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, including rape and the application of electrical charges to prisoners' genitals.

"We have not heard everything yet," said Shereef Akeel, a Michigan attorney who filed the lawsuit along with the Center for Constitutional Rights, a nonprofit group that specializes in human rights cases. "The stories are coming out now as more Abu Ghraib prisoners are coming out."

The attorneys acknowledged that none of their clients had been able to identify the people who tortured them or whether they worked for contractors or the U.S. government. They said they based their case on a U.S. military report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba that named several contractors for knowingly encouraging abuses seen in photos of the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.

The lawyers said none of their clients was pictured in photos seen in news reports, but their status as detainees had been confirmed through interviews and prisoner identification records.

Officials with CACI denounced the lawsuit as "irresponsible and outrageous."

"CACI regards these allegations as false and malicious," the company said in a statement. "CACI summarily rejects and denies the ill-informed, slanderous and malicious allegations of the lawsuit that attempts to malign the work that we do on behalf of the U.S. government around the world and in Iraq."

Titan officials did not respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit, filed in San Diego federal District Court, relies on public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission to portray the two companies as having developed strategies to aggressively pursue government contracts to boost their profits.

CACI, with a market value of about $1.1 billion, has bought 26 companies since the 1990s. Many of them specialized in the defense industry. Titan, whose shareholders approved a $1.66-billion buyout offer this week from defense contractor Lockheed Martin, gets as much as 96% of its revenue from government contracts.

The lawsuit alleged that the reliance on government revenues drove the two companies' employees to cross the line during interrogation sessions in hope of extracting information that would lead to more jobs with the government.

The lawsuit charged that the companies joined with a third company, Alion, to form "Team Titan," a joint venture dedicated to supporting the U.S. military in translation and intelligence services in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"When war becomes a for-profit enterprise, horror, human suffering and degradation is the dividend," said Barbara Olshansky, the deputy legal director for the center.