Thursday, May 27, 2004

Why It Matters

In yesterday's post about the privatization of the government contracts database, I mentioned that information about contracts could still be requested from individual agencies under the Freedom of Information Act. That initially suggests that information isn't being hidden now, just made more cumbersome to retrieve.

But alert commenter Dave Bell made the connection to this post by Phil Carter:
the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has a report on contract irregularities in the agreement that allowed CACI Corp. to send personnel to Iraq to assist in the interrogations at Abu Ghraib. (For non-WSJ subscribers, check out this AP version of the story.) Apparently, the contracts were actually held by the Department of the Interior — not the Army, as previously reported. And, there were other irregularities too, which may have been devised to evade proper oversight.
Carter goes on to explain that the CACI deal was actually a contract for computer services, and that CACI had no experience whatsoever in interrogation work. Dave's point is that, if you're a reporter or citizen trying to research civilian contractors with the U.S. military, you wouldn't have any way of knowing that you ought to check with Interior. We need the capacity to do comprehensive searches for contracts awarded across the entire federal government - otherwise, it's just too damn easy to hide things.