Technology contract used to purchase interrogation work

A military task force used an Interior Department procurement unit to buy services using a contract designed for computer purchases.

As questions mount about the accountability and oversight of companies working for and sometimes with U.S. forces in Iraq, government officials have confirmed that the Army acquired private-sector interrogators in Iraqi prisons using a contract reserved for information technology purchases.

The procurement was performed on behalf of the military's Combined Joint Task Force 7, which until recently had operational control of troops in Iraq. The purchase was arranged in August and December 2003 by the National Business Center, a fee-for-service procurement operation of the Interior Department. The center had negotiated an open-ended purchase agreement against a pre-existing General Services Administration contract with Premier Technology Group Inc., a technology and intelligence services firm in Fairfax, Va.

The contract provides a broad range of technology services, including programming, backup and security, maintenance, facility operations, computer-aided design and data conversion. It is a GSA information technology schedule contract, one of thousands awarded to companies GSA approves for use by government agencies.

The schedule the National Business Center tapped for interrogation work first was awarded in 1998 to Premier Technology, which has provided technology and intelligence services to military and intelligence agencies. CACI Inc., a technology and network services company based in Arlington, Va., bought Premier Technology in May 2003 in order to obtain its expertise in "intelligence and military operations," according to Jack London, CACI's chairman and chief executive officer.

For Combined Joint Task Force 7, the National Business Center used the schedule to procure interrogators, intelligence support-which included intelligence gathering and data entry-and "screening cell support," which a spokesman defined as "a screening program designed to clear a host-country national for access to U.S. military host-country base camps."

The center's description of the work CACI performed shows only tenuous connections to technology. For instance, one order for "interrogator support," issued Aug. 14, 2003, specified "database entry" as part of the task. Workers defined as "intelligence advisors," "intelligence research clerks" and "intelligence and technical support" would gather intelligence and then "update various databases with the new information."

While that order, worth about $20 million, involved technology devices, another order from Dec. 3, 2003, makes no mention of technology at all. The order for "HUMINT [human intelligence] augmentee contractors" called for employees to assist Combined Joint Task Force 7, as well as its subordinate brigades and "organic MI [military intelligence] units in performance of humint and counterintelligence missions in secure and fixed locations." A GSA spokeswoman confirmed that three intelligence and interrogator orders, collectively worth almost $45 million, were placed through the CACI schedule.

Federal procurement database records show that Premier Technology, the CACI subsidiary, had received orders from a number of agencies over the years through the schedule that was tapped for interrogation work. In August 2002, the contract was used to provide "intelligence services" for Army bases in Germany, according to federal procurement data. The document doesn't elaborate on the nature of the work, but it indicates the total value was $878,000 and that work ended in August 2002. According to records from the Army's Civilian Human Resource Management Agency, the company, now part of CACI, provides a wide range of intelligence and military planning services, including intelligence analysts, terrain analysts, counterintelligence, anti-terrorism analysis and military intelligence services.

The National Business Center's office at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., site of the Army's military intelligence training program, has issued contracts for intelligence and interrogation trainers, sometimes to act as role players with trainees. Army intelligence units were operating in the Abu Ghraib prison.

A National Business Center spokesman had no immediate comment on the organization's work in Iraq or the use of the technology contract with CACI, except to confirm that the orders were placed. The Interior Department's inspector general has opened an inquiry into the contracts awarded for intelligence and interrogators in Iraq.

The National Business Center is one of a number of organizations throughout government that perform procurement and administrative tasks for other agencies for a fee. Recently, the GSA inspector general has been investigating a similar procurement organization, the Federal Technology Service. FTS, which is part of GSA, has procured building services, marine equipment and counseling services using technology contracts, possibly in violation of federal laws and regulations.

Jason Peckenpaugh contributed to this report.