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Prophets of War: How Defense Contractor Lockheed Martin Dominates the Military Establishment

William Hartung reveals how Lockheed Martin's presence in the U.S. military goes far deeper than mere weapon supplying.

The following is an excerpt from William Hartung’s new book Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex (Nation Books, 2010)

Global Domination

While contracts for supplying weapons for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a significant part of Lockheed Martin’s business, the new company that has taken form since the merger boom of the 1990s has a far wider reach. These activities include everything from involvement in interrogation and police training to profiting from the new post-9/11 wave of domestic surveillance activities.

Of all the new ventures that Lockheed Martin has undertaken, the least well known may be its role in interrogating prisoners at U.S. facilities in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The fact that employees of private companies are even allowed to interrogate terror suspects came as a surprise to most Americans when it was revealed in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal. The revelations of the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”—many of which were viewed by human rights analysts as torture plain and simple—rocked the world as pictures of naked inmates threatened by dogs and subjected to other serious abuses were disseminated in print and electronic media. The damage to the reputation of the United States as a country governed by the rule of law is still being felt, even as accountability has been limited to the low-level military personnel involved directly in the abuses.

As the scandal unfolded, it was revealed that employees of two private contractors—CACI and the Titan Corporation—were present when inhumane techniques were being used. According to a U.S. Army report compiled under the direction of Major General Antonio Taguba, Steven Stefanowicz, an interrogator employed by CACI, lied about his knowledge of abusive activities and told military police to engage in practices that he “clearly knew . . . equated to physical abuse.” No charges were filed against Stefanowicz as a result of these findings. Another civilian was accused of raping an Iraqi inmate. In all, six contractor employees were referred to the Justice Department for prosecution, but no charges have been filed against any of them. In a separate case resolved in 2007, a CIA contract employee named David Passaro was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for beating a prisoner to death in Afghanistan.

An analysis conducted by Osha Gray Davidson for Salon determined that private contractors were the rule, not the exception, at Abu Ghraib. All twenty of the translators working there were from Titan, and almost half of the analysts and interrogators were from CACI.

Eugene Fidell, the president of the National Institute for Military Justice, has expressed particular concern about the Pentagon’s use of private contractor employees to interrogate terror suspects. “That’s really playing with fire,” says Fidell. “That kind of activity, which so closely entails the national interest and exposes the country to terrible opprobrium, is something that ought to be done by people who are government employees.” This logic did not prevent Lockheed Martin from getting into the interrogation business.  

The company’s first brush with the issue of private interrogations came with its effort to buy the Titan Corporation. Unbeknownst to its management, Lockheed Martin’s September 2003 bid for Titan almost placed it in the center of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal: It came more than six months before the Abu Ghraib photos were released and the allegations of abuses by Titan employees were made public.

The Titan deal started to unravel in early 2004 when it was revealed that the company was being investigated by the Justice Department for overseas bribery. As a result, Lockheed Martin announced that it was extending the timeline within which the deal would be considered so that it could see how Titan dealt with the bribery investigations. At this point, the alleged interrogation abuses by Titan employees had yet to be revealed. Even after the allegations did come out in May, they did not appear to play a role in Lockheed Martin’s decision about whether to buy Titan. The bribery charges were still the main issue.

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