Update on the census

Torture at Abu Ghraib.

CACI are implicated in the horrific abuses at Abu Ghraib. European procurement law made it very difficult to avoid giving them the contract for the Scottish Census 2011, but I refuse to allow CACI to process my form.

With reference to this post, I received the following reply from my MP.  Further down the page you will find a letter I sent to the Registrar General.

Dear Mr Swanepoel,

Thank you for your reply regarding the Scottish Census 2011.

I appreciate your concerns, but I do not think that it would be right for me to hold your census form on the basis that you suggest.

I am therefore returning it to you, and urge you to send it in as soon as possible.

I appreciate that you write to me as currently there are no MSPs in office. However, the Scottish Ministers hold office during the election period, and if you would like me to send a copy of your letter of 12 April, or indeed a different letter, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Yours sincerely

MARK LAZAROWICZ

In reply, I have sent Mr Lazarowicz the following letter:

Dear Mr Lazarowicz

Individual responsibility not to support torture and the Scottish Census 2011

Thank you for your letter of 15 April on the above subject, in reply to mine of 12 April. While I am disappointed by your response I do understand why you feel unable to assist. I have decided to write to the Registrar General directly so there is no need for you to pass my letter to the Scottish Government. However, I feel obliged to ask for your opinion on a number of related points.

Are you happy with the fact that large organisations associated with the military-industrial complex (CACI and Lockheed Martin) run censuses across the world? More generally, are you happy with the power and influence of the military-industrial complex, and do you think that US President Dwight D. Eisenhower was right to warn of the dangers of it? Here is what he said in his farewell speech in 1961:

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Do you agree with President Eisenhower and myself that meaningful democracy depends on an informed citizenry? Do you think that the media have done an adequate job of publicising the role of CACI in the Scottish Census 2011? (My own subjective survey of friends and acquaintances who are not directly involved in politics revealed that not a single one knew anything about it. All, however, were dismayed when I explained the situation to them.)

Do you think it is ever right for citizens to break the law of the land on matters of conscience in nominally democratic countries? If so, under what circumstances would this be acceptable? Two examples come to mind: the women’s suffrage movement in this country and the shministim (“refuseniks”) in Israel. (With reference to the latter, I have had the considerable honour of meeting Ms Or Ben-David, whose compelling story you may read on this website: http://december18th.org/.)

Do you believe that Prince Andrew is an appropriate person to be be the UK’s special representative for trade and investment, given the fact that he reportedly attacked the Serious Fraud Office’s investigation of allegations of bribery made against BAE.

Are you fully satisfied with European procurement law? With reference to the essay I passed on earlier, should cost be the de facto sole criterion to be considered when awarding public contracts? I would be grateful if you would raise this last issue with the UK Government.

Once more I thank you for your help, and I look forward to your answers to all the questions I have asked.

Yours sincerely

R. Eric Swanepoel

And here’s the letter I sent to the Registrar General:

Dear Mr Macniven

Torture, the Scottish Census 2011 and a question of conscience

Before I come to my point, it is important for me to make clear what I understand the situation to be regarding CACI and the Scottish Census 2011:

CACI Ltd was awarded the £18.5 million contract for key information technology work and other services for the 2011 Scottish Census.  CACI Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of CACI International, and the latter is a US-based defence contractor which was contracted to provide “interrogation services” at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. While CACI staff were employed as interrogators at Abu Ghraib, prisoners were tortured there by US military police.  Former Abu Ghraib detainees say they were tortured in various ways by CACI and its co-conspirators, including torture with electric shocks, beating, forced nakedness, forced participation in physical activities to the point of exhaustion, sensory deprivation, deprivation of food, deprivation of oxygen and torture with extremely hot and cold water. CACI staff interrogated people held without charge or trial at Abu Ghraib. Prisoners they questioned were deprived of human rights guaranteed in international norms. The “rules of engagement” at Abu Ghraib permitted sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation and intimidation by dogs. Although CACI denies wrongdoing, it is trying to block lawsuits brought against it by former Abu Ghraib prisoners by claiming “official immunity”.

While EU procurement rules, set out in Directive 2004/18/EC, give contracting authorities discretion to exclude a contractor that “has been guilty of grave professional misconduct proven by any means which the contracting authorities can demonstrate”, I am prepared to accept that neither yourself nor, more generally, the Scottish Government, believed that according to the strict letter of the law you had any choice but to approve CACI’s tender.  Indeed, I think the fault lies with EU procurement law, and therefore I have written to one of my MEPs on this broader issue.  Be this as it may, there is now the question of what a person of conscience should do when the law appears to be not merely an ass, but to wish to channel funds to an organisation which there are reasonable grounds for believing has been complicit in torture and in other breaches of human rights. I maintain that human rights considerations must take priority. Indeed, my conscience tells me that if I were to allow CACI to process the information on my form I would effectively be condoning torture.

I have decided that it would not be right for me to refuse to give the General Register Office of Scotland my census data, per se.  On the other hand, if I were to allow GROS to use CACI to process the information, I would indirectly be benefiting an organisation which I consider, beyond reasonable doubt, to have participated in flagrant breaches of human rights. It would be intolerable for me to think that I had anything to do with encouraging organisations to believe that they could indulge in human rights abuses without it affecting their ability to profit from public contracts. I am therefore not prepared to give you my census form until I receive your personal assurance that the information I provide will not be handled in any way by any employee or subcontractor of CACI. I would be prepared to enter the data myself, but then would still want reassurance that the information I provide would not be processed by CACI.

Alternatively, if you were prepared to make a public statement on the inadequacy of EU procurement law and your concern about the appropriateness of employing organisations associated with the military to conduct censuses, I would be prepared to submit my form.

I appreciate the difficult position you are in and do hope we can reach an amicable compromise. I must repeat that I do not consider you or the Scottish Government directly responsible for this situation, and am not refusing to give you my census data, per se. I thank you in advance for your careful consideration of this letter.

Yours sincerely

R. Eric Swanepoel

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About biowrite

I am a writer specialising in non-fiction, particularly in assisting people with their biographies.
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