'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Mercenaries are Picking on The New Standard 

First just a little background... The New Standard is a project started several months ago by some folks who are affiliated with ZNet and Z Magazine. The idea is that ZNet provides commentary from a hard left perspective, but never really was a source of news. The New Standard is meant to be a news source, an attempt to cover stories that aren't being covered by the corporate media and generally to disseminate hard left journalism rather than just commentary.

So a couple of weeks ago The New Standard ran an article that alleged that employees of the private "security contractors" hired by the US army participated in the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq. In particular, the article stated that CACI International is being sued for its involvement in the abuse and torture. Well, CACI International has apparently decided that the New Standard is important enough to not simply be ignored, but a small enough of an operation to easily be pushed around, and thus CACI International has sicced lawyers on The New Standard.

Here's an excerpt from Brian Dominick's blog post on the subject:

There's nothing quite as thrilling as receiving a letter from a fancy corporate law firm addressed to me as "Brian Dominick, Editor" -- it means I upset someone powerful.

And so we seem to have done with Lisa Croke's recent article on new allegations of abuse and torture throughout US-run prisons in Iraq, which we posted on September 23rd. The lawyers who wrote us the scolding letter (Steptoe and Johnson LLP -- you can't make this stuff up, folks) are upset that we have "cast aspersions" on the "character, prestige and standing" of CACI International -- Steptoe's client -- "within its field of business." They say our article "constitutes defamation," and they point out that it does so "per se" (which means they couldn't write a whole letter without using an impressive legal term).

Well, we showed the letter to our industry-renowned legal department. The team of high-priced lawyers there (who work on Saturdays just in case) said we should encourage CACI International to sue The NewStandard.

Evidently, the list of attorneys who would line up to defend us pro bono (we know some legal terms, too!) in a defamation case is longer than the list even a big military industrial complex partner like CACI could ever afford -- especially given that the suit would bring them untold negative attention and probably expand our readership multifold.

Now, as to the substance of CACI's letter, there might be something to address without posturing. CACI's claims about our "misrepresentation" of them aside, the letter constitutes the most direct response to anything raised by reporters that I am aware of.

Their website is chock-full of FAQ-type documents and press statements that contain responses to various accusations, but the company wouldn't speak to me when I contacted them for a response to a previous report, and they haven't given interviews to any journalists that I've seen. And, in fact, even the Army wouldn't talk to us about the scope of CACI's role in Iraq.

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