by (Dr) Alistair Duff
University Lecturer and Writer on Information Policy
March 27 is Census Day, but I and others (e.g. Scotland Against Criminalising Communities, Count Me Out) are refusing to co-operate — on conscientious grounds.
This is because the General Register Office for Scotland has used CACI (UK), part of American company CACI International, to produce the printed and online census forms.
One hundred years ago, the suffragettes refused to cooperate with the 1911 Census as part of their campaign for social justice. No Vote, No Count. They too were, if you like, ‘conscicensus’ objectors.
CACI International was around during the sickening abuse, torture and assault of defenceless detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003-4. A Google Image search under ‘Abu Ghraib’ will show you in a few seconds the extent of the abuses, although the photographs are actually too harrowing.
Although CACI keeps denying any criminal involvement, it admits to having supplied half of the interrogators, and it worked and still works very closely with the US military and intelligence services. CACI is being sued by survivors from the prison but is claiming some kind of official immunity. The case is currently before the US Supreme Court.
While population censuses are a very good thing, the Government has a duty to make sure the process is handled in a way that is acceptable to people. CACI in my view is anything but acceptable. This is why the Scottish Government was urged to totally cancel its contract with CACI and, if necessary, to postpone the census. It declined to do so.
Scotland must pursue an ethical information policy.
If you believe that your brothers, sons, fathers, deserve not to be treated as those photos reveal, then neither do Iraqi brothers, sons, fathers. What happened at Abu Ghraib prison was an assault not just on Muslims, but on Christianity, on all religions, on human rights, on real soldiers and police officers, on common decency, and on the Enlightenment values that Scotland upholds.
It was an attack on our common humanity and it cannot just be swept under the carpet.
I feel so strongly about this issue that last Saturday lunchtime I went into Buchanan Street in Glasgow city centre with a stand. There was a fantastic, largely positive response, from all kinds of people, even a census worker! A bunch of youthful Celtic supporters stopped by and expressed support. One even said he’d pay £1 towards my fine. That really touched me. The only major dissenter was a former CACI employee, who begged to differ. No surprises there.
I don’t expect you to get on a soap-box but I do urge you to write to your MSP to express your outrage that the census has been tainted in this revolting manner. Please note that if you too refuse to fill in the census, you may face a fine of £1000. But human dignity is priceless.