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John Israel

My correspondent Mitchell, true to his word, has dug up the name of John Israel's employer out of a Washington Post article I skimmed too fast yesterday:

Jay Evenson, the editor of the editorial page of The Deseret News in Salt lake City, and also the husband of a close friend of mine, makes an effort to meet his readers' demand for good news from Iraq.

The third civilian identified in the [Taguba] report, John Israel, is accused in the Army report of lying to investigators about seeing interrogations that violated the rules. Israel could not be reached to comment. He worked for a Titan subcontractor, SOS Interpreting Ltd.

"He was an employee of SOS -- I am not sure if he is at this point," said Bruce Crowell, chief financial officer of SOS Interpreting.

In its help-wanted ads, SOS describes itself this way:

Organization Profile: SOSI is a woman-owned, family operated company based in New York City. The company has been operating for 12 years with revenues over $30 million. Primary customers has been Federal/State law enforcement agencies and defense contracts and developing new partnerships with some of the biggest companies. We have contracts in several states in the nation, i.e., Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Boston, New York, Puerto Rico, and others. We are developing new partnerships because our ability to place cleared people in key contracts throughout the world. Our core competencies include: International Linguist Support/Translation and Interpretation Services, Foreign language training, Intelligence Facility Management, Intelligence, Counterintelligence, Psychological operations, counterterrorism, counter-narcotics, peacekeeping and civil affairs, force protection, private security, government program management & acquisition, telecommunications, satellite & high frequency radio communication systems and information technology & systems support, Administrative Outsourcing.

Company Benefits: Competitive salary, Medical, Dental, 401, Life Insurance, hazard duty pay, contract completion bonuses for some assignments.

Overview of Opportunities: Intelligence Collections and Analyst; Counterintelligence Agents and Analyst; HUMINT Collections; Linguist.

Company Locations: We maintain offices in New York City, NY; Reston, VA and have staffs throughout the US, South America & Caribbean Basin, Western & Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia.

Here is a help-wanted ad from last September for SOS Arabic translators:

University or Organization: SOS Interpreting LTD
Rank of Job: Translator
Specialty Areas: Applied Linguistics, General Linguistics, Translation
Required Language(s): Arabic, Algerian Saharan Spoken (Code = AAO); Arabic, Standard (Code = ABV); Arabic, Mesopotamian Spoken (Code = ACM); Arabic, Gulf Spoken (Code = AFB); Pashto, Southern (Code =PBT); Pashto, Northern (Code = PBU); Pashto, Central (Code = PST)

SOS Interpreting LTD is looking to hire native arabic linguists that are fluent in reading, writing, and speaking Arabic, and English, for overseas positions. Candidates must be U.S. Citizens. We offer excellent salaries, and benefits.

The contact at SOS is listed as Mr. Raphy Kasselian, and the address of the company is in Fairfax, Virginia.(They also have an office in Manhattan on Wall Street.) Although applicants must be US citizens, there is no mention of a required security clearance. One of the things Taguba noted about John Israel that has lead to speculation that he was Israeli is that he lacked a security clearance. What it sounds like here is that in the general chaos that prevailed at Abu G, someone, whether in military intelligence or from the CIA, hauled in a translator that had no business setting foot in the prison. Or perhaps Titan's contract with the US government required translators to have security clearances, but not SOS's contract with Titan. (See below for a more speculative hypothesis.)

Another help-wanted ad gives more on the terms of employment:

SOS Interpreting, LTD, a professional translation and interpretation firm in New York, is seeking an individual who speaks fluent Uzbek and English to work as a full-time translator/interpreter. Must be a US citizen. Work involves extended travel to Uzbekistan and other locations in the US and abroad. Salary is $75,000 per annum plus 15% hazard duty pay while overseas ($11,250 per annum). Benefits include a comprehensive health plan, pension, paid vacations, and paid personal days. Interested persons should call Julian M. Setian, Executive Vice President, SOS Interpreting, LTD.

And from intelligencecareers.com here are more SOS ads.

I note from these ads that SOS seems to employ civilian interrogators in Iraq.

HUMINT Collectors For Iraq (JobNr 86107) . . .
Location of Position: Various Locations, (Iraq) . . .

Employment Type: full-time
Security Requirements: Secret

€ Works under the management of a Senior CI agent
€ Conduct interrogations of detainees
€ Write reports
€ When not employed as interrogator and producing reports, assist in the HUMINT reporting system maintenance to include Brigade Black/White/Gray list, support screening operations and conducts liaison of to support interrogation operations
€ Trained interrogator with at least 5 years experience in interrogation
€ Completion of interrogator school
€ Knowledgeable of Army/Joint interrogation procedures, data processing systems such CHIMs and SIPRNET search engines
€ Position requires former MOS 97E, 351E, or civilian/joint service equivalents. ASI0N and N7 desired
€ Knowledge of the Arabic language and culture a plus
€ Secret clearance
€ Position requires performance of work 12 hours/day, six days/week

A couple of things strike me about this ad. First of all, the interrogator "works under the management of a Senior [Counter Intelligence] agent." On the same web site, SOS has an ad for Senior CI Agent For Iraq (JobNr 86104). So we can assume that their civilian interrogators report to people who are also civilian contract employees. Secondly, I wonder where one goes to "interrogator school." Casting around a bit, I gather the answer to this question is Fort Huachuca, AZ. So, really, these folks are not civilians in the usual sense, but military retreads.

So, let's return to the question of John Israel, whom we now think is probably a US citizen. Here, I'm going to speculate for a minute. So, SOS's interrogators report to SOS's CI Agents; to whom do SOS's Arab linguists report in a prison setting? I would guess to either an SOS interrogator or to an SOS CI Agent. Superficially, it sounded like John Israel was just dragged in off the street out of pure carelessness, but if the Titan subcontract was a larger package, perhaps this whole three-tier SOS chain of command was imported, with the SOS guys bringing in their own interrogator even though he lacked a security clearance because he worked for their company and he was whom they had available to them. This implies that there are several other SOS employees whose names we ought to know, since a translator without a security clearance and perhaps without a military background would be at the bottom of the totem pole.

And by the way, how does a company specializing in translation get into the interrogation business anyway? This sounds to me like a gold rush phenomenon.

Finally, in the midst of this huge scandal, I wonder why Bruce Crowell, chief financial officer of SOS Interpreting, who spoke to the Washington Post, hadn't bothered to find out whether John Israel still worked for the company. Although we are getting warmer, John Israel remains a man of mystery.