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Analysis

Cyber Ninjas and Its CEO Should Be Banned from Government Contracts

On behalf of local Arizona groups, the Brennan Center is formally asking the federal government to protect taxpayers from waste and abuse.

When the govern­ment enters into a contract with a company, it entrusts that busi­ness to put taxpay­ers’ dollars to good use. If a company demon­strates that it is unworthy of this trust, the govern­ment owes a duty to the public to refrain from work­ing with it in order to prevent waste and abuse.

Cyber Ninjas — the firm that led the Arizona Senate’s costly sham audit of the 2020 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion — is such a company. That’s why on Monday, the Bren­nan Center sent a letter to federal offi­cials asking them to prohibit Cyber Ninjas and its CEO Doug Logan from receiv­ing federal govern­ment contracts for up to three years.

The federal govern­ment has an offi­cial process for contract prohib­i­tion — known form­ally as “debarment” — through which it determ­ines whether such a prohib­i­tion would be “in the public interest.” This process applies not only to compan­ies with exist­ing federal contracts, but also to compan­ies that “reas­on­ably may be expec­ted to submit offers” for them. Having bid for (and won) multiple federal contracts since 2016, and having main­tained an active regis­tra­tion status as of March 2022, Cyber Ninjas meets this condi­tion.

Cause for prohib­i­tion can arise when a company receives a civil judg­ment against it for viol­at­ing the law. In this case, an Arizona court held Cyber Ninjas in civil contempt in Janu­ary when the company failed to comply with an order to produce public records. The court instruc­ted Cyber Ninjas to pay $50,000 per day until it complied — an amount that stood at over $3 million in March. (The Arizona Court of Appeals denied the company’s May 2022 request to reverse the order, and Cyber Ninjas has recently peti­tioned the Arizona Supreme Court for review of the order.) This find­ing of contempt clearly qual­i­fies as a “civil judg­ment” that under­mines Cyber Ninjas’ integ­rity and honesty. After all, if the company brazenly ignores a court order for produc­tion of public records, how can the govern­ment expect it to respons­ibly carry out a contract?

More gener­ally, the govern­ment has cause to refrain from contract­ing with a company for any “seri­ous and compel­ling” reas­ons that affect its “present respons­ib­il­ity.” To be respons­ible, a company must, among other things, have a record of satis­fact­ory perform­ance, integ­rity, busi­ness ethics, and neces­sary tech­nical skills. Cyber Ninjas cannot meet this stand­ard as it has a clear public record of unsat­is­fact­ory perform­ance and a lack of integ­rity, busi­ness ethics and neces­sary tech­nical skills.

As we’ve detailed previ­ously, Cyber Ninjas failed to satisfy basic secur­ity, accur­acy, and reli­­ab­il­ity meas­ures when attempt­ing to carry out the Arizona Senate contract. The chair of the House Commit­tee on Over­sight and Reform declared that its “sloppy, insec­ure prac­tices jeop­ard­ized the integ­rity of ballots and voting machines, forcing Arizona taxpay­ers to spend millions to replace the comprom­ised machines.”

Further, Logan’s false state­ments and rebut­ted claims made while repres­ent­ing Cyber Ninjas during and after the audit fueled a disin­form­a­tion campaign, which spurred death threats against elec­tion offi­cials. Logan also repeatedly refused to produce docu­ments reques­ted by the House commit­tee, further high­light­ing his unwill­ing­ness to cooper­ate with offi­cials and engage as an honest actor.

Under federal regu­la­tions, the afore­men­tioned beha­vior more than justi­fies barring a company from receiv­ing federal contracts. And, given that Cyber Ninjas and Logan are both still active in the cyber­se­cur­ity sphere, it would indeed be in the interest of the public to guar­an­tee that the federal govern­ment will not work with either down the road. It is clear that they are, in the words of the U.S. General Services Admin­is­tra­tion, “not good busi­ness part­ners.”

For these reas­ons, the Bren­nan Center has sent a refer­ral letter to the Inter­agency Suspen­sion and Debarment Commit­tee on behalf of All Voting Is Local Arizona, Arizona Demo­cracy Resource Center, Living United for Change Arizona, and Mi Familia Vota. These local groups have witnessed firsthand the harm that Cyber Ninjas can cause to the public, and wish to prevent it on a national scale. The letter urges the commit­tee to desig­nate a “lead agency” to review this refer­ral and prohibit Cyber Ninjas and Logan from receiv­ing federal contracts.

As far as what’s next, the Inter­agency Suspen­sion and Debarment Commit­tee will choose whether to desig­nate a lead agency to consider our request. This agency would be tasked with decid­ing whether any further action should be taken. To arrive at this decision, the agency will determ­ine whether a contract prohib­i­tion would be a taxpayer-protect­ing move (and not simply a punit­ive meas­ure). If the lead agency ends up propos­ing a prohib­i­tion, Cyber Ninjas will receive notice and an oppor­tun­ity to respond. After this, the agency will determ­ine whether to offi­cially bar Cyber Ninjas and Logan from federal contract procure­ment. In other words, it’s in the govern­ment’s hands now.

This prohib­i­tion would apply not only to Cyber Ninjas, but also to any future entity set up by Logan. In addi­tion to being ineligible for federal contracts, they would be unable to receive federal grant money. The prohib­i­tion would apply govern­ment-wide and could last as long as three years, during which Amer­ic­ans could rest assured that one less company will be wast­ing millions of their tax dollars.

As the General Services Admin­is­tra­tion states, the federal govern­ment “only does busi­ness with contract­ors that have busi­ness honesty, integ­rity, and appro­pri­ate internal controls.” If this is true, it must abstain from doing busi­ness with Cyber Ninjas and Doug Logan.