Sunday, July 24, 2005
Abu Ghraib Torture Photos You May Never See
In June, the government requested and received an extension from the judge stating that they needed time in order to redact the faces of the men, women and children believed to be shown in the photographs and videos. They were given until today to produce the images, but at the eleventh hour filed a motion to oppose the release of the photos and videos, based on an entirely new argument: they are now requesting a 7(F) exemption from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act to withhold law enforcement-related information in order to protect the physical safety of individuals. TodayÂs move is the latest in a series of attempts by the government to keep the images from being made public and to cover up the torture of detainees in U.S. custody around the world.Never mind that the process of redacting the photos should protect the people in the pictures. I notice that this littlemaneuverr happened on a Friday, traditionally the day the government likes to dump unfavorable information because of the slower news coverage over the weekend.
Wikipedia has an article on the torture (Wikipedia warns that the pictures include a dead body and nudity but I think they've all gotten wide distribution in the media before.) This little tidbit is about a report on the actions at the prison:
What I really love was Donald Rumsfeld's response when the original pictures hit the press.
Taguba's 53-page report, classified "Secret" and dated April 4, 2004, concluded that U.S. soldiers had committed "egregious acts and grave breaches of international law" at Abu Ghraib. Taguba found that between October and December 2003 there were numerous instances of "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" of prisoners. In violation of Army regulations, intelligence officers asked military police to "loosen up" inmates before questioning. The report estimates that 60% of the prisoners at the site were "not a threat to society" and that the screening process was so inadequate that innocent civilians were often detained indefinitely. Guards invented their own rules and supervisors approved of their actions. Personnel lost track of prisoners, did not count their prisoners, and kept no records regarding dozens of escapes. The facility held too many inmates and supplied too few guards. Training of those on guard was insufficient, and superiors neglected to visit the facilities in person. Top military personnel disagreed on whether military police or military intelligence should be in charge. Prisoner treatment varied between shifts and between compounds.
Taguba cited numerous organizational and leadership failures at Abu Ghraib. Reservists tasked with guarding the prison population were inadequately trained, and Taguba faulted senior commanders for failing to address these deficiencies. Specifically, intelligence officers and members of one company, the 372nd Military Police Company, based in Cresaptown, Maryland, in charge of security, took part in the documented abuses.
These events occurred on my watch as secretary of defense. I am accountable for them. I take full responsibility, I feel terrible about what happened to these detainees. They are human beings, they were in U.S. custody, our country had an obligation to treat them right. We didn't. That was wrong, To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apology. We're functioning in a -- with peacetime restraints, with legal requirements in a war-time situation, in the information age, where people are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the Pentagon.Notice how he manages to make the whistleblower who gave the photos to the press seem like a criminal and security risk. I also really like the use of the word "unbelievable", strongly implying that the pictures might be faked or, um, taken out of context. Right.
There are about 100 photos not seen by the public as well as two videos. While I'm not exactly looking forward to seeing them, I do think Americans need to see the actual details of what went on. No matter how the Bush Administration tries to make the war and occupation seem antiseptic, a mere matter of numbers and not flesh and blood people performing actions as a direct result of orders, it's clear that they are scared of the results of this disclosure. The mock concern for the safety of people in the images is laughable and rather a little too late. Where was the concern when these abuses were happening? Where was it when they should have been listening to investigators about the systemic levels of abuse condoned by the chain of command?
The Bush Administration doesn't believe in mercy; I'm not inclined to show it to them.
This is PBU30, a post inspired/instigated by the Progressive Blogger Union, a congenial and collegial consortium of fifth columnists. If you would like to see other blog posts on the subject of the torture photos the Bush Administration seems determined to hide (although it was really just a few bad apples, right?), check the replies under the subject header "PBU30" at the PBU group at Flickr.