Tuesday, May 31, 2005

New Photos From Abu Ghraib

The stuff that couldn't be released last time around is about to come out, thanks to a federal judge's order. How bad could it be? Take a look at your Congressman's reaction:
The images, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress, depict "acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman." After Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) viewed some of them in a classified briefing, he testified that his "stomach gave out."

NBC News reported that they show "American soldiers beating one prisoner almost to death, apparently raping a female prisoner, acting inappropriately with a dead body, and taping Iraqi guards raping young boys."

That last item might seem extreme, but again it's not -news-. Report Mainz (video and site are in German) had a segment revealing that children were routinely arrested and interned last July, and an interview with Sgt. Samuel Provance, a whistleblower formerly stationed at Abu Ghraib. Seymore Hersh, in an address before last year's convention of the ACLU, has flatly stated that the US Government has video of children being sodomized at Abu Ghraib.
Old news or no, there's a great deal of excrement remaining to strike the rotary air impelers. Keep in mind, as always, that 70-90% of the detainees in Iraq are innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever.


Blogger Management said...

Judge: Public Has Right to See Abuse Photos

The Associated Press
Thursday, May 26, 2005; 7:57 PM

NEW YORK -- A federal judge has told the government it will have to release additional pictures of detainee abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, civil rights lawyers said.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein, finding the public has a right to see the pictures, told the government Thursday he will sign an order requiring it to release them to the American Civil Liberties Union, the lawyers said.

The judge made the decision after he and government attorneys privately viewed a sampling of nine pictures resulting from an Army probe into abuse and torture at the prison. The pictures were given to the Army by a military policeman assigned there.

ACLU lawyer Megan Lewis told the judge she believes the government has pictures of abuse beyond the Abu Ghraib images that sparked outrage around the world after they were leaked to the media last year.

Some of the thousands of pages of documents the government has released to the ACLU seem to refer to such images, and the government has not denied that additional photos exist, she said.

The judge decided some pictures from Abu Graib could be released to comply with the Freedom of Information Act while others must be redacted or were not relevant to the ACLU's request, Lewis said.

She said the judge's findings likely would clear the way for the release of other pictures of detainees taken around the world by U.S. authorities.

"I do think they could be extremely upsetting and depict conduct that would outrage the American public and be truly horrifying," she said outside court.

The judge ordered the transcript of comments made during his viewing of the pictures sealed. He did not disclose his findings in court, but said his order "will lead to production (of the pictures) or further proceedings."

"Further proceedings" presumably referred to possible appeals by government lawyers, who declined to comment as they left the hearing. A message left with a government spokeswoman was not immediately returned.

Before viewing the pictures, the judge said in court that he thought "photographs present a different level of detail and are the best evidence the public can have of what occurred."

Government lawyer Sean Lane argued that releasing pictures, even if faces and other features are obscured, would violate Geneva Convention rules on prisoner treatment by subjecting detainees to additional humiliation or embarrassment. He said the emotional wounds would be reopened because detainees could identify themselves and because the public would learn their identities.

The judge, however, said, "I don't believe with suitable redaction there is an unwarranted invasion of privacy." He also said he didn't think it was likely that detainees in redacted photos would be able to be identified.

The judge's decision stems from a lawsuit the ACLU filed in October 2003 seeking information on treatment of detainees in U.S. custody and the transfer of prisoners to countries known to use torture. The ACLU contends that prisoner abuse is systemic.

So far, 36,000 pages of documents and the reports of 130 investigations, mostly from the FBI and Army, have been turned over to the ACLU. The group is seeking documents from the CIA and the Defense Department as well.

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Blogger Management said...

The Pentagon's Secret Stash
By Matt Welch
Reason Magazine

April 2005 Edition

Why we'll never see the second round of Abu Ghraib photos.

The images, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress, depict "acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel, and inhuman." After Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) viewed some of them in a classified briefing, he testified that his "stomach gave out." NBC News reported that they show "American soldiers beating one prisoner almost to death, apparently raping a female prisoner, acting inappropriately with a dead body, and taping Iraqi guards raping young boys." Everyone who saw the photographs and videos seemed to shudder openly when contemplating what the reaction would be when they eventually were made public.

But they never were. After the first batch of Abu Ghraib images shocked the world on April 28, 2004, becoming instantly iconic-a hooded prisoner standing atop a box with electrodes attatched to his hands, Pfc. Lynndie England dragging a naked prisoner by a leash, England and Spc. Charles Graner giving a grinning thumbs-up behind a stack of human meat-no substantial second round ever came, either from Abu Ghraib or any of the other locations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay where abuses have been alleged. ABC News broadcast two new photos from the notorious Iraq prison on May 19, The Washington Post printed a half-dozen on May 20 and three more on June 10, and that was it.

"It refutes the glib claim that everything leaks sooner or later," says the Federation of American Scientists' Steven Aftergood, who makes his living finding and publishing little-known government information and fighting against state secrecy. "While there may be classified information in the papers almost every day, there's a lot more classified information that never makes it into the public domain."

It's not for lack of trying, at least from outside the government. Aftergood, for example, sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the Defense Department on May 12, asking generally for "photographic and video images of abuses committed against Iraqi prisoners" and specifically for the material contained on three compact discs mentioned by Rumsfeld in his testimony. The Defense Department told him to ask the U.S. Central Command, which sent him back to Defense, which said on second thought try the Army's Freedom of Information Department, which forwarded him to the Army's Crime Records Center, which hasn't yet responded. "It's not as if this is somehow an obscure matter that no one's quite ever heard of," Aftergood notes.

Officials have given two legal reasons for suppressing images of prisoner abuse: "unwarranted invasion of privacy" and the potential impact on law enforcement. The Freedom of Information Act's exemptions 6 and 7 (as these justifications are known, respectively) have been used repeatedly to rebuff the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which since October 2003 has unearthed more than 600 torture-related government documents but zero images.

The privacy objection is easily answered: Why not just obscure any identifying features? The law enforcement question, which has a firmer legal footing, is whether distribution of the images could "deprive a person of a fair trial or an impartial adjudication." Yet even there, the globally publicized photographs of Charles Graner, for instance, were ruled by a military judge to be insufficient grounds to declare his trial unfair. And Graner, sentenced to 10 years for his crimes, is the only one of the eight charged Abu Ghraib soldiers to contest his case in court.

"We've seen virtually no criminal investigations or criminal prosecutions," says ACLU staff attorney Jameel Jaffer, who plans to challenge the nondisclosure in court. "The vast majority of those photographs and videotapes don't relate to ongoing criminal investigations; on the contrary they depict things that the government approved of at the time and maybe approves of now."

Legalities are one thing, but the real motivation for choking off access is obvious: Torture photos undermine support for the Iraq war. In the words of Donald Rumsfeld, "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse."

The Abu Ghraib photos did more to kneecap right-wing support for the Iraq war, and put a dent in George Bush's approval ratings, than any other single event in 2004. Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote two glum pieces about "the failure to understand the consequences of American power"; The Washington Post's George Will called for Rumsfeld's head; blogger Andrew Sullivan turned decisively against the president he once championed; and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warned: "We risk losing public support for this conflict. As Americans turned away from the Vietnam War, they may turn away from this one."

News analyses about the war coalition's crackup competed for front-page space with the Abu Ghraib reports for nearly two weeks, until a videotape emerged showing American civilian Nick Berg getting his head sawed off in Iraq. Suddenly, editorialists were urging us to "keep perspective" about "who we're fighting against."

By that time, the executive and legislative branches had learned their lesson: Don't release images. The day after the Berg video, members of Congress were allowed to see a slide show of 1,800 Abu Ghraib photographs. The overwhelming response, besides revulsion, was, in the words of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Va.), that the pictures "should not be made public." "I feel," Warner said, "that it could possibly endanger the men and women of the armed forces as they are serving and at great risk."

Just before former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, author of two memos relating to interrogation methods and the Geneva Conventions, faced confirmation hearings to become attorney general, there were press whispers that the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin (D-Mich.), might choose the occasion to force more disclosure of torture photos. It didn't happen. "He and Senator Warner," says Levin spokeswoman Tara Andringa, "are on the same page."

As is, no doubt, a good percentage of the U.S. population. Public opinion of journalism has long since plummeted below confidence levels in government. Prisoner abuse wasn't remotely an issue in the 2004 presidential campaign, let alone an electoral millstone for the governing party. The mid-January discovery of photographs showing British soldiers abusing Iraqis barely caused a ripple in the States. Neither did the Associated Press' December publication of several new photos of Navy SEALs vamping next to injured and possibly tortured prisoners (prompting the New York Post to demand an apology from...the Associated Press).

As The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto put it, with great cynicism and possibly great accuracy, "if the Democrats really think that belaboring complaints about harsh treatment of the enemy is the way to 'score points with the public,' they're more out of touch than we thought."

Looking ahead to the next four years, there is little doubt that the administration, its supporters, and Congress will use whatever legal means are available to prevent Abu Ghraib-the public relations problem, not the prisoner abuse-from happening again. The Defense Department has commissioned numerous studies about America's problem with "public diplomacy" since the September 11 massacre; all those compiled since last May hold up the iconic torture images as the perfect example of what not to let happen again.

"The Pentagon realizes that it's images that sell the story," Aftergood says. "The reason that there is a torture scandal is because of those photographs. There can be narratives of things that are much worse, but if they aren't accompanied by photos, they somehow don't register....The Abu Ghraib photos are sort of the military equivalent of the Rodney King case....And I hate to attribute motives to people I don't know, but it is easy to imagine that the officials who are withholding these images have that fact in mind."

9:47 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Published on Saturday, May 22, 2004 by ABC News
Continuing the Cover-Up?
Military Takes Action Against Key Witness in Abu Ghraib Abuse Scandal
by Brian Ross and Alexandra Salomon

May 21 -- A witness who told ABCNEWS he believed the military was covering up the extent of abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison was today stripped of his security clearance and told he may face prosecution because his comments were "not in the national interest."

Sgt. Samuel Provance said in addition to his revoked security clearance, he was transferred to a different platoon, and his record was officially "flagged," meaning he cannot be promoted or given any awards or honors.

Provance said he was told he will face administrative action for failing to report what he knew at the time and for failing to take steps to stop the abuse.

"I see it as an effort to intimidate Sgt. Provance and any other soldier whose conscience is bothering him, and who wants to come forward and tell what really happened at Abu Ghraib," said his attorney Scott Horton.

Provance Alleges Cover-Up

A key witness in the military investigation into prisoner mistreatment at Abu Ghraib, Provance told ABCNEWS earlier this week that dozens of soldiers — in addition to the seven military police reservists who have been charged — were involved in the abuse at the prison, and he said there is an effort under way in the Army to hide it.

"There's definitely a cover-up," Provance said. "People are either telling themselves or being told to be quiet."

Provance, 30, was part of the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion stationed at Abu Ghraib last September. He spoke to ABCNEWS despite orders from his commanders not to.

"What I was surprised at was the silence," said Provance. "The collective silence by so many people that had to be involved, that had to have seen something or heard something."

Provance, now stationed in Germany, ran the top-secret computer network used by military intelligence at the prison.

He said that while he did not see the actual abuse take place, the interrogators with whom he worked freely admitted they directed the MPs' rough treatment of prisoners.

"Anything [the MPs] were to do legally or otherwise, they were to take those commands from the interrogators," he said.

Top military officials have claimed the abuse seen in the photos at Abu Ghraib was limited to a few MPs, but Provance says the sexual humiliation of prisoners began as a technique ordered by the interrogators from military intelligence.

"One interrogator told me about how commonly the detainees were stripped naked, and in some occasions, wearing women's underwear," Provance said. "If it's your job to strip people naked, yell at them, scream at them, humiliate them, it's not going to be too hard to move from that to another level."

According to Provance, some of the physical abuse that took place at Abu Ghraib included U.S. soldiers "striking [prisoners] on the neck area somewhere and the person being knocked out. Then [the soldier] would go to the next detainee, who would be very fearful and voicing their fear, and the MP would calm him down and say, 'We're not going to do that. It's OK. Everything's fine,' and then do the exact same thing to him."

Provance also described an incident when two drunken interrogators took a female Iraqi prisoner from her cell in the middle of the night and stripped her naked to the waist. The men were later restrained by another MP.

Pentagon Sanctions Investigation

Maj. Gen. George Fay, the Army's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, was assigned by the Pentagon to investigate the role of military intelligence in the abuse at the Iraq prison.

Fay started his probe on April 23, but Provance said when Fay interviewed him, the general seemed interested only in the military police, not the interrogators, and seemed to discourage him from testifying.

Provance said Fay threatened to take action against him for failing to report what he saw sooner, and the sergeant said he feared he would be ostracized for speaking out.

"I feel like I'm being punished for being honest," Provance told ABCNEWS on Tuesday. "You know, it was almost as if I actually felt if all my statements were shredded and I said, like most everybody else, 'I didn't hear anything, I didn't see anything. I don't know what you're talking about,' then my life would be just fine right now."

In response, Army officials said it is "routine procedure to advise military personnel under investigative review" not to comment. The officials said, however, that Fay and the military were committed to an honest, in-depth investigation of what happened at the prison.

But Provance believes many involved may not be as forthcoming with information.

"I would say many people are probably hiding and wishing to God that this storm passes without them having to be investigated [or] personally looked at," he said.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Management said...

Seymour Hersh says the US government has videotapes of boys being sodomized at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"The worst is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking," the reporter told an ACLU convention last week. Hersh says there was "a massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there, and higher."

(I transcribed some of his speech from this streaming site. Hersh starts at about 1:07:50.)

He called the prison scene "a series of massive crimes, criminal activity by the president and the vice president, by this administration anyway�war crimes."

The outrages have cost us the support of moderate Arabs, says Hersh. "They see us as a sexually perverse society."

Hersh describes a Pentagon in crisis. The defense department budget is �in incredible chaos,� he says, with large sums of cash missing, including something like $1 billion that was supposed to be in Iraq.

"The disaffection inside the Pentagon is extremely accute," Hersh says. He tells the story of an officer telling Rumsfeld how bad things are, and Rummy turning to a ranking general yes-man who reassured him that things are just fine. Says Hersh, "The Secretary of Defense is simply incapable of hearing what he doesn�t want to hear."

The Iraqi insurgency, he says,was operating in 1-to-3 man cells a year ago, now in 10-15 man cells, and despite the harsh questioning, "we still know nothing about them...we have no tactical information.�

He says the foreign element among insurgents is overstated, and that bogeyman Zarqawi is "a composite figure" hyped by our government.

The war, he says, has escalated to "fullscale, increasingly intense military activity."

Hersh described the folks in charge of US policy as "neoconservative cultists" who have taken the government over, and show "how fragile our democracy is."

He ripped the supine US press, pledged to bring home all the facts he could, said he was not sure he could deliver all the damning info he suspects about Bush administration responsibility for Abu Ghraib.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Management said...

The Arizona Daily Star
Published: 05.11.2004

Report: 70%-90% held in error in Iraq
By Alexander G. Higgins

GENEVA - Some 70 percent to 90 percent of Iraqi detainees were arrested "by mistake," according to coalition intelligence officers cited in a Red Cross report disclosed Monday.

The report also said U.S. officers mistreated inmates at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison by keeping them naked in totally dark, empty cells.

Abuse of Iraqi prisoners was widespread and routine, the report finds - contrary to President Bush's contention that the mistreatment "was the wrongdoing of a few."

While many detainees were quickly released, high-ranking officials in Saddam Hussein's government - including those listed on the U.S. military's deck of cards - were held for months in solitary confinement.

Red Cross delegates saw U.S. military intelligence officers mistreating prisoners under interrogation at Abu Ghraib and collected allegations of abuse at more than 10 other detention facilities, including the military intelligence section at Camp Cropper at Baghdad International Airport and the Tikrit holding area, according to the report.

The 24-page document cites abuses, some "tantamount to torture," including brutality, hooding, humiliation and threats of "execution."

"These methods of physical and psychological coercion were used by the military intelligence in a systematic way to gain confessions and extract information and other forms of cooperation from persons who had been arrested in connection with suspected security offenses or deemed to have an 'intelligence value.'"

High officials targeted

High-ranking officials were singled out for special treatment, according to the report, which the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed as authentic after it was leaked to and published by The Wall Street Journal on Monday.

"Since June 2003 over a hundred 'high value detainees' have been held for nearly 23 hours a day in strict solitary confinement in small concrete cells devoid of daylight," said the report. "Their continued internment several months after their arrest in strict solitary confinement constituted a serious violation of the third and fourth Geneva Conventions."

The high-value detainees were deprived of any contact with other inmates, "guards, family members (except through Red Cross messages) and the rest of the outside world," the report said.

Those whose investigations were near an end were said to be allowed to exercise together outside the cells for 20 minutes twice a day.

The report said some coalition military intelligence officers estimated "between 70 percent and 90 percent" of the detainees in Iraq "had been arrested by mistake. They also attributed the brutality of some arrests to the lack of proper supervision of battle group units."

The agency said arrests allegedly followed a pattern.

"Arresting authorities entered houses usually after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members into one room under military guard while searching the rest of the house and further breaking doors, cabinets and other property," the report said.

"Sometimes they arrested all adult males present in a house, including elderly, handicapped or sick people," it said. "Treatment often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles."

It was unclear what the Red Cross meant by "mistake." However, many Iraqis over the past year have claimed they were arrested by American forces because of misunderstandings, bogus claims by personal enemies, mistaken identity or simply for having been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

In one operation, U.S. special operations troops detained nearly the entire male population of a desert village, Habbariyah, one as old as 81 and one 13-year-old, apparently to prevent terrorists from slipping across the border from Saudi Arabia. The 79 men were held for weeks.

The Red Cross report says that in coalition prisons, Red Cross delegates "directly witnessed and documented a variety of methods used to secure the cooperation" of the inmates "with their interrogators." The delegates saw how detainees were kept "completely naked in totally empty concrete cells and in total darkness."

"Upon witnessing such cases, the ICRC interrupted its visits and requested an explanation from the authorities," the report said. "The military intelligence officer in charge of the interrogation explained that this practice was 'part of the process.' "

This apparently meant that detainees were progressively given clothing, bedding, lighting and other items in exchange for cooperation, it said.

The report said the Red Cross found evidence supporting prisoners' claims of other forms of abuse during arrest, initial detention and interrogation.

9:49 AM  

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