Archives - February 15, 2006
|Abu Ghraib - The Sequel|
With the response to those Danish cartoons and the British Army beatings in Iraq, still running red-hot in the Islamic world, tonight, even uglier images from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
Back in 2004 when the first shocking pictures were originally leaked, the world recoiled in horror, but since then the Bush Administration has fought tooth and nail to prevent the American public from seeing any new images of the treatment of Iraqi detainees, but tonight Dateline reporter Olivia Rousset reveals new photos and videos. Despite the currently overheated international climate, we are showing them because they show the extent of the horror that occurred at Abu Ghraib. A serious warning though - some of the images you're about to see are pretty confronting and may offend some of you.
REPORTER: Olivia Rousset
These are the photos the American Government doesn't want you to see. While researching a story on guards at Abu Ghraib, I obtained a copy of the unreleased photographs and videos. Taken at the same time as the photos released in 2004 and often of the same abuses, this is the first time they have been shown to the public.
AMRIT SINGH, LAWYER, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: We hope that the release of these photographs will bring about further pressure to hold high-ranking officials accountable for what we now know to have been systemic and widespread abuse occurring throughout Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.
American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Amrit Singh has not seen the photos. The ACLU has taken the Department of Defense to court to force the release of these pictures under the Freedom of Information Act.
AMRIT SINGH: The government has taken the position that the conduct of US soldiers depicted in these photographs is so egregious that the American public cannot have a right to it.
Last September the ACLU won its case but the government immediately appealed, stalling the release of the photos. The government's main argument against their release was that they would stir up anti-American sentiment. Judge Alvin Hellerstein directly responded to this in his decision.
JUDGE ALVIN HELLERSTEIN, STATEMENT: Our nation does not surrender to blackmail, and fear of blackmail is not a legally sufficient argument to prevent us from performing a statutory command. Indeed, the freedoms that we champion are as important to our success in Iraq and Afghanistan as the guns and missiles with which our troops are armed.
In a stinging rebuke to the Pentagon over America's freedom of information, Judge Hellerstein even quoted President Bush's State of the Union speech back at them.
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH, STATE OF THE UNION SPEECH: The attack on freedom in our world has reaffirmed our confidence in freedom's power to change the world. We are all part of a great venture to extend the promise of freedom in our country, to renew the values that sustain our liberty and to spread the peace that freedom brings.
What has now emerged is that well before the first pictures were leaked and even before the abuses were photographed, the ACLU had already filed an earlier freedom-of-information request concerning the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib.
AMRIT SINGH: And the government ignored that Freedom of Information Act request. At the time we filed our Freedom of Information Act request policies authorising the abuse of detainees had already been put in place, and detainees at Abu Ghraib were being tortured as we were asking for those documents. So it only goes to confirm that not only was what happened at Abu Ghraib horrific for the detainees, horrific for this nation, horrific for the American public to have on its conscience, the government engaged in a massive cover-up of what happened. And that is utterly astounding given that this country is, after all, in the eyes of some, a country which believes in the rule of law.
These are the photos that have already been seen. They were taken within weeks of the ACLU's freedom-of-information request. Images such as the man in the hood with wires attached to his fingers, and Lynndie England with a detainee on a leash were seared into the memory of the public, creating a PR nightmare for the administration's Iraq policy.
SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: The military dogs and the victim lying on the floor near a pool of blood, with a clear wound on his leg, it is so graphic.
ABC NEWS REPORTER: Several described a gruesome photo of a partially decapitated body, though no-one knew if the photo was taken at the prison or elsewhere in Iraq.
RICHARD SHELBY, REPUBLICAN SENATOR: I saw a horrible picture, it looked like somebody's face had been blown away or beaten away.
Despite some American journalists having seen and referred to these new photographs, none have so far been published.
AMRIT SINGH: The government documents we have show that the overwhelming majority of detainees held in Abu Ghraib were in all likelihood innocent. So for people who think that, you know, that these detainees got what they deserved and this was just a lawful exercise of executive authority to get information - first of all, these detainees were in all likelihood innocent and secondly, we have documents from the FBI at Guantanamo saying that coercive interrogation techniques are not good at producing actionable intelligence. If anything rapport-building techniques are much better at producing actionable intelligence that can be used to sort of wage the so-called war on terror.
From these original photos we know that this man is Munadel al-Jumaili. These are new photos of his corpse. I was told these two photos were taken in the room, where he was killed whilst under CIA interrogation.
REPORTER: Any regrets?
SOLDIER: No, ma'am.
REPORTER: Any apologies?
Accountability for the abuses has been sheeted home to seven low ranking guards. These 'bad apples', as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld called them, are serving various sentences - the longest being 10 years for the ringleader, Charles Graner, and three years for his then lover, Lynndie England.
REPORTER: What do you think of what happened to those seven soldiers who were charged when the scandal first emerged?
AMRIT SINGH: Well, I think looking at the documents that we have received under the Freedom of Information Act so far, it is very clear to us that the actions of these soldiers were part of a larger program to abuse detainees that was put in place by high ranking officials.
Americans pride themselves on free speech and open government. This is why Amrit Singh and the ACLU feel these photos should be released.
AMRIT SINGH: The photographs really have to be released so that the public has some idea of what exactly happened at Abu Ghraib. And it has been our position consistently through this litigation that the subject of detainee abuse has been a matter of intense public debate and the appropriate high ranking officials who put the policies in place that resulted in the abuse of detainees have not been held accountable. And it is now for the public to decide for itself, by looking at these documents, what needs to be done.
|( American Civil Liberties Union : http://www.aclu.org/torturefoia/index.html|
|Find out more about the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act Campaign|