Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Iraq and Afghanistan Suppressed Images DO NOT Depict Rape or Sexual Abuse

Suppressed images don't show rape, official says

The Pentagon says no sexual abuse, no Abu Ghraib photos among those held back in ACLU suit.

By Mark Benjamin

June 2, 2009 | Last Thursday, the Obama administration asked a federal court to block the release of images that depict detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. The court had sided with the American Civil Liberties Union in its request that the administration release the photos. The administration's move seemed to lend credence to swirling rumors on the Internet that the administration was suppressing a cache of images showing sexual abuse of detainees. The day of the administration's request to the court, Britain's Daily Telegraph published a story claiming that the images included rape and sexual abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere in Iraq and Afghanistan. On Friday, the Daily Beast reported that many of the photographs were "sexually explicit" and included images of "a uniformed soldier receiving oral sex from a female prisoner, a government contractor engaged in an act of sodomy with a male prisoner" and "penetration involving phosphorous sticks and brooms."

What do these unreleased images actually depict? A Defense Department official who has seen the unreleased images consented to give Salon some details. Salon agreed to keep the identity of the defense official private in exchange for the opportunity to interview a person with firsthand knowledge of the images.

Specifically, the official said there are about 2,000 images related to detainee abuse, none of which are from Abu Ghraib, and the images do not include depictions of sexual abuse. The official said the government does not have secret images of rape buried in its files.

The official told Salon that the Pentagon has compiled around 2,000 images of possible detainee abuse in response to the ACLU's suit. Salon then asked, via e-mail, whether any of the 2,000 images "[show] a possible rape or sexual abuse" of the sort described in the media recently. The Daily Telegraph had reported that there were images of a male soldier forcing oral sex on a female detainee and a male translator anally raping a male detainee. "We don't have anything that would comport to what they are reporting," the official answered. (The official did not address whether any such images had ever existed.) Retired Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, whom the Telegraph had quoted as confirming that there were rape images among the unreleased material, told Salon on Friday that the Telegraph's report was inaccurate because he was quoted in a way that suggested he had seen the unreleased material. He has not. (The Daily Beast has since corrected its Friday story to say that none of the 44 photos "subject to the ACLU lawsuit and reviewed by President Obama" are sexually explicit.)
The official further clarified that the Defense Department is not withholding any additional images or video of apparent detainee abuse from the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Salon published all of that material back in 2006, which included images of prisoners being forced to masturbate and to simulate oral sex. The Pentagon is not aware of any other images of abuse from the prison. "You have the whole set of Abu Ghraib," the official said. "There are no 'X Files' of images sitting somewhere else of Abu Ghraib."

© Janet Crain

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