Note on methodology

How Salon produced "The Abu Ghraib Files."

Topics:

The Criminal Investigation Command (CID) materials obtained by Salon include a seven-page Forensic Report of Abu Ghraib Photos. This report indicates that CID’s Computer Crime Investigative Unit examined “approximately 14,972 files and directories” as part of its investigation. The report concludes that “An examination of these files revealed approximately 280 individual digital photos and 19 digital movies depicting possible detainee abuse…”

The report describes its organization of those 280 photos as follows: “A visual examination of the photos revealed several incidents where more than one camera was used to take photographs of the incidents. This allowed for establishing a probable timeline of the incidents based on time and date stamps found inside the digital image. A photo log and slide presentation was generated to graphically depict the timeline.”

This photo log and slide presentation are also among the CID materials obtained by Salon. The photo log is a 140-page Microsoft Word document and the slide presentation is a 14-slide Microsoft PowerPoint document. There are no official dates on the photo log or timeline themselves, but to the best of our knowledge the files were last updated on July 8, 2004.

Salon’s photo gallery is organized according to the chronology and descriptive information presented in the photo log and timeline documents.

Photos and videos

The photo gallery includes 279 photos that the CID review determined to depict detainee abuse. The images are organized into chapters according to the date they were taken or the type of events they depict; within each chapter the photos appear in chronological order. The organization of the chapters closely follows the structure of CID’s timeline document.

The video gallery includes the 19 videos that the CID review determined to depict detainee abuse. Still-frame shots from 15 of the 19 videos appear on the timeline document, which indicates the approximate time and date at which those videos were taken. The remaining four videos do not appear on the timeline, but seem to depict an event that is also documented by photos in Chapter 7. This information enabled us to construct an approximate chronological order for the videos, and the videos appear in this approximate chronological order.

The photos and videos appear exactly as Salon received them, except where detainees’ faces have been obscured to protect their privacy. Additionally, in a few cases we have rotated an image by 90 or 180 degrees to make it easier to view. A few of the photos are grainy or hard to make out, or are so similar to one another that they appear to be duplicates; these images have been included in the gallery because they were included in the set of images that CID determined to depict detainee abuse.

Captions

The photo gallery captions were assembled using information taken from CID’s photo log document. The photo log provides information for each of the 280 photos that CID identified as depicting detainee abuse, including a synopsis of the events taking place in each photo; the names and ID numbers of detainees pictured; the names of soldiers pictured; the make and model of the camera with which the photo was taken; the time and date at which the camera recorded the picture being taken (“Camera date/time”); and, because camera clocks are often incorrect, CID’s adjusted estimate of the actual time in Baghdad, Iraq, when the photo was taken (“Baghdad date/time”).

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The captions were taken verbatim (with a few exceptions; see below) from the photo log, using each photo’s Baghdad date/time, synopsis, and soldier information. No corrections were made for spelling or style.

Minor alterations were made to the captions in the following manner:

  • The time and date information for the photo captions was taken from CID’s estimated Baghdad date and time and converted from 24-hour military time to a standard 12-hour clock.

  • Detainee names and ID numbers provided in the photo log were omitted to preserve detainee privacy; any detainee names or ID numbers appearing in the photo’s synopsis were deleted for the same reason.

  • In a few cases, the captions include additional relevant information from the timeline document that did not appear in the photo log. For example, if the photo log does not provide soldier or time/date information for a given photo, but this information appears on the timeline, it has been added. All such information that was not taken verbatim from the photo log appears in brackets as an Editor’s Note.

  • Caption information for the 19 videos was taken from CID’s timeline document.

    Summary of photos and camera and soldier information

    The italicized section at the beginning of each chapter essay is written by Salon staff and describes the photos appearing in that chapter. In addition to providing a general summary of the events depicted in the chapter, each italicized section identifies the camera or cameras used to take the photos, based on camera information provided by the photo log and Forensic Report of Abu Ghraib Photos. The forensic report describes how CID determined which images came from which camera:

    “Examination of the 280 digital photos revealed that each of the digital photographs had EXIF embedded metadata. Examination of the metadata revealed the photos were created by five separate digital cameras. The embedded metadata showed the make and model of the camera as well as the camera date and time when the picture was taken. The following is a breakout of the number of images taken by each camera and the probably [sic] owner based on image analysis:

    “Camera # of Images Probable Owner
    FDMavica — 173 Images — GRANER
    Deluxe Classic Cam — 55 Images — FREDERICK
    Cybershot — 44 Images — HARMAN
    Zoran COACH — 6 Images — Unknown
    HP PhotoSmart — 5 Images — Unknown”

    The italicized sections also list the names of soldiers and civilians who appear in that chapter’s photos. For cases in which we feel certain of a soldier’s identity, we have presented his or her full name and the rank he or she held at the time the photo was taken. For cases in which we feel uncertain about soldiers’ or civilians’ identities, we have identified them exactly as CID identifies them in the photo log and timeline documents.

    The italicized text in Chapter 10 describes the content of the 19 videos in that chapter. Any additional information on the videos’ date, time or camera information appears in the video captions.

    Sourcing for chapter essays

    The essays that accompany each chapter are written by Salon staff and draw from numerous sources.

  • A series of now-public legal memoranda produced between 2001 and 2003 by the White House, the Justice Department and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Also: a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross on the treatment of Prisoners of War by the Coalition Forces (February 2004); Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba’s investigation of abuses at Abu Ghraib (March 2004); Maj. Gen. George R. Fay and Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones’ investigation of Intelligence Activities at Abu Ghraib (August 2004); and James R. Schlesinger’s investigation of Department of Defense detention operations (August 2004). All of these documents are collected in the “Torture Papers” (Cambridge University Press, 2005).

  • Documents that have been republished by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), including a more complete version of the Taguba appendixes that contains the January 2004 interviews from the CID investigation and Taguba’s interview with Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan. These and other Abu Ghraib Supplementary Documents from CPI are available as PDFs here.

  • Other materials obtained by Salon include Abu Ghraib prison logbooks, a CID interview with Cpl. Charles Graner Jr. from April 2005, and a CIA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report containing interviews with Sgt. Walter A. Diaz and Capt. Christopher R. Brinson. In addition, interviews conducted by Salon for this report include a CID spokesperson and an attorney for military contracting company CACI.

    – Jeanne Carstensen and Page Rockwell

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