Taguba denies he’s seen abuse photos suppressed by Obama

The general told a U.K. paper about images he saw investigating Abu Ghraib -- not photos Obama wants kept secret.

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Taguba denies he's seen abuse photos suppressed by ObamaU.S. Deputy Commanding General for Support for the Coalition Forces Land Component Command Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba pauses while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee to answer questions about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq by U.S. military personnel while on Capitol Hill, May 11, 2004. Taguba wrote and submitted a report outlining the abuses and cited the "systematic and illegal abuses of detainees," and said between October and December 2003, "numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees."

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba denied reports that he has seen the prisoner-abuse photos that President Obama is fighting to keep secret, in an exclusive interview with Salon Friday night.

On Thursday an article in the Daily Telegraph reported that Taguba, the lead investigator into Abu Ghraib abuse, had seen images Obama wanted suppressed, and supported the president’s decision to fight their release. The paper quoted Taguba as saying, “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.”

But Taguba says he wasn’t talking about the 44 photographs that are the subject of an ongoing ACLU lawsuit that Obama is fighting.

“The photographs in that lawsuit, I have not seen,” Taguba told Salon Friday night. The actual quote in the Telegraph was accurate, Taguba said — but he was referring to the hundreds of images he reviewed as an investigator of the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq — not the photos of abuse that Obama is seeking to suppress.

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In March 2006 Salon published “The Abu Ghraib Files,” 279 photographs and 19 videos collected by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division as it examined the shocking cases of prisoner abuse at the notorious Baghdad prison. The photos depict scenes of extreme cruelty – prisoners forced to publicly masturbate, naked prisoners held in extreme stress positions, or being walked naked by a female guard. Some photos show prisoners bloodied and otherwise injured, with untrained guards tending to their wounds.

Several news organizations have described some of those same images as among the ones Obama is seeking to suppress, when in fact, they’ve already been published by Salon

Taguba says the Telegraph story got one important fact right: He said he does support Obama’s decision to fight the release of the images subject to the lawsuit, even though he has not seen those images. “No other photographs should be released,” Taguba told Salon, because he worries additional images might threaten the safety of U.S. troops.

Mark Benjamin is a national correspondent for Salon based in Washington, D.C. Read his other articles here.

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