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.

Topics: Torture, Abu Ghraib, ACLU,

Suppressed images don't show rape, official says

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.”

Salon contacted the White House to ask why, if there is no videotape or photos showing sexual abuse, the administration continues to fight the release of further images. An official referred Salon to President Obama’s own explanation that the pictures add little to the torture debate. “I want to emphasize that these photos that were requested in this case are not particularly sensational, especially when compared to the painful images that we remember from Abu Ghraib,” Obama said on May 13 when he announced that he would reverse course and fight the release of the images.

“This is not a situation in which the Pentagon has concealed or sought to justify inappropriate action,” Obama added. “In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”

In addition to describing what the images do not show, the official provided some limited information about what they do show. In response to the ACLU suit, the Defense Department culled the 2,000 images from the files of military investigations into cases of alleged detainee abuse. The pictures include shots of possible abuse taken by soldiers that were later obtained by military investigators. According to the official, the investigators themselves created some of the rest of the 2,000 images during their investigations. They took pictures — like a photo of a bruised and banged-up detainee — while gathering evidence.

Some of those 2,000 images, including those generated by investigators, come from cases in which the military determined that abuse had not, in fact, occurred. “You could have an image where you could have a bruised detainee, but upon investigation was not found to be abuse,” the official explained.

The official added that the Defense Department has already sent the ACLU redacted copies of the investigations behind the 2,000 still-unreleased photos. Those documents describe the alleged abuse behind the photos. “They have the actual investigations, redacted,” the official said about the ACLU. “They want the photographs also. It is not like they don’t know what was investigated.”

“You have to ask what is their purpose for being so adamant about the photos, since we have already provided the information to them — minus the photographs.”

The ACLU’s Amrit Singh confirmed that her organization had received written material on military investigations into detainee abuse allegations. Singh said, however, that while sometimes there is a reference to a specific photo inside those investigative documents, the Pentagon did not hand over an itemized list of 2,000 images. She also pointed out that the ACLU could not confirm that they have all the investigations connected to the unreleased photos, since they have not seen the photos.

In fact, said Singh, until she was called by Salon, she did not even know how many photos the military had compiled. She did not know there were 2,000. “We have no way of knowing anything,” she said.

On Monday the Supreme Court gave the Obama administration 30 additional days to make its case for why the photos should not be released.

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

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>