SEALs sue over "abuse" photos

Published December 29, 2004 9:36PM (EST)

At the beginning of December, an Associated Press reporter stumbled upon a cache of photos of hooded and bloodied Iraqi detainees. They had been posted to an Internet photo-sharing site called Smugmug by the wife of a Navy SEAL who had served in Iraq. The photographs predate the Abu Ghraib scandal by nearly a year and suggest that abusive treatment of prisoners was a problem even among SEALs, some of the military's highest caliber troops.

Now, the SEALs who appear in the photographs are suing the AP. From The Marine Corps Times: "The suit marks 'the outrage of the Navy SEALs who believe that that report put them professionally and personally at risk,' said James W. Huston, a retired naval officer and San Diego attorney who is representing the plaintiffs.

The publication of the photographs 'is just unconscionable,' Huston said. Navy SEALs, much like other special operations forces, rely on the protection of their identities to safeguard their operations, he said, but 'all their faces have been exposed.'"

Because SEALs can be involved in classified military operations, the plaintiffs allege that the AP has "outed" them in a manner similar to how Valerie Plame's identity as an undercover CIA agent was revealed. And while the photographs are disturbing, the suit claims the AP went too far by insinuating that the SEALs' treatment of Iraqis constituted abuse. As a second AP article observed shortly after the pictures were discovered, "Gary Solis, a former Marine Corps prosecutor and judge who teaches at the United States Military Academy, said the images showed 'stupid' and 'juvenile' behavior -- but not necessarily a crime."

By Jeff Horwitz

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