Legislators view images of 'sadistic' prison abuse
By Wire services
As the military ordered more courts-martial stemming from abuse in Iraq, lawmakers saw unreleased Abu Ghraib photos.
Published May 13, 2004
The abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops went beyond the photos seen by most Americans, shaken lawmakers said Wednesday after viewing fresh pictures and video that they said depicted forced sex, brutality and dogs snarling at cowed prisoners.
In Iraq, the U.S. military ordered courts-martial Wednesday for two more American soldiers accused of abusing naked prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison.
And for the first time, the military disclosed evidence that seemingly undercuts contentions that military intelligence units had asked military police at Abu Ghraib to "soften up" prisoners. Wednesday's charging documents note that some of the abuse occurred before military police units were reporting to intelligence officials at the jail.
In Washington, some members of Congress said they feared that releasing the images they saw would inflame international outrage and endanger Americans still in Iraq. The private screening of more than 1,600 photos in a top-secret room of the U.S. Capitol came one day after Islamic militants announced they had beheaded an American in Iraq to avenge abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison.
"I don't know how the hell these people got into our army," said Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., after viewing what he called a fraction of the images.
"I saw cruel, sadistic torture," said Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif. She said she saw a man hitting himself against a wall as though to knock himself unconscious.
Others said they saw images of corpses, military dogs snarling at cowering prisoners, women commanded to expose their breasts and sex acts, including forced homosexual sex.
Not everyone reacted the same way to the additional photos.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said he thought "some people are overreacting."
"The people who are against the war are using this to their political ends," he said.
Many of the photos appeared to include the same small group of soldiers who were in pictures that had already been made public. And pictures of abuse were mixed in with travelogue-type photos.
Some questionable photos appeared to have nothing to do with prisoners, including several that lawmakers believed were of sex between male and female U.S. troops.
The pictures on three discs were shown to lawmakers in the form of a slide show. Many said the images were difficult to decipher.
Lawmakers were given three hours to see the photos and videos in top-secret rooms at the Capitol. The photos remained in the custody of the Pentagon as the administration tried to decide whether to release them to the public.
Shortly before the viewing began, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called the abuse of Iraqis "a body blow for the country." But he defended military interrogation techniques in Iraq, rejecting contentions that they violate international rules and may endanger Americans taken prisoner.
Rumsfeld told a Senate committee that Pentagon lawyers had approved methods such as sleep deprivation and dietary changes as well as rules permitting prisoners to be made to assume stressful positions.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also noted that the rules require prisoners to be treated humanely at all times.
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. said some of the approved techniques "go far beyond the Geneva Convention," a reference to international rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war.
The Defense Department is conducting multiple investigations into prisoner abuse.
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy chief of Iraq operations, said more senior American soldiers would likely be punished for the prison scandal, which has tarnished American's human rights record in occupied Iraq.
"We have six soldiers right now that are facing criminal charges, three that are facing court-martial," Kimmitt said. "We have numerous people in the supervisory chain who are going to potentially lose their careers because they failed to check, double-check and do what supervisors are expected to do."
The seven-page charging document released for the reserve soldiers painted a picture of military police debauchery and degradation - apparently all in a single day in November - at the notorious sprawling prison complex outside Baghdad that served as Saddam Hussein's torture center.
The charges offer no motives but describe acts that have been portrayed in a series of photos leaked to the worldwide media, flashed across American television screens and published in U.S. newspapers.
Charged with violating five counts of the Uniform Code of Military Justice are Sgt. Javal Davis, 26, of Maryland and Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II, 37, of Buckingham, Va. No date has been set for their military trial. Eight other Americans have already been charged in the abuse scandal; on Sunday the military announced that the court-martial of Spc. Jeremy Savits, 23, of Pennsylvania, will begin Wednesday.
The planned public trials are part of a campaign to try to restore Iraqi confidence in the U.S.-led coalition's invasion, occupation and attempt to create a democracy in Iraq.
The charge sheets also spell out for the first time when the abuses captured in some photos were alleged to have occurred - "on or about Nov. 8" - about two weeks before the military police unit was assigned to do missions and tasks for interrogators at Abu Ghraib.
The timeline may be significant for military investigations, which are studying why commanders failed to stop the abuses or recognize that they were taking place.
Until Nov. 19, the guards' 372nd Military Police Company didn't answer to interrogators at Abu Ghraib. Even afterward, Kimmitt said Wednesday, they were commanded by the 800th Military Police Brigade, led by Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski. But Karpinski has said in news interviews that she was unaware of the abuses at the time because her military police officers were answering to a military intelligence unit made up of soldiers and civilian contractors at Abu Ghraib.
The consolidation order also has been controversial because it was part of a series of recommendations by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, now in charge of all U.S.-run prisons in Iraq, to have closer cooperation between the guards and interrogators at Abu Ghraib to get better intelligence from prisoners.
Frederick, the most senior soldier charged so far, appears in the documents to have directed and participated in the widest range of crimes - from allegedly stacking nude prisoners in a pyramid to posing for a picture sitting atop a prisoner who was bound and stuffed between two hospital stretchers.
The charging documents also allege that Frederick participated in the hooding of a prisoner, who, with wires connected to his hands, was made to stand precariously on a cardboard military rations box and told he would be electrocuted if he fell.
Frederick is charged with conspiracy to maltreat detainees, dereliction of duty for negligibly failing to protect detainees from abuse, maltreatment of detainees and wrongfully committing an indecent act by watching detainees commit a sexual act, Kimmitt said.
Davis is charged with conspiracy to maltreat detainees, dereliction of duty for failing to protect detainees from abuse, maltreatment of detainees, rendering false official statements and assault.
- Information from the Associated Press, Knight Ridder Newspapers and New York Times was used in this report.
[Last modified May 13, 2004, 02:20:18]
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