Torture

Taguba Said He Saw Video of Male Soldier Sodomizing Female Detainee

By Jason Leopold

In 2007, shortly after he was forced into retirement, Army Major General Antonio M. Taguba, made a startling admission. During the course of his investigation into the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib Taguba said he saw “a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee.”

Taguba told New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh that he saw other graphic photos and videos as well, including one depicting the “sexual humiliation of a father with his son, who were both detainees.”


 
The video, as well as photographs Taguba said he saw of U.S. soldiers allegedly raping and torturing Iraqi prisoners, remains in the possession of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID).

Taguba noted in his voluminous report on the abuses at Abu Ghraib that the photographs and rape video were being withheld by the CID because of their e “extremely sensitive nature” and the Army’s ongoing criminal probe.

Taguba’s report on the widespread abuse of prisoners did say, however, that he found credible a report that a soldier had sodomized “a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.”

The video and photographs Taguba described to Hersh were “not made public in any of the subsequent court proceedings, nor has there been any public government mention of it.”

“Such images would have added an even more inflammatory element to the outcry over Abu Ghraib,” Hersh wrote.

But now a report published Thursday in Britain’s Daily Telegraph alleging that the photographs and video Taguba first described to Hersh two years ago were the ones that the Obama administration has decided against releasing to the American Civil Liberties Union in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit has done just that.  

However, the photographs described by the Telegraph were not the 44 pictures that were set for release this month after five-years of litigation between the Bush administration and the ACLU.   

The photographs Obama has decided to withhold, as I first reported May 15, are ones that were taken in 2003 and 2004 in which U.S. Army soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq took pictures of their colleagues pointing assault rifles and pistols at the heads and backs of hooded and bound detainees.
 
In an April 23, letter to U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein, Lev Dassin, acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, wrote that in addition to the 44 photographs the Obama administration intended to release “the government is also processing for release a substantial number of other images contained in Army CID reports that have been closed during the pendency of this case.”
 
However, those additional images that were to be released showed detainees being beaten, according to high-level Pentagon sources.    

One of the photographs being withheld was found on a government computer and showed two male soldiers and one female soldier pointing a broom to one detainee “as if I was sticking the end of a broom stick into [his] rectum,” according to the female soldier’s account as told to an Army criminal investigator.

I found the documents that describes many of the photographs that were set for release this month on the ACLU’s website. In 2005, the ACLU obtained the Army Criminal Investigation Division files describing the pictures as part of the organization’s long-running Freedom of information Act lawsuit against the Bush administration. Those files can be downloaded here: [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5].

About 31 digital photographs contained on a compact disc discovered in June 2004 during an office clean-up at Bagram Airfield also depicted the corpse of “local national” who died from “apparent gunshot wounds” and uniformed U.S. soldiers from the Second Platoon of the 22nd Infantry Battalion stationed at Fire Base Tycze and Dae Rah Wod (DRW) kicking and punching prisoners whose heads were covered with “sand bags” and blindfolds and hands were “zipped-tied,” according to a U.S. Army criminal investigation.

Amrit Singh, an ACLU staff attorney, confirmed that the photographs described in documents posted on the group’s website were those that President Obama has decided to withhold saying that he feared disclosing the photos would stoke anti-American sentiment and endanger U.S. troops.
 
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs seemed to suggest in response to the Telegraph’s report Thursday that the photographs Taguba characterized in his interview with the paper do not exist. That’s not true. The photographs characterized in the Telegraph report are simply not part of the package the Obama administration is now withholding.

Last September, the U.S. Court of Appeals court for the 2nd Circuit ordered 21 photographs taken in Afghanistan and in Iraq that depicts detainees being abused to be released. About 23 other pictures taken at undisclosed locations in Iraq and Afghanistan were also expected to be released by the Defense Department.

The Bush administration challenged the 2nd Circuit’s ruling last year and in March the court denied that petition.

The appeals court shot down the Bush administration’s attempt to radically expand FOIA exemptions for withholding the photos, stating that the Bush administration had attempted to use the FOIA exemptions as “an all-purpose damper on global controversy.”
 
The appeals panel added that releasing “the photographs is likely to further the purposes of the Geneva Conventions by deterring future abuse of prisoners.”

In April, the Obama administration had agreed to release the photos because the Justice Department said it did not believe it could convince the Supreme Court to review the case. In court papers filed Thursday, the Justice Department indicated that it now intends to appeal to the case to the Supreme Court.

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