The Daily Beast has released an article saying “If you thought the Senate’s ‘torture report’ was shocking, imagine the prospect of the Obama administration releasing hundreds, maybe thousands of photographs depicting detainee abuse.”
Some photos show American troops posing with corpses; others depict U.S. forces holding guns to people’s heads or simulating forced sodomization.
All of them could be released to the public, depending on how a federal judge in New York rules—and how hard the government fights to appeal.
The government has a Friday deadline to submit to that judge its evidence for why it thinks each individual photograph should continue to be kept hidden away.
The report states that the photographs are part of a collection of thousands of images from 203 investigations into detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan and represent one of the last known secret troves of evidence of detainee abuse. While the photos show disturbing images from the Bush administration’s watch, it is the Obama administration that has allowed them to remain buried.
Barack Obama reversed his decision to release detainee abuse photos from Iraq and Afghanistan after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki warned that Iraq would erupt into violence and that Iraqis would demand that U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq a year earlier than planned, two U.S. military officers, a senior defense official and a State Department official according to McClatchy.
In the days leading up to a May 28 deadline to release the photos in response to an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit, U.S. officials, led by Christopher Hill, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told Maliki that the administration was preparing to release photos of suspected detainee abuse taken from 2003 to 2006.
When U.S. officials told Maliki, “he went pale in the face,” said a U.S. military official, who along with others requested anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.
The official said Maliki warned that releasing the photos would lead to more violence that could delay the scheduled U.S. withdrawal from cities by June 30 and that Iraqis wouldn’t make a distinction between old and new photos. The public outrage and increase in violence could lead Iraqis to demand a referendum on the security agreement and refuse to permit U.S. forces to stay until the end of 2011.
Some of the photos were of detainees being held in prisons, while others were taken at the time a detainee was captured.
“It was not so much the photos themselves, but that the perception that they would be Abu Ghraib-type photos,” added the senior defense official, who said U.S. officials were worried “about the potential street consequences” of making the photos public.
Iraq is scheduled to hold a referendum by July 30 on the accord, which calls for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of 2011. If the accord were rejected, the U.S. would have to withdraw from Iraq within a year of the vote or by the summer of 2010. Some U.S. officials fear that would be before Iraq’s security forces are ready to protect their country on their own.
The status of forces agreement calls for the U.S. to train Iraqi forces in specialized areas such as aviation and intelligence gathering and to step to the side as Iraqi forces take control of their communities.