Nation’s largest newspapers play down a thousand pages of evidence of new torture
Washington Post relegates new proof of torture to page 16
The Washington Post, apparently jaded by month after month of reports of torture of Iraq, Afghan, and prisoners held by Americans in various other countries, relegated a thousand pages of new torture documents to page A-16
of evidence of new torture of Friday’s paper. That story, by R. Jeffrey Smith, is excerpted here.
The New York Times also dumped [url=http://www.nytimes.com/auth/login?URI=http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/18/politics/18abuse.html&OQ=pagewantedQ3DprintQ26positionQ3D&OP=424b2b72/WQ24Q20Q5EWT@3ye@@25W5}}EW}5WcQ3DWR@Fv2v3yWcQ3DnQ5E!yQ20Q25o2Q5BF]the story[/url] deep into the A-section, with a meager 633 words.
Members of an Army Special Forces unit allegedly punched, slapped, kicked and beat Afghan civilians in two villages southeast of the capital of Kabul last May, prompting official complaints from two senior Army psychological operations officers who were present and said they witnessed the incidents.
The allegation is detailed in internal Army criminal files, released yesterday, that also document other allegations of abuse in Afghanistan as recent as last year. Previous abuse allegations have mostly concerned U.S. military activities in Iraq in 2003; these documents detail parallel conduct in Afghanistan in 2004.
In one strikingly similar event, the Army last year found about half a dozen photographs that depict masked U.S. soldiers standing with their weapons pointed at the heads of handcuffed and hooded or blindfolded detainees at a base in southern Afghanistan and, in one case, pressing a detainee’s head against the wall of a “cage” where he was brought for interrogation.
The photographs were found on a compact disc left in one of the unit’s offices, and the discovery set off a lengthy search by the Army for additional copies in the cars, homes, barracks, computers and cameras of members of the unit, part of the 22nd Infantry Regiment based in Fort Drum, N.Y.
None of the photos have been published – unlike a set of photos the news media obtained last summer depicting similar acts of abuse and humiliation in Iraq – and an Army spokesman said yesterday that they are being withheld from release “to protect the privacy” of the Afghan victims.
The acts photographed in Afghanistan occurred without provocation between December 2003 and February 2004 and violated Army regulations, according to testimony in the Army documents. The Geneva Conventions, which the Bush administration pledged to respect in Afghanistan “to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity,” bar inhumane treatment as well as any “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”
Members of the unit said they took the pictures for sport and also said they destroyed some images after photos appeared in the media of similar acts at the U.S. military’s Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, according to the documents.
“I realized there would be another public outrage if these photographs got out, so they were destroyed,” said a soldier whose name was deleted from an Army investigative report dated July 8, 2004. Another said his squad leader had directed that photos be deleted from a camera, adding that “I realize it makes me and my unit look bad, and in no way meant for this to happen.”
Several of the published photos of earlier abuse in Iraq depicted the corpse of Manadel Jamadi, who had been in the custody of a Navy SEAL team and CIA interrogators. Yesterday, the Associated Press reported for the first time a claim by Army guards at the prison that before the man’s death, he had his hands handcuffed behind him and was suspended by his wrists in an effort to coerce his cooperation.
The wire service, quoting what it described as a summary of an interview conducted by investigators with one guard, Sgt. Jeffery Frost, said Frost had depicted Jamadi’s arms as so badly stretched he was surprised they “didn’t pop out of their sockets.” Eight Navy workers have received nonjudicial punishments in the case, while two others are awaiting further Navy judgment.
None of those involved in the seven new cases of alleged abuse detailed in the Army documents released yesterday
were charged by the Army with criminal wrongdoing, although six soldiers received unspecified administrative punishment for dereliction of duty in taking or participating in the photos. Although investigators found probable cause to charge another soldier in the unit with assault for punching a bound detainee in the back of the head, the documents do not indicate any punishment was imposed.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained the new documents under a court order compelling the Army to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request filed with four other organizations, said in a statement that they show military abuses were widespread.
Read the story in The Guardian as well
Papers reveal Bagram abuse