Pentagon releases 198 photos of alleged detainee abuse

Pentagon releases 198 photos of alleged detainee abuse
© Getty Images

The Pentagon on Friday released nearly 200 photos showing bruises, cuts and scars suffered by detainees who were alleged to have suffered abuse.

The photos were released as a result of a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union, which is pressing the Pentagon to release an entire trove of about 2,000 photos.

“The disclosure of these photos is long overdue, but more important than the disclosure is the fact that hundreds of photographs are still being withheld,” ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement.

“The still-secret pictures are the best evidence of the serious abuses that took place in military detention centers. The government’s selective disclosure risks misleading the public about the true extent of the abuse.”

The photos released Friday show close ups of arms, legs, feet, backs and heads, many with visible injuries and rulers or coins held up next to them for comparison. A few photos where faces would be visible have the faces blacked. A few full-body photos show detainees kneeling or with their hands behind their backs.

Other photos are grainy, black and white, or overexposed. Some photos are dated with years ranging from 2003 to 2006. The locations where the photos were taken is unclear.

The 198 photos released Friday were part of investigations that found 14 substantiated allegations of abuse and 42 unsubstantiated ones, according to a Pentagon statement.

In the substantiated cases, 65 service members were disciplined in some way ranging from letters of reprimand to life imprisonment. 

In 2003, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the entire cache of photos. The organization sued in 2004 after the gruesome photos of Abu Ghraib prison leaked to the media.

In 2009, the Obama administration promised to release the photos, but Congress passed a law that allowed them to remain classified if the Defense secretary certified their release would jeopardize national security.

Former Defense Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta both issued a bulk certification for all the photos. In March 2015, a U.S. district court judge ruled the bulk certification was insufficient.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recertified all but the ones released Friday.

Ahead of the release, the State Department warned embassies around the world, and particularly in the Middle East, that the photos would be released.

The department did not issue specific guidance for the embassies, department spokesman John Kirby said, though “they have to do what they have to do” based on local security concerns.

Julian Hattem contributed.