Salon Publishes Complete Photos-Videos Abu Ghraib The Abu Ghraib files
March 14, 2006
The Abu Ghraib files
photographs and 19 videos from the Army's internal investigation record
a harrowing three months of detainee abuse inside the notorious prison
-- and make clear that many of those responsible have yet to be held
Editor's note: The 10 galleries of photo
and video evidence appear chronologically below, followed
by an additional Salon report on prosecutions for abuse and an overview
of Pentagon investigations and other resources. The nine essays
accompanying the photo galleries were reported and written by Michael
Scherer and Mark Benjamin. Photo and video captions were compiled by
Page Rockwell. Additional research, reporting and writing for "The Abu
Ghraib Files" were contributed by Jeanne Carstensen, Mark Follman, Page
Rockwell and Tracy Clark-Flory.
human rights scandal now known as "Abu Ghraib" began its journey toward
exposure on Jan. 13, 2004, when Spc. Joseph Darby handed over horrific
images of detainee abuse to the Army's Criminal Investigation Command
(CID). The next day, the Army launched a criminal investigation. Three
and a half months later, CBS News and the New Yorker published photos
and stories that introduced the world to devastating scenes of torture
and suffering inside the decrepit prison in Iraq.
Today Salon presents an archive of 279 photos and 19 videos of Abu
Ghraib abuse first gathered by the CID, along with information drawn
from the CID's own timeline of the events depicted. As we reported Feb. 16,
Salon's Mark Benjamin recently acquired extensive documentation of the
CID investigation -- including this photo archive and timeline -- from
a military source who spent time at Abu Ghraib and who is familiar with
the Army probe.
Although the world is now sadly familiar with images of naked,
hooded prisoners in scenes of horrifying humiliation and abuse, this is
the first time that the full dossier of the Army's own photographic
evidence of the scandal has been made public. Most of the photos have
already been seen, but the Army's own analysis of the story behind the
photos has never been fully told. It is a shocking, night-by-night
record of three months inside Abu Ghraib's notorious cellblock 1A, and
it tells the story, in more graphic detail than ever before, of the
rampant abuse of prisoners there. The annotated archive also includes
new details about the role of the CIA, military intelligence and the
CID itself in abuse captured by cameras in the fall of 2003.
The Bush administration, which recently announced plans to shut the
notorious prison and transfer detainees to other sites in Iraq, would
like the world to believe that it has dealt with the abuse, and that
it's time to move on. But questions about what took place there, and
who was responsible, won't end with Abu Ghraib's closure.
In fact, after two years of relative silence, there's suddenly new
interest in asking questions. A CID spokesman recently told Salon that
the agency has reopened its investigation into Abu Ghraib "to pursue
some additional information" after having called the case closed in
October 2005. Just this week, one of two prison dog handlers accused of
torturing detainees by threatening them with dogs went on trial in Fort
Meade, Md. Lawyers for Army Sgt. Michael J. Smith argue that he was
only implementing dog-use policies approved by his superiors, and Col.
Thomas M. Pappas, the former commander of military intelligence at Abu
Ghraib, was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for his
testimony at Smith's trial.
Meanwhile, as Salon reported last week, the Army blocked the retirement
of Major Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the former Guantánamo interrogation
commander who allegedly brought tougher intelligence tactics to Abu
Ghraib, after two senators requested that he be kept on active duty so
that he could face further questioning for his role in the detainee
abuse scandal. Miller refused to testify at the dog-handler trials,
invoking the military equivalent of the Fifth Amendment to shield
himself from self-incrimination, but Pappas has charged that Miller
introduced the use of dogs and other harsh tactics at the prison. Also
last week, Salon revealed that U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Christopher R.
Brinson is fighting the reprimand
he received for his role in the abuse. Brinson, currently an aide to
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., supervised military police Cpl. Charles A.
Graner Jr. and some of the other guards who have been convicted in the
scandal. Now Brinson joins a growing chorus of Abu Ghraib figures who
blame the higher command structure for what happened at the prison.
Against this backdrop of renewed scrutiny, we think the CID photo
archive and related materials we present today merit close examination.
In "The Abu Ghraib Files," Salon presents an annotated, chronological
version of these crucial CID investigative documents -- the most
comprehensive public record to date of the military's attempt to
analyze the photos from the prison. All 279 photos and 19 videos are
reproduced here, along with the original captions created by Army
investigators. They have been grouped into chapters that follow the
CID's timeline, and each chapter has been narrated with the facts and
findings of the Taguba, Schlesinger, Fay-Jones and other Pentagon
investigations (see sidebar).
But the documentation in "The Abu Ghraib Files" also draws from
materials that have not been released to the public. Among these is the
official logbook kept by those military soldiers who committed the bulk
of the photographed abuse. Salon has also acquired an April 2005 CID
interview with military police Cpl. Charles A. Graner Jr., one of the
ringleaders of the abuse. (One hundred seventy-three of the 279 photos
in the archive were taken with Graner's Sony FD Mavica camera.) The
interview was conducted several months after Graner was court-martialed
and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He received a grant of immunity
against further prosecution for anything he revealed. The documentation
also draws from the unpublished testimony of Brinson to the CIA's
Office of Inspector General about the death of a prisoner at the hands
of the CIA.
Thanks in part to that additional sourcing, "The Abu Ghraib Files"
sheds new light on the 3-year-old prison abuse scandal. While many of
the 279 photos have been previously released, until this point no one
has been able to authenticate this number of images from the prison, or
to provide the Army's own documentation of what they reveal. This is
the Army's forensic report of what happened at the prison: dates,
times, places, cameras and, in some though not all cases, identities of
the detainees and soldiers involved in the abuse. (Salon has chosen to
withhold detainee identities not previously known to the public, and to
obscure their faces in photographs, to protect the victims' privacy.)
Some of the noteworthy revelations include:
The prisoner in perhaps the most iconic photo
from Abu Ghraib, the hooded man standing on a box with electrical wires
attached to his hands, was being interrogated by the CID itself for his
alleged role in the kidnapping and murder of two American soldiers in
Iraq. As noted in Chapter 4, "Electrical Wires,"
a CID spokesman confirmed to Salon that a CID agent was suspended in
fall 2004 pending an investigation and later found "derelict in his
duties" for his role in prisoner abuse. Salon could not confirm whether
the agent was punished for his role in the abuse of the hooded man
connected to electrical wires, known to military personnel as
The CID documentation, as well as other reporting,
confirmed that a March 11 New York Times article identifying the
prisoner in the iconic photo as Ali Shalal Qaissi, a local Baath Party
member under Saddam Hussein and now a prisoners' rights advocate in
Jordan, was incorrect. The CID photo archive confirms that a prisoner
matching Qaissi's description -- he has a deformed left hand -- and
known by the nickname "The Claw" was held at the prison and
photographed by military police on the same night as the mock
electrocution, but he was not the one standing on the box and attached
to wires. The CID materials say all five photos of the hooded man were
the prisoner known as "Gilligan." It remains possible that Qaissi
received similar treatment, but there is no record of that abuse.
Chapter 5, "Other Government Agencies,"
tells the story behind photos of the mangled corpse of Manadel
al-Jamadi, known as the "Ice Man," who died during interrogation by a
CIA officer. No one at the CIA has been prosecuted, even though
al-Jamadi's death was ruled a homicide. The chapter adds new detail
about the CIA's role in the prison drawn from Christopher Brinson's
testimony to CIA investigators.
As explained in Chapter 1, "Standard Operating Procedure,"
some of the 279 photos and 19 videos in the archive depict
controversial interrogation tactics employed in cellblock 1A. Among the
examples of abuse on display in the photos were techniques sanctioned
by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for use on "unlawful enemy
combatants" in the "war on terror." These include forced nudity, the
use of dogs to terrorize prisoners, keeping prisoners in stress
positions -- physically uncomfortable poses of various types -- for
many hours, and varieties of sleep deprivation. Some of these
techniques migrated from Guantánamo and Afghanistan to Iraq in 2003.
(The abuse depicted in the Abu Ghraib photos did not occur during
interrogation sessions, but in some cases military guards allege they
were encouraged to "soften up" detainees for interrogation by
higher-ranking military intelligence officers.)
Military intelligence personnel and civilian
contractors employed by the military appear in some of the photographs
with the military guards, and entries from a prison logbook captured in
the archive show that in some cases military police believed their
tough tactics were being approved by -- and in some cases ordered by --
military intelligence officers and civilian contractors. The logbook
also documents prisoner rioting and the regular presence of multiple
OGA (other government agency) detainees held in the military
Three years and at least six Pentagon investigations later, we now
know that many share the blame for the outrages that took place at Abu
Ghraib in the fall of 2003. The abuse took place against the backdrop
of rising chaos in Iraq. In those months the U.S. military faced a
raging insurgency for which it hadn't planned. As mortar attacks rained
down on the overcrowded prison -- at one point there were only 450
guards for 7,000 prisoners -- its command structure broke down. At the
same time, the pressure from the Pentagon and the White House for
"actionable intelligence" was intense, and harsh interrogation
techniques were approved to obtain it. Bush administration lawyers,
including Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo, had already created a radical
post-9/11 legal framework that disregarded the Geneva Conventions and
other international laws governing the humane treatment of prisoners in
the "war on terror." Intelligence agencies such as the CIA were
apparently given the green light to operate by their own set of secret
But while the Pentagon's own probes have acknowledged that military
commanders, civilian contractors, the CIA and government policymakers
all bear some responsibility for the abuses, to date only nine enlisted
soldiers have been prosecuted for their crimes at Abu Ghraib (see sidebar). An additional four soldiers and eight officers, including Brinson, Pappas and Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski,
who was in charge of military police at Abu Ghraib, have been
reprimanded. (Pappas and Karpinski were also relieved of their posts.)
To date no high-level U.S. officials have been brought to justice in a court of law for what went on at Abu Ghraib.
Our purpose for presenting this large catalog of images remains much the same as it was four weeks ago when we first published a much smaller number of Abu Ghraib photos that had not previously appeared in the media. As Walter Shapiro wrote,
Abu Ghraib symbolizes "the failure of a democratic society to
investigate well-documented abuses by its soldiers." The documentary
record of the abuse has come out in the media in a piecemeal fashion,
often lacking context or description. Meanwhile, our representatives in
Washington have allowed the facts about what occurred to fester in
Pentagon reports without acting on their disturbing conclusions. We
believe this extensive, if deeply disturbing, CID archive of
photographic evidence belongs in the public record as documentation
toward further investigation and accountability.
While we want readers to understand what it is we're presenting, we
also want to make clear its limitations. The 279-photo CID timeline and
other material obtained by Salon do not include the agency's
conclusions about the evidence it gathered. The captions, which Salon
has chosen to reproduce almost verbatim (see methodology),
contain a significant number of missing names of soldiers and
detainees, misspellings and other minor discrepancies; we don't know if
the CID addressed these issues in other drafts or documents. Also, the
CID materials contain two different forensic reports. The first,
completed June 6, 2004, in Tikrit, Iraq, analyzed a seized laptop
computer and eight CDs and found 1,325 images and 93 videos of
"suspected detainee abuse." The second report, completed a month later
in Fort Belvoir, Va., analyzed 12 CDs and found "approximately 280
individual digital photos and 19 digital movies depicting possible
detainee abuse." It remains unclear why and how the CID narrowed its
set of forensic evidence to the 279 images and 19 videos that we
Although the photos are a disturbing visual account of particular
incidents inside Abu Ghraib prison, they should not be viewed as
representing the sum total of what occurred. As the Schlesinger report
states in its convoluted prose: "We do know that some of the egregious
abuses at Abu Ghraib which were not photographed did occur during
interrogation sessions and that abuses during interrogation sessions
occurred elsewhere." Also, the documentation doesn't include many
details about the detainees who were abused and tortured at Abu Ghraib.
While the International Committee of the Red Cross report from February
2004 cited military intelligence officers as estimating that "between
70 to 90 percent of persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been
arrested by mistake," much remains unknown about the detainees abused
in the "hard site" where the Army housed violent and dangerous
detainees and where much of the abuse took place.
Finally, it's critical to recognize that this set of images from
Abu Ghraib is only one snapshot of systematic tactics the United States
has used in four-plus years of the global war on terror. There have
been many allegations of abuse, torture and other practices that
violate international law, from holding prisoners without charging them
at Guantánamo Bay and other secretive U.S. military bases and prison
facilities around the world to the practice of "rendition," or the
transporting of detainees to foreign countries whose regimes use
torture, to ongoing human rights violations inside detention facilities
in Iraq. Abu Ghraib in fall 2003 may have been its own particular hell,
but the variations of individual abuse perpetrated appear to be
exceptional in only one way: They were photographed and filmed.
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