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More Images Of Abu Ghraib

This column was written by Ari Berman.
There's a new batch of photos from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, and these are reportedly far worse than the sickening originals. Naturally, the Pentagon is trying to block their release.

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in October 2003 to make public 87 photographs and four videos depicting prisoner abuse in Iraq. The Pentagon originally argued that releasing the images would violate the Geneva Convention rights of the detainees; a supreme irony considering that the US originally denied these very prisoners Geneva Convention protections. The ACLU agreed that the Pentagon could black out "identifying characteristics," but a federal judge in New York ruled last week that DoD must explain publicly why it's concealing the images. "By and large, I ruled for public disclosure," said US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein. A final ruling is expected on August 30.

In court proceedings, Gen. Richard Myers argued that releasing the pictures and videos would give aid to the enemy: boosting al Qaeda recruitment, destabilizing governments in Iraq and Afghanistan and inciting riots throughout the Muslim world. But a number of high-ranking officers and civil libertarians countered by noting that much of what Myers predicts is already occurring on the ground, fueled in large measure by past and present U.S. behavior. "The attacks will continue regardless of whether the photos and tapes are released," testified former U.S. Army Col. Michael Pheneger. Myers, he said, "mistakes propaganda for motivation."

Last May, members of Congress sat in a dark room and viewed the images. Their responses begged for further elaboration. "It was disgusting," said Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson. "There were new ones that we hadn't seen before, and they're bad. I mean there's no doubt about that." Bad enough to show to Congress apparently, but not the American people.

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The NewsHour's Ray Suarez said the images reportedly depict "assault, coerced sexual activity, rape, even dead bodies." Some may have originated outside of Abu Ghraib. Rep. Jane Harman said she saw videos of a prisoner banging his head against a wall and a group of men masturbating. "Some of the videos are more disturbing than the still photos that you've seen," added Sen. Bill Nelson.

Far from endangering American national security, the release of the horrific images could provide new impetus to the stalled Congressional investigations into prisoner abuse, and the Pentagon's failure to hold any high-ranking officers accountable for Abu Ghraib. An independent counsel with subpoena power is what's needed most right now to prevent images like these in the future.

Reprinted with permission from The Nation

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