Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wire: US Military Braces for Release of Detainee Photos

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, April 29, 2009 -- Newswires reported yesterday that the U.S. Defense Department said it is weighing how best to manage the imminent release of photos showing abuse of detainees amid concern about an international backlash.

The Pentagon announced last week it had agreed to release release a substantial number of photos associated with concluded past investigations of alleged abuse of detainees.

The photos were used as part of internal military investigations conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan, not including the photos used during allegations of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib detention facility in Iraq.

The pending late-May release of the photos comes from an agreement reached between the American Civil Liberties Union, the Justice Department and the Defense Department, Whitman said. The ACLU had sued the U.S. government for release of the photos.

French news agency AFP reported the following details on April 28:
"There is an extensive effort underway in this building, and in Central Command, and in Iraq and Afghanistan ... to determine the best way in which to share these photos with the public," Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters.

He said the photos, which date from 2001 to 2006, would not show a systematic pattern of abuse and that such cases were the exception.

"I think it needs to be put in perspective that these, ultimately, represent a very small percentage, a minute percentage of the overall interactions that our forces have had with detainees," Morrell said.

"It does not in any way excuse the behavior that's depicted in these photos. Some of it is appalling.

"But I don't think it speaks to an overall manner of our forces dealing with Iraqis in detention settings."
AFP also noted that Morrell said the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, was so concerned about how the photos will be perceived in the Middle East that he devoted a large portion of a soon-to-be-released interview with an Arabic language television channel to the subject.

"He's very concerned about making sure the people of Iraq and throughout the region understand the context here and that this is history, and that it no longer goes on, and that it did not reflect an overall standard of behavior for our forces in Iraq or Afghanistan," Morrell said.

Photos showing abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib caused global outrage and were exploited by al-Qaeda and associated groups to recruit and rally anti-U.S. sentiment.

After a federal appeals court ruled against the government last year, President Barack Obama's administration chose to release the photos rather than pursue the case.

(Report from commercial and Pentagon news sources.)

Related: US military braces for release of detainee photos

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