The Australian news program Dateline aired a report on SBS public broadcasting earlier this week that broke the story of more photographs and videos of Iraqi detainees being tortured inside Abu Ghraib. We air an excerpt of the original Australian report and speak with reporter Olivia Rousset of SBS in Sydney. [includes rush transcript]
The release of more photographs of atrocities by American soldiers against Iraqi detainees in the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison have spread outrage across Iraq. An official in Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari’s office said, "This serious affair totally contradicts human rights and should not be repeated."
The Australian news program Dateline aired a report earlier this week that showed new photographs of Iraqi detainees being tortured inside Abu Ghraib. The photographs were graphic, showing among other images, a dead man lying in the dirt with blood coming out of his head, another prisoner covered in feces and others in sexually humiliating positions. The U.S government quickly condemned the release of the new photographs. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said that the photos will only inflame and incite unnecessary violence and would endanger the U.S military. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday that the photos are nothing new and that the perpetrators have already been punished.
So far, no high-ranking officer or official has been charged in the abuse scandal. Meanwhile, State Department legal adviser John Bellinger criticized the release of the photos. In Australia, Dateline’s Executive Producer, Mike Carey, spoke out yesterday defending his program’s decision to air the photos. We go now to an excerpt of the report that aired on the Australian news program Dateline. For the T.V. viewers, please be warned that the images are extremely violent and graphic in nature.
- Olivia Roussert, reporter for SBS Dateline. She joins us on the phone from Sydney.
The Dateline report will air in its entirety for the first time on American television on Link TV tonight at 7:00 pm Eastern, 4 Pacific. Link’s program, "Abu Ghraib–The Sequel", will also include Middle Eastern reaction the horrific photos and video.
Link TV will also air, "Lifting the Hood"- 5 hours of special programming examining the US use of torture, rendition and extralegal methods to fight the so-called "war on terror." That program airs on February 23rd at 7 pm Eastern, 4 pm Pacific.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday the photos are nothing new and that the perpetrators have already been punished.
DONALD RUMSFELD: Congressman Murtha, these — I’m told that these photographs that are coming out now are nothing more than the same things that came out before, if not identical of the same type of behavior. That behavior has been punished. The Department of Defense, from the beginning of this conflict, has had a policy that prohibits torture. It is not permitted, and we do not today. The people are trained to avoid it. And there’s no question, but that there was conduct that was improper, and people were court-martialed, and people have been sent to prison, and people have been reduced dramatically in rank, officers have, and punished for the behavior that was unacceptable.
AMY GOODMAN: So far, no high-ranking officer or official has been charged in the abuse scandal. Meanwhile, State Department Legal Adviser, John Bellinger, criticized the release of the photos.
JOHN BELLINGER: These additional photographs that are now out are disgusting, and shows once again just the reprehensible conduct that was going on in Abu Ghraib. It’s unfortunate, though, that the photographs are continuing to come out, because I think it simply fans the flames at a time that sentiments on these issues are raw around the world.
AMY GOODMAN: In Australia, _Dateline_’s Executive Producer, Mike Carey, spoke out, defending his program’s decision to air the photos.
MIKE CAREY: Well, it seems to us that there’s a quantum leap in the abuse, in the potential abuse: corpses, really despicable sexual humiliation. As far as I understand, these have not been investigated. And that’s why we felt, as I say, a responsibility to broadcast them, to bring them out — it’s a freedom of speech issue, really — to bring them out into the open and to see what happens from there.
AMY GOODMAN: In a moment we’ll go to the reporter who broke the story. But we go now to an excerpt of the report that aired on the Australian news program Dateline. For the TV viewers of Democracy Now!, please be warned. These images are extremely violent and graphic in nature.
OLIVIA ROUSSERT: Many of the new photos show Lynndie England and Charles Graner having sex. But more disturbingly, the new photos and videos apparently reveal more torture, sexual humiliation and killings, seemingly perpetrated by soldiers at Abu Ghraib. This video shows naked men apparently forced to masturbate in front of the soldiers and their camera. Based on the American Army’s own inquiry, we can reveal the following details of the new photographs and videos.
This man listed as "Detainee 10" is thought to be an Iraqi general who was resisting relocation from the outside camp to the cell blocks, known as the hard site at Abu Ghraib. The reports states that he was pushed against a wall, at which point guards noticed blood coming from underneath his hood. The one-and-a-half inch cut on his chin was sutured by a medic.
While an Army report lists the description of this photo as "detainee apparently shot by M.P. personnel with shotgun using less than lethal rounds," the circumstances surrounding the incident are unknown.
An American soldier told me that this man was first held in the camp outside the hard site at Abu Ghraib, and that after causing problems with the other detainees, he was brought into the cells where the high value prisoners were kept. Known to the soldiers as "[beep] boy," due to an alleged habit of covering himself in his own feces, he was left without psychiatric care. He apparently became a plaything of the guards, who experimented with ways to restrain him. He’s filmed here from several different angles, handcuffed to a cell, slamming his head into the metal door. The soldiers chose to film him several times from different angles, rather than try to prevent his self-harm.
An American soldier who worked as a guard at Abu Ghraib told me these two women were arrested for working as prostitutes and were held in Abu Ghraib for 48 hours.
AMRIT SINGH: The government documents we have show that the overwhelming majority of detainees held in Abu Ghraib were in all likelihood innocent.
AMY GOODMAN: Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, from an excerpt of the Australian Dateline report, showing new reports of torture at Abu Ghraib, narrated by reporter Olivia Roussert. The Dateline report will air in its entirety for the first time on American television on Link TV tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 Pacific. Link’s program Abu Ghraib: The Sequel will also include Middle Eastern reaction to the photos and video. Link TV will also air "Lifting the Hood," five hours of special programming, examining the U.S. use of torture, rendition and extra-legal methods to fight the so-called war on terror. That program will be airing on February 23 at 7:00 Eastern, 4:00 Pacific. Olivia Roussert, the Australian reporter who broke the story, now joins us on the line from Sydney. Welcome to Democracy Now!
OLIVIA ROUSSERT: Thanks, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you talk about how you got these photos and video that have not been seen yet by the public until now?
OLIVIA ROUSSERT: I’ve been, for some time, sort of looking into Abu Ghraib and what happened there last year. I spoke to some of the victims of torture who were in the previously leaked photographs, and at the moment I’m working on a story about the guards and came across the new or the previously unreleased photographs when I was doing that.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what’s new here, exactly what you have seen and gotten your hands on.
OLIVIA ROUSSERT: Well, look, the disk itself contains over a thousand images, actually more than 6,000, but a lot of them are repeated. What I used in the story was a pretty wide representation of the kind of material on there. Obviously, a lot of it is the same as what was released before it, from the same series of events, the same torture and abuse, but there are new cases of abuse that haven’t been seen before and some corpses of people who have been either killed in riots or killed from mortars going over the wall into the prison. But, to me, it sort of shows that there was pretty widespread abuse going on.
AMY GOODMAN: And your response to U.S. authorities who said that the release of these images endangers U.S. soldiers around the world?
OLIVIA ROUSSERT: I think the abuses themselves endanger U.S. soldiers around the world. My experience from talking to Iraqis has been that they all know this happened, they all knew this was going on way before any of us did. It’s nothing new to them. It’s a long time — the truth and the full story is a long time coming for everyone else, but these are people who have been living with it and who aren’t surprised by it. They’re possibly more surprised by the reaction of the rest the world, or lack of reaction, at different times.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the photos you have of the Iraqi — I believe he was a general — who we did know was killed, but you have additional photographs?
OLIVIA ROUSSERT: I’m not sure if you’re talking the same person. There was — the guy I referred to in the story as a general was the one who just had a cut under his chin. But none of the corpses that I know of in the photographs were generals.