February 17, 2006
Salon.com published even more torture photographs from Abu Ghraib a day
after the Australian report aired on SBS public broadcasting. The
online publication obtained photos, video and other electronic
documents from an internal Army investigation. We speak with salon.com
reporter Mark Benjamin, who obtained the files and other electronic
documents. [includes rush transcript]
accompanying the photos stated that the source who gave the material to
Salon is "someone who has spent time at Abu Ghraib, is a uniformed
member of the military and is familiar with the investigation." The
article goes on to say that the material includes "a total of 1,325
images of suspected detainee abuse, 93 video files of suspected
detainee abuse, 660 images of adult pornography, 546 images of
suspected dead Iraqi detainees, 29 images of soldiers in simulated
sexual acts, 20 images of a solider with a Swastika drawn between his
eyes, 37 images of military working dogs being used in abuse of
detainees and 125 images of questionable acts."
- Mark Benjamin, National Correspondent for online magazine Salon.com.
He obtained files and other electronic documents from an internal Army
investigation into the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal. The material
includes more than 1,000 photographs, videos and supporting documents
from the Armyís probe.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I also want to bring in, Olivia Roussert,
another reporter who is adding more photographs now in this country. On
Thursday, a day after your report, the Australian report aired, Salon.com
published more torture photographs from Abu Ghraib. The online
publication obtained photos, video and other electronic documents from
an internal Army investigation. The article accompanying the photos
stated the source who gave the materials to Salon is, quote, "someone
who spent time at Abu Ghraib as a uniformed member of the military and
is familiar with the investigation." The article goes on to say the
material includes, quote, "a total of 1,325 images of suspected
detainee abuse, 93 video files of suspected detainee abuse, 660 images
of adult pornography, 546 images of suspected dead Iraqi detainees, 29
images of soldiers in simulated sexual acts, 20 images of a soldier
with a Swastika drawn between his eyes, 37 images of military working
dogs being used in abuse of detainees, and 125 images of questionable
acts." Mark Benjamin joins us in the studio now, the reporter who
obtained these photos for Salon.com. As we speak with Olivia Roussert, Mark Benjamin, talk about what you have released.
MARK BENJAMIN: Well, what we have tried to do at Salon is
to release images that no one has seen, in addition to the Australian
television production, so we believe the images that ran with our
article have not been seen by anyone and also depict images of abuse
that no one has seen before.
AMY GOODMAN: Are these pictures overlapping with what Olivia Roussert has released on Dateline?
MARK BENJAMIN: I believe that what Salon has in our
possession is what has been published by every news organization so
far, including the Australian television production, and then some
additional photos. In other words, it looks like our files, which come
from an internal Army investigation, sort of have the full Monty, so to
AMY GOODMAN: And explain one more time this internal Army investigation. Who conducted it?
MARK BENJAMIN: The Army's Criminal Investigation Command
-- itís sort of their internal investigation unit -- conducted a look
at the photos, specifically, and the people in the photos. A lot of the
materials are from the summer of 2004, when the story broke. It's
called C.I.D. The Army C.I.D. unit is looking at those photos. The
investigation shows them developing a timeline, looking at the stamps
on the photos, the electronic stamps on the photos to figure out when
they were taken, to try to identify the detainees who were being abused
and identify the specific soldiers who were carrying out the abuse.
I would note, while there have been some broader Army
investigations, which have been controversial, to look at the chain of
command, this investigation does not look at the chain of command at
all. It appears to be solely focused at who those soldiers are that are
in the pictures, carrying out the abuse.
AMY GOODMAN: We have to break and when we come back, we'll continue with Mark Benjamin of Salon.com and Olivia Roussert of SBS Dateline in Australia.
AMY GOODMAN: As we talk to Olivia Roussert of SBS Dateline
in Australia and Mark Benjamin, a reporter who has been covering
soldiers in Iraq and back from Iraq, especially many of the wounded,
the tens of thousands. Mark Benjamin works for Salon.com.
I want to ask you the same question I asked Olivia, Mark, and that is,
your response to the U.S. government, the State Department condemning
the release of these photographs.
MARK BENJAMIN: I would just add that that argument has
already been rejected by a federal judge who said, you know, release
the photographs doesnít -- if it -- essentially, terrorists need no
pretext to carry out their terrorist acts, so I think that argument has
been rejected. And I agree that, you know, if the Army is so concerned
about images of torture or abuse inciting violence, one thing to do is
to try to prevent it in the first place.
I would also note that this -- one of the reasons why we're
conducting this investigation at Salon is because there are some
indications that would suggest that the responsibility for this abuse
may go relatively high in the chain of command. For example, the
military intelligence folks who are the professional interrogators are
heavily involved in directing operations at Abu Ghraib, according to
the materials that we have. The materials also show heavy involvement
by O.G.A., Other Government Agency, which is a code word for C.I.A.
folks. The involvement of those people at the prison suggests the
possibility that this was a more organized abuse situation, and until
we've gotten to the bottom of that, weíre going to continue to
investigate, and if in the process of that we come across photos that
we believe should be part of the public record, we are going to publish
AMY GOODMAN: Olivia Roussert, images of C.I.A. involvement?
OLIVIA ROUSSERT: Look, from what Iíve -- I think Salon
have had more printed material that sort of describe the photos more.
What I've got, I think, is the same photographs without the backup.
There seems to be, and I think itís pretty clear. It's a bit more
guarded in the U.S., it seems, when people talk about this, but it
seems to me to be a bit of a given here, anyway, in peopleís knowledge
of what happened there, that absolutely M.P.s were under military
intelligence command and orders and that C.I.A. were involved, for
instance, in the death of Manadel al-Jamadi, the corpse that appeared
in the first leaked photographs and now in further ones. He died under
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, that's the image I was referring to before.
OLIVIA ROUSSERT: Yeah, oh, okay. Yeah, I donít -- he
wasn't a general, though. But he -- you know, itís, I think all of
thatís pretty clear. And it's good that this stuff comes out, because
anything else, it sort of forces people to actually acknowledge that,
instead of somehow not stating the obvious truth, I donít know.
AMY GOODMAN: Olivia, the response in Australia, which was the Australian government supporting Bush in the invasion?
OLIVIA ROUSSERT: Sorry, Amy?
AMY GOODMAN: The response in Australia to these images, the government supporting President Bush and the invasion?
OLIVIA ROUSSERT: Look, the response here has been
interesting. Itís sort of, you know, like most places in the world.
There were great marches, and the people were mainly against the
invasion of Iraq, but we went, and opinion sort of shifted both ways.
It's interesting here, people have been a lot quieter about the release
of these photographs, as far as I can tell, anyway. Obviously, it plays
out a lot more in the U.S., but I think there's a lot of fear that
people have about this, about -- a lot of people have been talking
about the cartoons, and I can't see the parallel at all. But they're
making a link.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Mark Benjamin, the person you got
this cache of photos and videos from, how close to the investigation,
and because you work with soldiers so much, the response of U.S.
MARK BENJAMIN: Well, I'm not going to talk at all about
the source who gave me the materials from the Army. I do also,
separately, I do know some lower level soldiers who served at Abu
Ghraib, and I would say that they are -- I would say some of them are
furious, because they believe very strongly that the abuses there, and
some of this has come out in trials of the lower level enlisted folks
who have been put in prison over this. They believe very strongly that
the abuses that occurred at Abu Ghraib were a result of the actions of
the higher echelons in the Army, in other words, the Army brass and
perhaps higher, and they are furious and angry, because they believe
that those higher-ups, who should bear some responsibility, have not
been brought to justice.
AMY GOODMAN: How high up?
MARK BENJAMIN: They don't know. I mean, in other words,
what they know is that military intelligence was telling -- appears to
have been telling them what to do, or they say they were. They know
that the C.I.A. was there running the show in some cases, and there are
also some soldiers who have said publicly that when they tried to tell
very high level people what was going on, they were told to shut up.
And that has made some of those soldiers very, very angry, and it has
increased their belief that was going on here goes high. I think that's
one of the reasons why we're working so hard on this story. We're
trying to figure out just how high it goes.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you, Mark Benjamin of Salon.com, and Olivia Roussert of SBS Dateline,
for joining us. And again, Link TV, which is on DirecTV, Channel 375,
on Dish Network, Channel 9410, will have the exclusive broadcast of the
whole SBS Dateline report tonight at 7:00 Eastern, 4:00 Pacific Standard Time, the network that Democracy Now! also broadcasts on.
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