New report appears to directly contradict White House denial on abuse photos

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BY john byrne,  RAW STORY 

Published: May 29, 2009

A new report appears to directly contradict denials by the White House and the Pentagon that abuse photographs the Obama administration has withheld are worse than previously known.

In a posting Friday, an American reporter says he's confirmed allegations printed in British newspapers that unreleased photographs of US servicemembers abusing prisoners include graphic images of rape, sexually explicit acts, sodomy and forced masturbation.

Probably most notable is an alleged photograph showing a man in a US military uniform receiving oral sex from a female prisoner.

The detailed descriptions of the photographs may provide new insight into what's actually included among the images the administration has said it won't release in response to a civil liberties group's lawsuit.

Scott Horton, a journalist for Harper's Magazine who also writes for The Daily Beast,wrote that the photographs "depict sexually explicit acts, including a uniformed soldier receiving oral sex from a female prisoner, a government contractor engaged in an act of sodomy with a male prisoner and scenes of forced masturbation, forced exhibition and penetration involving phosphorous sticks and brooms."

Specifically, Horton writes of a photograph that allegedly shows Specialist Charles Graner, the convicted Abu Ghraib guard made famous in already released images, suturing the face of a prisoner.

"The suturing appeared to serve no ostensible medical purpose than perhaps Graner's attempts to humiliate or terrorize the prisoner," he writes. "A number of the withheld photographs, according to reliable sources, show Graner engaged in sexual acts with Specialist Lynndie A. England, another soldier assigned to duty at Abu Ghraib."

England received widespread press coverage for the iconic photograph of her walking a prisoner like a dog.

If true, the images also would seem likely to enrage key constituencies of the Middle East -- and be particularly offensive to Muslims. One picture, Horton says, shows a female prisoner "assuming sexually suggestive poses in a chair." Sexual humiliation is seen as particularly degrading in many Muslim countries, particularly when it involves women.

Horton's account does not include allegations floated by New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh, who said in 2004 that the Pentagon has video of children being sodomized at Abu Ghraib.

"Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about," Hersh said. "The women were passing messages out saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened' and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out."

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs vehemently denied British media reports which alleged that some of the photos show the rape of detainees.

"I don't want to speak generally about some reports I've seen over the past few years in the British media," he said. "And, in some ways I'm surprised it filtered down. Let's just say if I wanted to read -- if I wanted to read a write-up of how Manchester United fared in the Champion's League cup, I might open up a British newspaper.

"Are you saying the report is completely false?" asked CBS reporter Chip Reid.

"I would refer you ... to the statement that [Pentagon] put out, that the article is wrong and mischaracterizes the photos that are in question," said Gibbs. "None of the photographs in question depict the images described in the article."

A careful examination of Gibbs' remarks shows that he deliberately couched his response to refer to specific "photos that are in question," which means the White House could conceivably claim at a later date that even if images show graphic sexual acts they weren't the ones they specifically intended to suppress.

The Pentagon's spokesman, however, made no such caveat

"Whitman said he did not know if the Telegraph had quoted [a former general who spoke about the images] accurately," Reuters wrote Thursday. "But he said he was not aware that any such photographs had been uncovered as part of the investigation into Abu Ghraib or abuses at other prisons."

The British newspaper The Telegraph averred Thursday that "at least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee."

Whitman said he did not know if the Telegraph had quoted Taguba accurately. But he said he was not aware that any such photographs had been uncovered as part of the investigation into Abu Ghraib or abuses at other prisons.

Horton's detailed account is available here.

On Thursday, after the White House spokesman denied the Telegraph report, RAW STORY ran a detailed story including multiple accounts from 2004 which suggested that - although these particular photos might not show rape or sexual assaults - there appear to be many unreleased photos and videos which do show such acts.

"The American public needs to understand, we're talking about rape and murder here," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), telling reporters in 2004 why the Abu Ghraib photos should not be released as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld faced calls for his resignation. "We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience. We're talking about rape and murder and some very serious charges."

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This page contains a single entry published on May 29, 2009 1:46 PM.

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