The collection of photographs begins like a travelogue from Iraq. Here are U.S. soldiers posing in front of a mosque. Here is a soldier riding a camel in the desert. And then: a soldier holding a leash tied around a man’s neck in an Iraqi prison. He is naked, grimacing and lying on the floor.
Mixed in with more than 1,000 digital pictures obtained by The Washington Post are photographs of naked men, apparently prisoners, sprawled on top of one another while soldiers stand around them. There is another photograph of a naked man with a dark hood over his head, handcuffed to a cell door. And another of a naked man handcuffed to a bunk bed, his arms splayed so wide that his back is arched. A pair of women’s underwear covers his head and face.
The graphic images, passed around among military police who served at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, are a new batch of photographs similar to those broadcast a week ago on CBS’s “60 Minutes II” and published by the New Yorker magazine. They appear to provide further visual evidence of the chaos and unprofessionalism at the prison detailed in a report by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba. His report, which relied in part on the photographs, found “numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” that were inflicted on detainees.
This group of photographs, taken from the summer of 2003 through the winter, range widely, from mundane images of everyday military life to pictures showing crude simulations of sex among soldiers. The new pictures appear to show American soldiers abusing prisoners, many of whom wear ID bands, but The Post could not eliminate the possibility that some of them were staged.
The photographs were taken by several digital cameras and loaded onto compact discs, which circulated among soldiers in the 372nd Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit based in Cresaptown, Md. The pictures were among those seized by military investigators probing conditions at the prison, a source close to the unit said.
The investigation has led to charges being filed against six soldiers from the 372nd. “The allegations of abuse were substantiated by detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence,” Taguba’s report states.
For many units serving in Iraq, digital cameras are pervasive and yet another example of how technology has transformed the way troops communicate with relatives back home. From Basra to Baghdad, they e-mail pictures home. Some soldiers, including those in the 372nd, even packed video cameras along with their rifles and Kevlar helmets.
Bill Lawson, whose nephew, Staff Sgt. Ivan L. “Chip” Frederick, is one of the soldiers charged in the incident, said that Frederick sent home pictures from Iraq on a few occasions. They were “just ordinary photos, like a tourist would take” and nothing showing prisoner abuse, he said.
“I would say that’s something that’s very common that’s going on in Iraq because it’s so convenient and easy to do,” Lawson said of troops sending pictures home. He added that his nephew also mailed videocassettes “of him talking into a camcorder to [his wife] when he was going on his rounds.”
But in the case of prisoner abuse, the ubiquity of digital cameras has created a far more combustible international scandal than would have been sparked only by the release of Taguba’s searing written report. Since the “60 Minutes II” broadcast, pictures of abuse have been posted on the Internet and shown on television stations worldwide.
The photographs have been condemned by U.S. military commanders, President Bush and leaders around the world. They have sparked particularly strong indignation in the Middle East, where many people see them as reinforcing the notion “that the situation in Iraq is one of occupation,” said Shibley Telhami, who holds the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland.
The impact is heightened by religion and culture. Arabs “are even more offended when the issue has to do with nudity and sexuality,” he said. “The bottom line here is these are pictures of utter humiliation.”
It is unclear who took the photographs, or why.
Lawyers representing two of the accused soldiers, and some soldiers’ relatives, have said the pictures were ordered up by military intelligence officials who were trying to humiliate the detainees and coerce other prisoners into cooperating.
“It is clear that the intelligence community dictated that these photographs be taken,” said Guy L. Womack, a Houston lawyer representing Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr., 35, one of the soldiers charged.
The father of another soldier facing charges, Spec. Jeremy C. Sivits of Hyndman, Pa., also said his son was following orders. “He was asked to take pictures, and he did what he was told,” Daniel Sivits said in a telephone interview last week.
Military spokesmen at the U.S. Central Command in Qatar and at the Combined Joint Task Force 7 headquarters in Baghdad referred requests for comment about those claims to Col. Jill Morgenthaler, a U.S. military spokeswoman. Morgenthaler could not be reached by telephone yesterday and did not return requests to comment by e-mail. Requests to speak with Col. Thomas M. Pappas—who commands the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, based in Germany, and whose troops were stationed at Abu Ghraib—were declined by a U.S. military spokesman for the Army’s V Corps in Heidelberg, Germany.
'That's not Lynn'
Yesterday, in Fort Ashby, W.Va., two siblings and a friend identified Pfc. Lynndie England, 21, as the soldier appearing in a picture holding a leash tied to the neck of a man on the floor. England, a member of the 372nd, has also been identified in published reports as one of the soldiers in the earlier set of pictures that were made public, which her relatives also confirmed yesterday. England has been reassigned to Fort Bragg, N.C., her family said. Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful. The military has not charged her in the case.
England’s friends and relatives said the photographs must have been staged. “It just makes me laugh, because that’s not Lynn,” said Destiny Goin, 21, a friend. “She wouldn’t pull a dog by its neck, let alone drag a human across a floor.”
England worked as a clerk in the unit, processing prisoners before they were put in cells, taking their names, fingerprinting them and giving them identification numbers, her family said. Other soldiers would ask her to pose for photographs, said her father, Kenneth England. “That’s how it happened,” he said.
Soon after CBS aired its photographs, Terrie England said she received a call from her daughter.
“ ‘Mom,’ she told me, ‘I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,’ “ Terrie England said.
The pictures obtained by The Post include shots of soldiers simulating sexually explicit acts with one another and shots of a cow being skinned and gutted and soldiers posing with its severed head. There are also dozens of pictures of a cat’s severed head.
Other photographs show wounded men and dead bodies. In one, a dead man is lying in the back of a truck, his shirt, face and left arm covered in blood. His right arm is missing. Another photograph shows a dead body, gray and decomposing. A young soldier is leaning over the corpse, smiling broadly and giving the “thumbs-up” sign.
And in another picture a young woman lifts her shirt, exposing her breasts. She is wearing a white band with numbers on her wrist, but it is unclear whether she is a prisoner.
Staff writers Michael Amon, Scott Higham and Josh White contributed to this report.