Abu Ghraib Cover-up Intensifies

The Abu Ghraib investigation whitewash I reported on last week is intensifying as the Defense Department moves to squelch document production in response to Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests by public interest groups and members of the media.

The Project on Government Secrecy, headed by FOIA guru Steven Aftergood, reported today that:


Freedom of Information Act requests that were sent to the Pentagon for additional documentation and imagery concerning the abuse of Iraqi prisoners held in U.S. custody in Iraq (SN, 05/12/04) were forwarded by the Pentagon to U.S. Central Command for processing.

But now U.S. Central Command is sending them back to the Pentagon.

“We have been instructed to refer all requests for information referring to detainee abuse to the Department of Defense [Pentagon FOIA office],” a CENTCOM FOIA officer wrote.

“In order to provide you with as much information as possible, all detainee requests are now being consolidated and will be answered by [the Pentagon].”

Meanwhile, Congressional efforts to gain access to documents on the Abu Ghraib case and related issues have been frustrated.

“Time and again attempts by this House to acquire documents related to the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal have been defeated, largely on party line votes,” said Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) on July 19, citing several initiatives that had been blocked by the Republican majority.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. New Yorker columnist Seymour M. Hersh, who has already broken several important stories on the invasion of Iraq and the “War on Terror,” reportedly has new information that is even more disturbing than his May 2004 article, The Gray Zone.

The Independent reported on July 16, 2004, that videotapes exist of US soldiers sodomizing Iraqi boys. The Independent quotes Mr. Hersh, at a speaking engagement before a San Francisco ACLU meeting, as saying: “The boys were sodomised with the cameras rolling, and the worst part is the soundtrack, of the boys shrieking. And this is your government at war.”

Human rights groups have filed a little-noticed criminal complaint with Attorney General Ashcroft, calling for a criminal investigation of civilian and military officials, including Gens. Sanchez and Miller; Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld; Stephen A. Cambone, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence; White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales; former CIA Director George J. Tenet; and the Attorney General himself. The odds of the Bush Justice Department acting on this complaint are, obviously, quite remote.

The horrifying story of Abu Ghraib is going to get worse. If our professional US Army officer corps continues to “play ostrich,” or allows itself to be further politicized as a means of escaping or minimizing the consequences of this grave leadership failure, the damage to the US Army will be lasting and to the core. The “Nuremberg defense” and careerist political moves just won’t cut it. Brave officers who honor their oath of office, their commission and the Constitution they swore to defend must inititiate the desperately needed correction from within the US Army, now. Slow-walking, stonewalling or waiting for civilian politicians to “provide guidance” is not an acceptable or honorable course of action.

July 23, 2004