Prisoner abuse: release photos and/or information?

May 28, 2009

The Telegraph reports that the Abu Ghraib abuse photos ‘show rape’. I’m not sure how much of it is news, but it has added new fire to the debate the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques. For instance, Hornberger at Media with Conscience asks “Was Rape an Enhanced Interrogation Technique?“. It also seems inconsistent with Obama’s statements in connection to his reversal of the decision to release more photos, more at TPM Cafe.

Considering how much outrage for instance the Mohammed caricatures caused in the muslim world, it seems to me that that Obama is right to give in to army lobbying for keeping photos classified. The release of the actual photos is in any case a distraction from the larger issue of to what extent senior officials knew about abuses and torture. The Schliesinger report (Final Report of the Independent Panel to Review DoD Detention Operations) from 2004 had this to say about Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities:

Abuses of varying severity occurred at differing locations under differing circumstances and context. They were widespread and, though inflicted on only a small percentage of those detained, they were serious both in number and effect. No approved procedures called for or allowed the kinds of abuse that in fact occurred. There is no evidence of a policy of abuse promulgated by senior officials or military authorities. Still, the abuses were not just the failure of some individuals to follow known standards, and they are more than the failure of a few leaders to enforce proper discipline. There is both institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels.

While the photos perhaps are best left classified, the information surrounding them is another matter. Let’s now lose track of larger issues like if there’s new information that gives reason to reevaluate parts of the Schliesinger report and to what extent senior officials can or should be held accountable.