March 25, 2005

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: media@aclu.org

Government is Manipulating Release of Torture Documents in an Attempt to Minimize Scandal, ACLU Charges

NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union today charged that the government is attempting to bury the torture scandal involving the U.S. military by failing to comply with a court order requiring release of documents to the ACLU. The documents the government does release are being issued in advance to the media in ways calculated to minimize coverage and public access, the ACLU said.

The reason for the delay in delivering the more than 1,200 pages of documents was evident, the ACLU said, in the contents, which include reports of brutal beatings, "exercise until exhaustion" and sworn statements that soldiers were told to "beat the fuck out of" detainees. One file cites evidence that Military Intelligence personnel in Iraq "tortured" detainees held in their custody.

"These documents provide further evidence that the torture of detainees was much more widespread than the government has acknowledged," said ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer. "At a minimum, the documents indicate a colossal failure of leadership."

The documents were supposed to have been turned over to the ACLU on March 21, but were not released to the ACLU until late on a Friday of what for many is a holiday weekend. Select reporters received a CD-ROM with the documents before they were given to the ACLU. The ACLU's practice has been to analyze the documents it receives and post them on its website, thus ensuring easy access to the media and the public.

The documents -- along with more than 30,000 to date -- were released in response to a federal court order that directed the Defense Department and other government agencies to comply with a year-old request under the Freedom of Information Act filed by the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. The New York Civil Liberties Union is co-counsel in the case. The documents received to date have been posted at www.aclu.org/torturefoia.

The documents released today include evidence of:

  • Abuse of a high school student detainee: Commander's report of inquiry into broken jaw of a high-school boy (such that the boy required his mouth to be wired shut and could eat only through a straw). The victim was told "to say that I've fallen down and no one beat me." The report concluded that the broken jaw was caused either as a result of a blow by a U.S. soldier or a collapse due to "complete muscle failure" from being excessively exercised. It found that "abuse of detainees in some form or other was an acceptable practice and was demonstrated to the inexperienced infantry guards almost as guidance" by 311th Battalion Military Intelligence personnel. Personnel "were striking the detainees," and evidence suggested that the 311th Military Intelligence personnel and/or translators "engaged in physical torture of the detainees." It was recommended that no punitive action be taken against the Commander of the Battalion. (See pp. 1173-1280)
  • Death of detainee with no history of medical problems: Abu Malik Kenami died while in detention in Mosul, Iraq. The investigation speculates that Kenami may have suffered a heart attack. On the day he died, Kenami had been "punished with ups and downs several times?and ha[d] his hands flex cuffed behind his back." He was also hooded, with "a sandbag placed over [his] head." "Ups and downs" are "a correctional technique of having a detainee stand up and then sit-down rapidly, always keeping them in constant motion." The file states that "[t]he cause of Abu Malik Kenami's death will never be known because an autopsy was never performed on him." Kenami's corpse was stored in a "reefer van" for five days before it was turned over to a local mortician. (See pp. 1281 - 1333)
  • Soldiers being told to "beat the fuck out of detainees": Documents dated August 16, 2003, relating to an investigation into "alleged ROE and Geneva Convention violations" in Iraq include sworn statements relating to "Bulldog 6" telling soldiers to "take the detainee[s] out back and beat the fuck out of them." (See pp. 1584-1613)
  • Perceptions of chain of command endorsement of "pay-back": An informal investigation into an incident of abuse by soldiers while they were dropping detainees off for further questioning by the "3BCT MIT team" in Iraq. The MIT team saw the soldiers kicking blindfolded and "zipcuffed" detainees several times in the sides while yelling profanities at them. The investigation concludes that at least three TF 2-70 did abuse the detainees and adds that "some of the TF 2-70 may perceive that the chain-of-command is endorsing 'pay-back' by allowing the units most affected by suspected detainee actions to play the greatest role in bringing those suspects to justice." (See pp. 1619-1755)

The page numbers noted above relate to PDF documents posted online at /torturefoia/released/032505/index.html.

Earlier this month the ACLU and Human Rights First filed a lawsuit charging Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with direct responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody. The action was the first federal court lawsuit to name a top U.S. official in the ongoing torture scandal in Iraq and Afghanistan; many of the charges are based on documents obtained through the FOIA lawsuit. The ACLU has also filed separate lawsuits naming Brig. Gen. Karpinski, Col. Thomas Pappas and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. Details about the Rumsfeld lawsuit are online at www.aclu.org/rumsfeld.

The FOIA lawsuit is being handled by Lawrence Lustberg and Megan Lewis of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C. Other attorneys in the case are Jaffer, Amrit Singh, and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Arthur N. Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the NYCLU; and Barbara Olshansky and Jeff Fogel of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

 

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