Senior Pentagon officials have opposed the release of photographs
and videotapes of the abuse of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, arguing
they would incite public opinion in the Muslim world and put the lives of U.S.
soldiers and officials at risk, according to documents unsealed in federal
Gen. Richard Meyers, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said in a
statement put forth to support the Pentagon's case that he believed that riots,
violence and attacks by insurgents would result if the images were released.
The papers were filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan in a lawsuit by
the American Civil Liberties Union to obtain under the Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA) the release of 87 photos and four videotapes taken at Abu Ghraib.
The photos were among those turned over to Army investigators last year by Spc.
Joseph Darby, a reservist who was posted at Abu Ghraib.
The documents reveal both the high level and the determination of the
Pentagon officials engaged in the effort to block the disclosure of the images,
and their alarm at the prospect the photos might become public. In his
statement, dated July 21, Myers said he had become aware on June 17 that the
photos' release might be imminent. He said he had consulted with Gen. John
Abizaid, the U.S. central commander, and Gen. George Casey, the commander of
the U.S. forces in Iraq. Both officers also opposed the release, Myers said.
His statement makes it clear that he had examined the images and found
them disturbing. "I condemn in the strongest terms the misconduct and abuse
depicted in these images," he said. "It was illegal, immoral and contrary to
American values and character."
The ACLU was authorized Thursday by Judge Alvin Hellerstein to make
public papers it filed Aug. 3 contesting the Pentagon's argument that the
images must be withheld because they present a risk to the lives and safety of
individuals. The ACLU said the government was seeking to withhold the photos
only to avert a bad reaction, undermining the purpose of the FOIA.
The ACLU's papers drew attention to the Pentagon's filings, which had
been unsealed last week. "The situation on the ground in Iraq is dynamic and
dangerous," Myers said, with 70 insurgent attacks daily. He also said there
was evidence that the Taliban, though still weak, was gaining ground because
of popular discontent in Afghanistan.
Myers cited the violence that erupted in some Muslim countries after
Newsweek's publication in April of an item, later retracted, saying that a
Quran had been thrown in a toilet in the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo
Bay, Cuba. He also said the images could fuel terrorist disinformation
© 2005 LA Times