The photos were used as part of internal military investigations conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan, not including the photos used during allegations of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib detention facility in Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.
The pending late-May release of the photos comes from an agreement reached between the American Civil Liberties Union, the Justice Department and the Defense Department, Whitman said. The ACLU had sued the U.S. government for release of the photos.
A Justice Department letter filed yesterday in a New York District Court stated that the Defense Department would furnish 21 photographs ordered for release by the court and 23 other images involved in the lawsuit.
Additionally, the Justice Department letter stated, the Defense Department also will release “a substantial number of other images” contained in Army Criminal Investigation Division reports that have been closed. The Defense Department is to furnish all cited images by May 28, the letter said.
A number of the images being released in May were part of more than 60 investigations conducted by the U.S. military between 2003 and January 2006, Whitman said.
Since 2001, more than 400 military members charged with detainee abuse were found to be guilty of some form of misconduct, Whitman said. Punishment, he noted, ranged from imprisonment to bad-conduct discharges, reduction in rank and other types of punitive actions.
Defense Department policy always has advocated humane treatment of detainees, Whitman pointed out.
“We have, obviously, over time, found instances where performance has not matched policy,” Whitman said. “And when the performance hasn’t matched the policy, we’ve held people accountable for their actions.”
“There are a number of [lawsuits] that we’re dealing with for detainee photographs and so on,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said to reporters yesterday during his visit to Camp Lejeune, N.C. “There’s a certain inevitability, I believe, that much of this will eventually come out; much has already come out.”