By Josh White, Christian Davenport and Scott Higham
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, May 21, 2004
The video begins with three soldiers huddled around a naked detainee, his thin frame backed against a wall. With a snap of his wrist, one of the soldiers slaps the man across his left cheek so hard that the prisoner's knees buckle. Another detainee, handcuffed and on his back, is dragged across the prison floor.
Then, the human pyramid begins to take shape. Soldiers force hooded and naked prisoners into crouches on the floor, one by one, side by side, a soldier pointing to where the next ones should go. The video stops. But there is more.
In a collection of hundreds of so-far-unreleased photographs and short digital videos obtained by The Washington Post, U.S. soldiers are shown physically and emotionally abusing detainees last fall in the Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad.
The new pictures and videos go beyond the photos previously released to the public in several ways, amplifying the overt violence against detainees and displaying a variety of abusive techniques previously unseen. They show a group of apparently cavalier soldiers assaulting prisoners, forcing detainees to masturbate, and standing over a naked prisoner while holding a shotgun. Some of the videos echo scenes in previously released still photographs -- such as the stacking of naked detainees -- but the video images render the incidents more vividly.
Defense Department spokesman Lawrence T. DiRita said the photographs, by description, sounded like those the Pentagon has exhibited to members of Congress and that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had warned might yet become public. "There are a series of investigations going on as a result of the disclosure of the activities depicted on photos," DiRita said last night.
The new images do not shed light on who directed the abuse, a question central to the court cases of the 372nd Military Police Company soldiers charged in the abuse scandal. But the pictures do show soldiers appearing to delight in the abuses, and they starkly reveal several detainees cowering in fear.
In one video clip, five hooded and naked detainees stand against the wall in the darkness, each masturbating, with two other hooded detainees crouched at their feet. Another shows a prisoner handcuffed to the outside of a cell door. He repeatedly slams his head into the green metal, leaving streaks of blood before he ultimately collapses at the feet of a cameraman.
In one photo, a soldier is seen cocking his fist as he holds a hooded detainee in a headlock amid a pile of several detainees. Later, he is seen kneeling atop the same pile, flexing his muscles, a broad smile on his face, posing.
Another soldier is seen in a photo brandishing a black baton as a naked prisoner -- cuffed at the ankles and smeared with a brown substance -- stands at the center of the prison hallway and holds his arms spread to either side.
Detainees recoil from unmuzzled dogs in at least four photos.
In one, a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit sits up against a wall, his hands behind his back. His fear is unmistakable as a black dog snarls at him, the animal's long, sharp teeth bared inches from his face. The dog is leashed by an unidentified U.S. soldier in a flak jacket and wool hat, the soldier using both hands to keep the dog restrained.
In another photo, the same handler has the black dog, which this time looks ready to pounce as a naked detainee shrinks away in the middle of a prison hallway, his hands defensively up in front of him. Another soldier, his hands in his pockets, watches.
The photos continue, showing an array of abuse in what appear to be different rooms, cells, showers and hallways of Abu Ghraib.
Hooded and cloaked men are handcuffed to hallway rails. A prisoner in flexible handcuffs is made to use a banana to simulate anal sex. Two naked male detainees are handcuffed to each other. A naked detainee hangs upside down from a top bunk. Another naked detainee grimaces, his face pressed against the ground, a soldier bending his arm behind his back. Blood covers the detainee's left knee, and another soldier grabs his right leg.
In one photo, a detainee is stripped to his underwear, in a hood. He is standing, crouched, on top of two boxes of MRE military meals, his arms cuffed around his left knee, his right ankle chained to a cell door.
Another detainee appears to be the victim of a cruel joke: A photo shows the man's deformed left hand emerging from an orange jumpsuit, the words "The Claw" written in English on his left breast pocket. A crude drawing of the man's hand appears on the back of his jumpsuit in another photo, with "The Claw" scrawled across his shoulder blades in black ink.
The situation inside the prison became so chaotic that U.S. soldiers turned their cameras on themselves, filming scenes of consensual sex.
Photographs and videos from Abu Ghraib were presented to Army investigators in January. They began to surface publicly last month, severely damaging the U.S. reputation in the Arab world.
"Be on notice," Rumsfeld said in a standing-room-only Senate hearing room May 8. "There are a lot more photographs and videos that exist. If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse."
Staff writer Thomas E. Ricks contributed to this report.