WASHINGTON – The Pentagon on Friday released a small portion of photographs showing injuries suffered by detainees allegedly at the hands of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan over a decade ago.
Many of the 198 carefully vetted images are close-ups showing cuts, bruises, swollen joints and relatively small wounds.
The identities of the men are concealed in each picture and there is little or no context to suggest exactly how they might have been injured.
At least one service member was sentenced to life in prison as a result of investigations, the Pentagon said.
Officials declined to provide more information and it was unclear which images were connected to that case, or whether the detainee involved had survived.
The Pentagon released the photos as part of an ongoing legal fight with the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a freedom of information lawsuit in 2004 seeking about 2,000 photographs showing detainee mistreatment.
“These photos come from independent criminal investigations into allegations of misconduct by U.S. personnel,” a Defense Department spokesman said.
“The investigations substantiated approximately 14 of the allegations, while approximately 42 allegations of misconduct were unsubstantiated.”
He said 65 service members had received some form of discipline, ranging from letters of reprimand to life imprisonment.
Though the administration of President Barack Obama had said it would release the images back in 2009, Congress passed an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act allowing them to be withheld if the defense secretary deemed them to threaten national security.
However, Pentagon chief Ashton Carter in November declined to recertify 198 images as posing such a risk.
The ACLU said the release was long overdue and pledged to continue seeking the remaining 1,800 or so images.
“The still-secret pictures are the best evidence of the serious abuses that took place in military detention centers,” ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement.
“The government’s selective disclosure risks misleading the public about the true extent of the abuse.”
None of the images are thought to originate from Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison, where U.S. soldiers were implicated in the torture and sexual humiliation of local prisoners in 2004.
That scandal first broke when photos showing soldiers abusing detainees were published in U.S. media.
Between 2004 and 2006, 11 soldiers — including Lynndie England, who was seen smiling beside naked prisoners being subjected to sexual abuse — were convicted in courts-martial.