The ACLU has recently obtained some 800 pages of documents from the Defense Department via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Among the documents are newly-released annexes to the Pentagon’s Fay-Jones inquiry into the abuses at Abu Ghraib. The new documents reveal extensive testimony of widespread and systematic abuse on a scale not fully portrayed by the original report. There is no way the administration can use the “few bad apples” line any longer.
The ACLU also obtained documentation of a formal agreement between the Army and the CIA to hide “ghost detainees.” These were prisoners who were kept “off the records” so that the CIA could interrogate them without any oversight. Other documents verified that these “ghost detainees” were hidden from Red Cross monitoring.
Also revealed was evidence of a phenomenon that Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the head of a Military Police unit at Abu Ghraib, once called “releaseaphobia”—or fear that releasing an innocent detainee who was abused would not please higher-ups and may lead to the detainee joining insurgent forces. According to one contractor’s testimony,
It became obvious to me that the majority of our detainees were detained as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and were swept up by Coalition Forces as peripheral bystanders during raids. It appeared that there was an extreme reluctance to release these low value inmates because of the fear that one of them might return to attack Coalition Forces.
The administration is trying to dampen the shock value of the newly-uncovered abuses by releasing these documents bit by bit. The hope here is that the media, seeing the Fay-Jones report as last year’s news, won’t see a new story in old documents. But it would be unfortunate, indeed dangerous, if the public assumes that they have already seen all this. As new documents come out, it becomes obvious that there is much more to the story that we have yet to see.