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Posts Tagged ‘Taxi to the Dark Side

Nearly 200 images released by US military depict Bush-era detainee abuse

Note: this is a re-edit of a post

Court ruling forces Pentagon to release photos after 12-year legal battle over abuse at military sites around Iraq and Afghanistan

Bruises, reddened marks and bandaged body parts featured in nearly 200 images of US detainee abuse that the Pentagon was forced to release on Friday, the result of a court battle that has lasted more than a decade.

While the American Civil Liberties Union, which has fought for the publication of the photos of Bush-era torture in Iraq and Afghanistan since October 2003,  hailed the belated disclosure

It pledged to keep fighting for approximately 1,800 more images the Pentagon continues to withhold, which it believes documents far more graphic detainee torture.

The photos are part of a cache relevant to investigations of detainee abuse at two dozen US military sites around Iraq and Afghanistan, and perhaps Guantanamo Bay.

Many showed detainees in states of undress having their bodies inspected, with rulers and coins held up for comparison and placement of injuries.

In November, Ashton Carter, the US defense secretary, cleared the way to release 198 of the images after a federal judge rejected longstanding government attempts to suppress the entire cache.

In allowing the release of the photos, Carter has reversed the decisions of two of his Pentagon predecessors and a bevy of senior military officers over the years.

Nevertheless, the ACLU called the release insufficient, selective and indicative of a cover-up of detainee abuse stretching across the Bush and Obama administrations.

“It’s most likely the case that these are the most innocuous of the photos, and if that’s true, it’s a shadow of meaningful transparency,” said Alex Abdo, an ACLU attorney who has worked on the photo litigation since 2005.

The photos appeared de-contextualized, without indication of what specific abuses investigators inspected, where detainees were held, or under what circumstances.

Several photos were grainy, showing sections of the body where detainees alleged US troops harmed them, without showing a person in full.

Several images displayed detainees’ legs, backs, feet and occasionally their heads, though the head photographs did not show visible contusions.

None of the photographs showed a detained man’s non obscured face.

A Pentagon statement accompanying the photos said that the investigations they supported had resulted in 14 substantiated allegations, from which “65 service members received some form of disciplinary action”, ranging from letters of reprimand to life imprisonment.

While a full accounting of what the photos show remains elusive, the ACLU believes that among the still-suppressed photos are imagery of a female soldier sexually abusing a detainee with a broomstick;.

An Iraqi civilian farmer executed by US troops while his hands were tied behind his back; and autopsy photos of an Afghan detainee known as Dilawar, whose death was the subject of Alex Gibney’s acclaimed 2007 documentary Taxi to the Dark Side.

Since the ACLU first sought the photos in the wake of the international outcry over US torture at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, a wall of US government resistance had long held firm.

Famously, in May 2009, Obama reversed his position on the photograph’s release in May 2009, and ordered the photos to remain hidden, contending they would “further inflame anti-American opinion” if released.

Later that year, Congress passed the Protected National Security Documents Act, to suppress any Bush-era photographs of detainees in military custody unless the defense secretary could vouch that their release would have minimal consequences for US troops.

Image depicts detainee’s foot injury. No further context was provided.
Image depicts detainee’s foot injury. No further context was provided. Photograph: Department of Defense

But the ACLU won a breakthrough in 2014 after a decade of litigation. A federal judge in New York, Alvin Hellerstein, rejected the government’s desired blanket ban on the photos in 2014 and required the Pentagon to individually certify images it considered harmful to national security and explain its reasoning.

After viewing some of the photographs privately, Hellerstein said in August 2014 that some of them were “relatively innocuous while others need more serious consideration”.

Hellerstein’s assessment contradicted two defense secretaries, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, as well as US marine generals James Mattis and John Allen, all of whom certified that the wholesale release of the detainee photo trove would “endanger citizens of the United States, members of the United States armed forces, or employees of the United States Government deployed outside the United States”.

A Pentagon statement said that senior military commanders were consulted before the release, and pledged the military to ensuring “the safe, lawful, and humane treatment of individuals in U.S. custody in the context of armed conflicts, consistent with the treaty obligations of the United States, including the Geneva Conventions”.

Image depicts what appears to be a detainee’s leg injury. No further context was provided.
Image depicts what appears to be a detainee’s leg injury. No further context was provided. Photograph: Department of Defense

Still, the ACLU vowed to continue its fight for the release of all the photographs. The next hearing in the group’s ongoing transparency lawsuit is due for 19 February, before Hellerstein.

The ACLU’s Abdo cited the case of Eric Garner, whose choking death by New York police was filmed and distributed on social media, as a testament to the unique power of imagery to galvanize change and drive calls for justice.

“We think the photos, when released, have the ability to do the same for accountability for the abuse of detainees, and I think the Pentagon knows it, too,” Abdo said.

Zero Dark Thirty’s apology for torture? And Kathryn Bigelow, Naomi Wolf…


Is Kathryn Bigelowpeddling the lie that CIA detentions led to Bin Laden’s killing?

Is she emulating Leni Riefenstahl-Nazi like propagandist of Triumph of the Will, which glorified Nazi military power? Is Bigelow glorifying torture, thehandmaiden?

In falsely justifying, in scene after scene, the torture of detainees in “the global war on terror”, Zero Dark Thirty is a gorgeously-shot, two-hour ad for intelligence agents who committed crimes by keeping the pressure against letting Guantánamo prisoners out of jail.

It makes heroes and heroines out of people who committed violent crimes against other people based on their race – something that has historical precedent.

(Reuters) – After the Senate Intelligence Committee’s chairwoman expressed outrage over scenes that imply “enhanced interrogations” of CIA detainees produced a breakthrough in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the panel has begun a review of contacts between the makers of the film “Zero Dark Thirty” and CIA officials. on Jan. 4, 2013 under “A letter to Kathryn Bigelow on Zero Dark Thirty’s apology for torture”

The Hurt Locker was a beautiful, brave film; many young women in film were inspired as they watched you become the first woman ever to win an Oscar for directing. But with Zero Dark Thirty, you have attained a different kind of distinction.

Your film Zero Dark Thirty is a huge hit here.

Your film claims, in many scenes, that CIA torture was redeemed by the “information” it “secured”.

Information that, according to your script, led to Bin Laden’s capture. This narrative is a form of manufacture of innocence to mask a great crime: what your script blithely calls “the detainee program”.

What led to this amoral compromising of your film-making?

Could some of the seduction be financing? It is very hard to get a film without a pro-military message, such as The Hurt Locker, funded and financed. But according to sources in the film industry, the more pro-military your message is, the more kinds of help you currently can get: from personnel, to sets, to technology – a point I made in my argument about the recent militarized Katy Perry video.

It seems implausible that scenes such as those involving two top-secret, futuristic helicopters could be made without Pentagon help, for example. If the film received that kind of undisclosed, in-kind support from the defense department, then that would free up million of dollars for the gigantic ad campaign that a film like this needs to compete to win audience.

This also sets a dangerous precedent: we can be sure, with the propaganda amendment” of the 2013 NDAA, just signed into law by the president, that the future will hold much more overt corruption of Hollywood and the rest of US pop culture.

This amendment legalizes something that has been illegal for decades: the direct funding of pro-government or pro-military messaging in media, without disclosure, aimed at American citizens.

And there is the James Frey factor.

You claim that your film is “based on real events”, and in interviews, you insist that it is a mixture of fact and fiction, “part documentary”.

“Real”, “true”, and even “documentary”, are big and important words.

By claiming such terms, you generate media and sales traction – on a mendacious basis. There are filmmakers who work very hard to produce films that are actually “based on real events”: they are called documentarians.

Alex Gibney, in Taxi to the Dark Side, and Rory Kennedy, in Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, have both produced true and sourceable documentary films about what your script blithely calls “the detainee program” – the regime of torture to generate false confessions at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib – which your script claims led straight to Bin Laden.

Fine, fellow reporter: produce your sources. Provide your evidence that torture produced lifesaving – or any – worthwhile intelligence.

But you can’t present evidence for this claim. Because it does not exist.

Five decades of research, cited in the 2008 documentary The End of America, confirm that torture does not work.

Robert Fisk provides another summary of that categorical conclusion. And this 2011 account from Human Rights First rebuts the very premise of Zero Dark Thirty.

Your actors complain about detainees’ representation by lawyers – suggesting that these do-gooders in suits endanger the rest of us. I have been to see your “detainee program” firsthand.

The prisoners, whom your film describes as being “lawyered up”, meet with those lawyers in rooms that are wired for sound. Yet, those lawyers can’t tell the world what happened to their clients – because the descriptions of the very torture these men endured are classified.

I have seen the room where the military tribunal takes the “testimony” from people swept up in a program that gave $5,000 bounties to desperately poor Afghanis to give them incentives for turning-in innocent neighbors.

The chairs have shackles to the floor, and are placed in twos, so that one prisoner can be threatened to make him falsely condemn the second.

I have seen the expensive video system in the courtroom where – though Guantánamo spokesmen have told the world’s press since its opening that witnesses’ accounts are brought in “whenever reasonable” – the monitor on the system has never been turned on once: a monitor that could actually let someone in Pakistan testify to say, “hey, that is the wrong guy”.

By the way, you left out the scene where the CIA dude sodomizes the wrong guy: Khaled el-Masri, “the German citizen unfortunate enough to have a similar name to a militant named Khaled al-Masri.”

In a time of darkness in America, you are being feted by Hollywood, and hailed by major media. But to me, the path your career has now taken reminds of no one so much as that other female film pioneer who became, eventually, an apologist for evil: Leni Riefenstahl.

Riefenstahl’s 1935 Triumph of the Will, which glorified Nazi military power, was a massive hit in Germany. Riefenstahl was the first female film director to be hailed worldwide.

Leni Riefenstahl at Nuremberg, 1934, directing Triumph of the Will Leni Riefenstahl directing her crew at the Nazi part rally in Nuremberg, 1934, for her film Triumph of the Will.

Photograph: Friedrich Rohrmann/EPA

It may seem extreme to make comparison with this other great, but profoundly compromised film-maker, but there are real echoes. When Riefenstahl began to glamorize the National Socialists, in the early 1930s, the Nazis’ worst atrocities had not yet begun.

And yet, abusive detention camps had already been opened to house political dissidents beyond the rule of law – the equivalent of today’s Guantánamo, Bagram base, and other unnameable CIA “black sites”.

And Riefenstahl was lionised by the German elites and acclaimed for her propaganda on behalf of Hitler’s regime.

But the world changed.

The ugliness of what she did could not, over time, be hidden. Americans, too, will wake up and see through Zero Dark Thirty’s apologia for the regime’s standard lies that this brutality is somehow necessary. When that happens, the same community that now applauds you will recoil.

Like Riefenstahl, you are a great artist.

But now you will be remembered forever as torture’s handmaiden.




June 2023

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