Pentagon denies report Iraq prison photos show rape

Posted at 05/29/2009 2:04 AM

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon on Thursday denied a British newspaper report that photographs of Iraqi prisoner abuse, whose release U.S. President Barack Obama wants to block, include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Daily Telegraph newspaper had shown "an inability to get the facts right".

"That news organization has completely mischaracterized the images," Whitman told reporters. "None of the photos in question depict the images that are described in that article."

Thursday's Telegraph quoted retired U.S. Army Major General Antonio Taguba, who conducted a 2004 investigation into abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, as saying the pictures showed "torture, abuse, rape and every indecency."

The newspaper said at least one picture showed an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Others were said to depict sexual assaults with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

In an interview with the New Yorker magazine published in 2007, Taguba was quoted as saying that he saw a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee.

Photographs of abuse at the jail outside Baghdad that were published in 2004 damaged the image of the United States as it fought an escalating war against insurgents in Iraq that caused deep resentment throughout the Muslim world.

Whitman said he did not know if the Telegraph had quoted Taguba accurately. But he said he was not aware that any such photographs had been uncovered as part of the investigation into Abu Ghraib or abuses at other prisons.

Obama blocking pictures' release

He said the Telegraph also wrongly reported earlier this month that some of the images whose release Obama is trying to block had previously been aired on Australian television.

"I would caution you whenever you see a subsequent story on photos in this particular publication," he told reporters. "They now have, at least on two occasions, demonstrated an inability to get the facts right."

Taguba, who retired in January 2007, included allegations of rape and sexual abuse in his report.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration reversed course and decided it would fight the release of the photographs, which the American Civil Liberties Union is seeking to obtain through legal action.

In April, the administration said it would comply with a court order to release the pictures. But Obama changed course after military commanders warned of a backlash in Iraq and Afghanistan that could add to the danger facing U.S. troops.

Taguba was quoted in the Telegraph as saying he supported Obama's decision not to release the pictures.

"I am not sure what purpose their release would serve other than a legal one," he said. "The sequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them, and British troops who are trying to build security in Afghanistan."

He added: "The mere depiction of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it."