FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Described Pressure to "Keep His Mouth Shut"
NEW YORK - U.S. Navy documents released
today by the American Civil Liberties Union reveal that
abuse and even torture of detainees by U.S. Marines in
Iraq was widespread. One Navy criminal investigator sent
an e-mail in June 2004 describing his Iraq caseload
"exploding" with "high visibility
"Day after day, new stories of
torture are coming to light, and we need to know how these
abuses were allowed to happen," said ACLU Executive
Director Anthony D. Romero. "This kind of widespread
abuse could not have taken place without a leadership
failure of the highest order."
The release of these documents follows a
federal court order that directed the Defense Department
and other government agencies to comply with a year-old
request under the Freedom of Information Act filed by the
ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for
Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for
Peace. The New York Civil Liberties Union is co-counsel in
The documents the ACLU released today,
posted online at www.aclu.org/torturefoia,
describe substantiated incidents of torture and abuse by
U.S. Marines, including:
- holding a pistol to the back of a
detainee’s head while another Marine took a picture
(Karbala, May 2003)
- ordering four Iraqi juveniles to
kneel while a pistol was "discharged to conduct a
mock execution" (Adiwaniyah, June 2003)
- severely burning a detainee’s hands
by covering them in alcohol and igniting them (Al
Mumudiyah, August 2003), and
- shocking a detainee with an electric
transformer, causing the detainee to "dance"
as he was shocked (Al Mumudiyah, April 2004).
The new evidence comes on the heels of
documents released by the ACLU and its allies last
Tuesday, which revealed that a special operations task
force in Iraq sought to silence Defense Intelligence
Agency personnel who observed abuse and that the
Department of Defense adopted questionable interrogation
techniques at Guantanamo over FBI objections.
"Abuse of detainees was not
aberrational," said ACLU staff attorney Jameel Jaffer.
"The Defense Department adopted extreme interrogation
techniques as a matter of policy."
In addition to highlighting the torture
and abuse of Iraqis by U.S. Marines, the documents
released today suggest the existence of an internal
culture of secrecy, said Jaffer. For example, when
describing the Marines’ "rough handling" of
Iraqi prisoners, one Navy corpsman noted, "there was
a lot of peer pressure to keep one’s mouth shut."
Other records released by the ACLU today
include investigative interviews with Navy personnel that
provide a glimpse into the routine abusive treatment of
detainees by U.S. forces in Iraq. For example, in one
interview, a Navy corpsman described the regular process
whereby Iraqis classified as Enemy Prisoners of War (EPWs)
would be taken to an empty swimming pool and handcuffed
and legcuffed with burlap bags placed over their heads.
They would then remain in the kneeling position for up to
24 hours awaiting interrogation. Despite providing this
description, the officer stated that he "never saw
any instances of physical abuse" toward the
In response to the release of documents
last week, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) sent a letter to
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld calling on him to
"expeditiously investigate the allegations of
suppression" and to "take immediate action to
make public all documents related to cases of detainee
abuse not critical to national security and hold
accountable those that have attempted to cover up reports
of detainee abuse."
Jaffer said the ACLU is continuing to
press the government to disclose more documents and will
return to court if necessary to ensure that relevant
documents are released. The government is required to
release all documents by Jan. 31, 2005.
The lawsuit is being handled by Lawrence
Lustberg and Megan Lewis of the New Jersey-based law firm
Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C.
Other attorneys in the case are Jaffer, Amrit Singh and
Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Art Eisenberg and Beth
Haroules of the NYCLU; and Barbara Olshansky and Jeff
Fogel of CCR.
The documents obtained by the ACLU are
online at www.aclu.org/torturefoia.
Senator Bingaman’s letter is online at