Abu Ghraib Photos of Alleged U.S. Torture and Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners

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Ivan Frederick, From Virginia to Abu Ghraib

Staf Sgt. Chip Frederick Frederick
Staff Sgt. Chip Frederick and an Iraqi inmate at Abu Ghraib, 3:19 a.m., Oct. 17, 2003. U.S. Army / Criminal Investigation Command (CID)

From Bush to Obama, a Scandal Evolving from Outrage to Cover-Up

On April 28, 2004 -- a year into the American invasion and occupation of Iraq-- CBS' 60 Minutes program broadcast photographs showing American soldiers apparently abusing, humiliating, beating and torturing Iraqi prisoners held at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

Low-ranking members of the Army's 372nd Military Police Company took the fall for the abuse, but declassified Bush administration memos since documented the common use of torture methods on prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. Fewer than 300 Abu Ghraib photographs were made public in 2004. President Obama promised to disclose all photographs--then reversed himself, lending the torture scandal a new dimension: a cover-up disguised as protection of American servicemen.

The following photographs are from the original, 2004 disclosures. Military intelligence forces told members of the Red Cross that between 70 percent and 90 percent of the inmates pictured here were arrested by mistake.

In civilian life, Ivan Frederick, also known as "Chip," pictured here in an implicitly taunting situation with an inmate at Abu Ghraib prison, was a $26,722-a-year prison guard at Buckingham Correctional Center, a medium-security prison in central Virginia, where his wife, Martha, worked in the prison's training department. The prison incarcerates about 1,000 inmates.

Frederick was sentenced to eight years in prison for his role in prisoner abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib, where he was the senior enlisted man in fall, 2003.

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Ivan Frederick, Indecent

Sgt. Frederick on inmate
Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick, sitting on an inmate, was the senior enlisted soldier at Abu Ghraib in the fall of 2003. He is serving eight years in prison. U.S. Army / Criminal Investigation Command (CID)

Former Army Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick, known as Chip Frederick, was a reservist from Virginia who had been a prison guard at Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, Virginia. He was the senior enlisted soldier at Abu Ghraib prison in the fall of 2003. It was Frederick who attached wires to a hooded detainee and threatened him with electrocution if he fell off a box--the photograph became the iconic representation of the Abu Ghraib scandal--who forced prisoners to masturbate and simulate oral sex, and who sat on top of a prisoner sandwiched in between two medical litters while posing for a photograph, among other abuses.

Frederick was court-martialed in Baghdad. He pled guilty to conspiracy, dereliction of duty, maltreatment of detainees, assault, and indecent acts. He was originally sentenced to 10 years, reduced to eight as part of a pre-trial agreement, with loss of pay and dishonorable discharge.

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An Inhuman Pyramid at Abu Ghraib

inhuman pyramid abu ghraib
Sabrina Harman stands behind a pile of stripped Iraqi inmates forced, inhumanly, to make a "human pyramid and pose for pictures., one of a series of sexually humiliating methods of abuse used to degrade prisoners. U.S. Army / Criminal Investigation Command (CID)

Hussein Mohssein Mata Al Zayidai, Abu Ghraib Detainee #19446, 1242/18, gave the following sworn testimony:

“I was in the solitary confinement, me and my friends. We were treated badly. They took our clothes off, even the underwear and they beat us very hard, and they put a hood over my head. And when I told them I am sick they laughed at me and beat me. And one of them brought my friend and told him “stand here” and they brought me and had me kneel in front of my friend. They told my friend to masturbate and told me to masturbate also, while they were taking pictures. After that they brought my friends, Haidar, Ahmed, Noun, Ahzem, Hashiem, Mustafa, and I, and they put us 2 on the bottom, 2 on top of them, and 2 on top of those and one on top. They took pictures of us and we were naked. After the end of the beating, they took us to our separate cells and they opened the water in the cell and told us to lay face down in the water and we stayed like that until the morning, in the water, naked, without clothes. Then one of the other shift gave us clothes, but the second shift took the clothes away at night and handcuffed us to the beds. [...]

Q: How did you feel when the guards were treating you this way?
A: I was trying to kill myself but I didn't have any way of doing it.
Q: Did the guards force you to crawl on your hands and knees on the ground?
A: Yes. They forced us to do this thing.
Q: What were the guards doing while you were crawling on your hands and knees?
A: They were sitting on our backs like riding animals.
Q: When you were on each other, what were the guards doing?
A: They were taking pictures and writing on our asses.
Q: How many times did the guards treat you this way?
A: The first time when I just go in, and the second day they put us in the water and handcuffed us.
Q: Did you see the guards treat the other inmates this way.
A: I didn't see, but I heard screams and shouts in another area.

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Terrorized by Dogs

abu ghraib terror dogs
An Iraqi inmate at Abu Ghraib prison terrorized by dogs. U.S. Army / Criminal Investigation Command (CID)

Maj. Gen. George Fay's investigation reports widespread use of dogs as a means of terrorizing prisoners:

"The first documented incident of abuse with dogs occurred on 24 November 2003, just four days after the dogs teams arrived. An Iraqi detainee was smuggled a pistol by an Iraqi Police Guard. While attempting to confiscate the weapon, an MP was shot an the detainee was subsequently shot and wounded. Following the shooting, LTC Jordan ordered several interrogators to the Hard Site to screen eleven Iraqi Police who were detained following the shooting. The situation at the Hard Site was described by many as “chaos,” and no one real appeared to be in charge. The perception was that LTG Sanchez had removed all restrictions that night because of the situation; however, that was not true. No one is able to pin down how. that perception was created. A Navy Dog Team entered the Hard Site and was instructed to search for additional weapons and explosives. The dogs searched the cells, no explosives were detected and the Navy Dog Team eventually completed their mission and left. Shortly thereafter, [dogs] were recalled when someone “needed” a dog."

At one point, "one of the men said words to the effect 'You see that dog there, if you don’t tell me what I want to know, I’m gonna get that dog on you!' [...] Even with all the apparent confusion over roles, responsibilities and authorities, there were early indications that MP and Military Intelligence personnel knew the use of dog teams in interrogations was abusive."

The report includes the documented case of a dog biting an inmate on Dec. 12, 2003. At the time, the inmate "was not undergoing an interrogation and no MI personnel were present. [The prisoner] told [a guard] that a dog had bitten him and [the guard] saw dog bite marks on [the prisoner's] thigh. [...] This incident was captured on digital photograph ... and appears to be the result of MP harassment and amusement, no MI involvement is suspected."

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Lynndie England Humiliates a Shiite Inmate

Lynndie England
Lynndie England humiliating a naked inmate at Abu Ghraib prison. The hooded man is Hayder Sabbar Abd, a 34-year-old Shiite from southern Iraq who was never charged and never interrogated in months of detention. U.S. Army / Criminal Investigation Command (CID)

Coalition forces and military intelligence told the International Committee of the Red Cross that between 70 percent and 90 percent of the inamtes in Iraqi prisons were innocent--picked up by mistake.

One such case was Hayder Sabbar Abd, prisoner #13077, the man in the hood in the photograph above. He is being taunted and humiliated by former pfc. Lynndie England. The New York Times' Ian Fisher tracked down Abd after his release in May 2004. "The shame is so deep," Fisher wrote, that "Abd says he feels that he cannot move back to his old neighborhood. He would prefer not even to stay in Iraq. But now the entire world has seen the pictures... pointing out the key figures, starting with three American soldiers wearing big smiles for the camera."

"The truth is we were not terrorists," Abd said. "We were not insurgents. We were just ordinary people. And American intelligence knew this."

According to Abd, the father of five children and a Shiite Muslim from Nasiriya, he had served 18 years in the Iraqi military, at times in the Republican Guard, but was demoted to the regular army after several desertions. He was arrested in June 2003 at a military checkpoint when he tried to walk away from the taxi he was riding in. He was held for three months and four days in a prison in southern Iraq before being transferred to Abu Ghraib. He was never charged and never interrogated.

In a sworn statement to military investigators, Abd said:

"After they took off my clothes the American soldier removed who was wearing glasses, night guard, and I saw an American female soldier which they call her Ms. Maya, in front of me they told me to stroke my penis in front of her. [...] They were laughing, taking pictures, and they were stepping on our hands with their feet. And they started taking one after another and they wrote on our bodies in English. I don’t know what they wrote, but they were taking pictures after that. Then, after that they forced us to walk like dogs on our hands and knees we had to bark like a dog and if we didn’t do that, they start hitting us hard on our face and chest with no mercy. After that, they took us to our cells, took the mattresses out and dropped water on the floor and they made us sleep on our stomachs on the floor with the bags on our head and they took pictures of everything."

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Routine of Humiliation and Nudity

Inmates and underwear
Inmates at Abu Ghraib were humiliated and abused by various sexual tactics, including being forced to wear underwear on their head. U.S. Army / Criminal Investigation Command (CID)

From Maj. Gen. George Fay's investigation:

"There is also ample evidence of detainees being forced to wear women's underwear, sometimes on their heads. These cases appear to be a form of humiliation, either for [Military Police] control or for [Military Intelligence} 'ego down.'"


"A photograph taken on 17 October 2003 depicts a naked detainee chained to his cell door with a hood on his head. Several other photographs taken on 18 October 2003 depict a hooded detainee cuffed to his cell door. Additional photographs on 19 October 2003 depict a detainee cuffed to his bed with underwear on his head. A review of available documents could not tie these photos to a specific incident, detainee or allegation, but these photos reinforce the reality that humiliation and nudity were being employed routinely enough that photo opportunities occurred on three successive days. [Military Intelligence] involvement in these apparent abuses cannot be confirmed."

The investigation notes: "There is no record of an Interrogation Plan or any approval documents which would authorize these techniques. The fact these techniques were documented in the Interrogation Report suggests, however, that the interrogators believed they had the authority to use clothing as an incentive, as well as stress positions, and were not attempting to hide their use. [...] It is probable that use of nudity was sanctioned at some level within the chain-of-command. If not, lack of leadership and oversight permitted the nudity to occur. Having a detainee raise his hands to expose himself in front of two females is humiliation and therefore violates the Geneva Conventions."

In fact, the secret Bush administration memos released by the Obama administration in 2009 show that the Bush Justice Department had approved abuse and torture methods including denying inmates sleep for 11 days, forced nudity, spraying detainees with 41-degree water, and confining detainees in small boxes. Some of those methods were used at Abu Ghraib, others at secret "black sites" and in Afghanistan.

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Shooting at Prisoners

An Abu Ghraib prisoner's injuries. Inmates were frequently punched, slapped and beaten. U.S. Army / Criminal Investigation Command (CID)

Maj. Gen. George R. Fay's investigative report states: "A photograph taken circa 27 December 2003, depicts a naked DETAINEE-14, apparently shot with a shotgun in his buttocks. This photograph could not be tied to a specific incident, detainee or allegation and Military Intelligence involvement is indeterminate."

A February 2003 International Committee of the Red Cross report noted that "Since March 2003, the IRC recorded, and in some cases witnessed, a number of incidents in which guards shot at persons deprived of their liberty with live ammunition, in the context either of unrest relating to internment conditions or of escape attempts by individuals."

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Torturing and Parading a Mentally Disturbed Inmate

An Abu Ghraib prisoner known to have severe mental disabilities is covered in mud and what appears to be feces. U.S. Army / Criminal Investigation Command (CID)

One of the iconic photographs of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal shows an inmate, who became known in military investigation documents as "DETAINEE-25," covered in mud and what appears to be feces. The inmate's story is among the most tragic at Abu Ghraib. He was known by his captors to have severe mental disabilities--known to be inclined to self-abuse. His captors encouraged the acts, providing him with implements with which to abuse himself, parading him, encouraging him and photographing him. The inmate had no value to military intelligence. His presence at Abu Ghraib was unjustified, his treatment an abject crime.

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Abusing "A Detainee With a Known Mental Condition"

mentally disturbed inmate abu ghraib
Investigators of Abu Gharib torture concluded that inmate identified as "M***" was mentally disturbed and self-destructive. His captors enjoyed watching him commit acts of self-debasement, once providing him with a banana so he could sodomize himself. U.S. Army / Criminal Investigation Command (CID)

Mag. Gen. George Fay's report states:

"A 18 November 2003 photograph depicts a detainee dressed in shirt or blanket lying on the floor with a banana inserted into his anus. This as well as several others show the same detainee covered in feces, with his hands encased in sandbags, or tied in foam and between two stretchers. These are all identified as DETAINEE-25 and were determined by CID investigation to be self-inflicted incidents. Even so, these incidents constitute abuse; a detainee with a known mental condition should not have been provided the banana or photographed. The detainee has a severe mental problem and the restraints depicted in these photographs were allegedly used to prevent the detainee from sodomizing himself and assaulting himself and others with his bodily fluids. He was known for inserting various objects into his rectum and for consuming and throwing his urine and feces. Military Intelligence had no association with this detainee."

The question remains: what was a detainee with such severe mental disabilities doing at Abu Ghraib prison to start with, and in a ward of the prison where none of the personnel was professionally equipped to deal with mentally disabled inmates?

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Forced Nudity, a Gitmo and Afghan-Prison Import

Abu Ghraib inmates were frequently stripped naked, cuffed in groups of two or three, doused in cold water and beaten while cuffed. U.S. Army / Criminal Investigation Command (CID)

According to Maj. Gen. George Fay's investigative report into Abu Ghraib abuses, "The use of nudity as an interrogation technique or incentive to maintain the cooperation of detainees was not a technique developed at Abu Ghraib, but rather a technique which was imported and can be traced through Afghanistan and GTMO [Guantanamo Bay]. As interrogation operations in Iraq began to take form, it was often the same personnel who had operated and deployed in other theaters and in support of GWOT, who were called upon to establish and conduct interrogation operations in Abu Ghraib. The lines of authority and the prior legal opinions blurred. They simply carried forward the use of nudity into the Iraqi theater of operations. The use of clothing as an incentive (nudity) is significant in that it likely contributed to an escalating 'de-humanization' of the detainees and set the stage for additional and more severe abuses to occur."