A new report from the Guardian says the “CIA took naked photographs of people it sent to its foreign partners for torture.”
These detainees had been part of the CIA’s covert practice of “extraordinary renditions” — the “U.S. government’s global kidnap and secret detention” program. Because the CIA operated the program to avoid scrutiny, exactly how many detainees have been “rendered” remains unclear — as is how many of them were photographed naked by the agency.
Insiders with knowledge of the photographs say the purpose of the pictures was to act as a buffer against potential political and legal fallout from torture perpetrated by the U.S. and its allies. CIA officials claim such documentation would provide evidence of humane treatment while prisoners were in the agency’s custody. But some detainees were rendered to other countries with dubious records of allowing torture — so the premise for such photographs appears questionable, at best.
As the Guardian reports,
Stripping the victims of clothing was considered necessary to document their physical condition while in CIA custody, distinguishing them at that point from what they would subsequently experience in foreign custody – despite the public diplomatic assurances against torture that the US demonstrably collected from countries with a record of torturing detainees.
An unnamed former U.S. official described these photographs to the Guardian as “very gruesome.”
Experts believe the contents of these pictures, taken without consent — which some say evidence “sexual humiliation” — might constitute a war crime. “Is the naked photography a form of sexual assault? Yes. It’s a form of sexual humiliation,” explained the medical director of Physicians for Human Rights, Dr. Vincent Iacopino.
“Photographing or videotaping detainees in U.S. custody unrelated to the processing of prisoners or the management of detention facilities can constitute a violation of the laws of war, including the Geneva Conventions, in some cases,” said Nathaniel Raymond, an expert on detainee abuse and researcher with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.
“Any evidence that the CIA or any other U.S. government agency intentionally photographed naked detainees,” he continued, “should be investigated by law enforcement as a potential violation of domestic and international law.”
Though video footage of CIA torture was ostensibly destroyed by officials in 2005, the photographs were retained by the agency. Only some of the total number of photos have been released, but the Guardian noted of those still classified, “CIA captives are blindfolded, bound and show visible bruises. Some photographs also show people believed to be CIA officials or contractors alongside the naked detainees.”
The U.S. government and its various agencies, including the CIA, continue to downplay the torture program which began following 9/11. Pres. Obama ostensibly ended the practice upon taking office, but many unanswered questions linger. This report of photographing detainees naked will only raise more doubts about the government’s intentions.