You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘the Guardian’ tag.

General Abul Waleed, Head of Command for the Wolf Brigade, and Col. James Steele, Samarra, Iraq. Gilles Peress/Magnum, for The New York Times.

Remember at the height of the Iraq War, when sectarian fighting raged and bodies were being dumped in the streets daily? Well, the U.S. military was directly funding many of the killers’ activities. U.S. Colonel James Steele, decorated by Rumsfeld, was the man in collusion with the murderers.

Gilles Peress‘ made the above-photo during a 2005 New York Times assignment on Iraqi counterterrorism commando units. (You can find 27 of Peress’ images  by searching “Peress Iraq 2005” on the Magnum website.) On the right is Colonel James Steele, head of General David Petraeus’ counterterrorism operations.

I included the same photo in a blog-post nearly two-and-a-half years ago alerting readers to The Guardian‘s investigation into United States’ funding of Iraqi police commandoes.

Today, and in continuation of its investigation, The Guardian published details of a massive network of torture centers operated by the Iraqi police commandos.

See the full length 51-minute documentary about Steele and read the article of  horrendous details accompanied with a 5-minute edited version of the film. to the crimes covering all the essential details of U.S. Military

“The United States funded a sectarian police commando force that set up a network of torture centers to fight the insurgency. It was a decision that helped fuel a sectarian war. At it’s height it was claiming 3,000 deaths per month,” says the narrator.

Until now, the media hasn’t been certain if these commando units were part or all of the feared ‘Death Squads’ that kidnapped, disappeared and killed people, usually following night-time raids.

Both Peress and his fellow journalist Peter Maass offer statement in the Guardian video. Peress speaks of the inexplicable amounts of blood he saw in a room of the building. During the visit incredibly loud screams of pain could be heard throughout the building. According to Maass, Steele left the room, the screams fell silent, Steele returned and Maass continued his interview with a Saudi prisoner.

General David Petraeus – and Col. Steele of course – continually denied the Iraqi police commando force had been infiltrated by Shia militias looking for revenge against the Sunni’s who had benefitted under Saddam Hussein’s reign. Iraqi’s say this is preposterous as everyone knew the police were corrupt, and that sectarian and murderous groups such as the Badr Brigade had in regions completely taken over commando operations.

Absolute scandal. What else do we not know? What else have we not seen?

FOR A HANDLE ON THE US MILITARY’S COMPLICITY IN WIDESPREAD TORTURE IN SAMARRA, IRAQ, WATCH THIS.

FRAGO 242

FRAGO 242 is the US military’s abbreviation of a “fragmentary order” given to US military operatives.

When US military became aware of Iraqi torture of other Iraqis, to quote The Guardian‘s David Leigh, “FRAGO 242 meant that no further investigation was necessary.” When in the custody of Iraqi security forces, detainees were subjected to horrendous abuse. The US turned a blind-eye. The information about this is brilliantly presented in this seven minute video.

Iraqi commandos securing the area after a car chase resulted in the arrest of foreign terrorists. Gilles Peress/Magnum, for The New York Times. (Cropped from original)

Included in the seven minute video are Gilles Peress’ images from a New York Times assignment in 2005. (You can find 23 of Peress’ image from the assignment by searching “Peress Iraq Counterterrorism Commandos” on the Magnum website.)

The writer for that assignment was Peter Maass. He was reporting on the elite Iraq Ministry of Interior Commando Force, known as the Wolf Brigade. For the assignment, Maass shadowed Col. James Steele who he describes as “Petraeus’ man.”

At the invite of Steele, Maas visited a Samarra interrogation center. In this same video, Maass describes the sights and sounds of torture from within. During the interview incredibly loud screams of pain could be heard throughout the building. According to Maass, Steele left the room, the screams fell silent, Steele returned and Maass continued his interview with a Saudi prisoner.

Steele has not yet commented on Maass’ account of that day in Samarra.

General Abul Waleed, Head of Command for the Wolf Brigade, and Col. James Steele, Samarra, Iraq. Gilles Peress/Magnum, for The New York Times.

WHAT JOHN MOORE DIDN’T PHOTOGRAPH

All of this is a very interesting counterpoint to John Moore’s In American Custody.

Moore’s compilation of images from embedded positions at Abu Ghraib and Camp Cropper (2003-2007) have been roundly celebrated since their publication on the 22nd Oct. I don’t see it. The collection is a politically safe edit of images from a war we are technically out of; they are the product of US military deceit. Moore was their pawn.

Moore’s images are benign in comparison to the descriptions set forth by Maass, the Wikileaks files and the thousands of Iraqis whose stories of torture have fallen on deaf ears for the past six plus years.

… or put another way, the apparently unassailable problem that is Guantanamo only amounts to 2% of the actual problem.

guardian logo

This is only one of the many astounding facts I learnt from following the Guardian’s Slow Torture series.

I particularly valued this half hour podcast in which an expert panel of legal professionals discuss the cyclical, “odious” and often ludicrous procedures for trials based on ‘secret evidence’. Clive Stafford Smith has many valuable things to say about American legal protocols. He has represented detainees at Guantanamo Bay and says that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, ‘secret evidence’ used against terrorism suspects does not stand up to judicial scrutiny.

The majority of the Slow Torture series looks at British ‘secret evidence’ trials, how it affects the lives of terror suspects and the consequent erosion of Britain’s legal reputation:

The UK government’s powers to impose restrictions on terror suspects – without a trial – amounting to virtual house arrest have been condemned as draconian by civil liberties campaigners. In a series of five films, actors read the personal testimonies of those detained under Britain’s secret evidence laws and campaigners and human rights lawyers debate the issues raised.

Basically, the same problems embroiled in the acquisition and control of “sensitive” evidence exist on both sides of the Atlantic and are ultimately putting our societies at more of a long-term risk.

Photography alone is worthless. Interviews, think-pieces, investigation, theatre, video, debate, political fight and direct action make issues reality.

What are we to do with our Gitmo preoccupations when the real problem has been moved to Bagram, Afghanistan by President Obama?

London Metropolitan Police Anti-Photography Propaganda Campaign Poster

London Metropolitan Police Anti-Photography Propaganda Campaign Poster

When I began writing this blog, it was meant as a vehicle to display the documentary work of photographers working in sites of incarceration and to generally expound the stories touched upon. It was also meant to deconstruct some of the persistent myths surrounding prisons and prison populations and how visual culture has played its part in weaving some of those myths.

Not once did I envisage the current situation whereby the act of photography could bring about the threat of detention and imprisonment. Such impingement on basic rights of expression has been known in some of the dictatorial and despotic regimes of modern history … but not so much in the West, right? The times they are achangin’.

Photo: Liam Oliver Newton Craik-Horan. http://www.flickr.com/photos/liamch/3423810669/

Photo: Liam Oliver Newton Craik-Horan. http://www.flickr.com/photos/liamch/3423810669/

When my brother visited from the UK last month he couldn’t stress enough how much of a police state it has become. We reasoned that the fingerprints taken by US homeland security are know also the possession of the UK government. It used to be the case that fingerprints were only taken and kept on file in the UK if you had been convicted for a crime. How things change.

A few months ago I signed up as a member of ACLU, the decisive moment was when the ACLU representative said to me, “You don’t want the US turning out like Britain with all those cameras and surveillance do you?”

Britain really is a country that has got itself on edge; it’s culture promoting men and women in all guises of security to exert illegitimate power and enforce ludicrous policy. Unfortunately, this robotic application of rules has infected even our art galleries, as the venerable John Berger discovered.

This past months have seen a slew of stories coming out of Britain regarding the rights of photographers in public spaces. All these are in response to a slew of legislation to slowly whittle down the rights of photographers; the rights of UK citizens.

On 16th February, the Counter Terrorism act came into effect making it illegal to photograph a police officer or “elicit information” about them. The British Journal of Photography has the details.

After the disgust at such brazen restriction of rights, the response by the photographic community in London was to go to Scotland Yard, headquarters of the Metropolitan police, and in an act of mass civil disobedience take lots of photographs of lots of officers.

The Guardian UK has been the mainstream print media that has really pursued this topic, reminding us all of what we have just lost. They broke the story that Kent police monitored members of the press during an environment protest, for which the Kent constabulary have apologized.

The Press Gazette explained this tactic and the associated tension between police and photographers.

David Hoffman, a photographer with 32 years’ experience, said he now carries shinpads in his bag, claiming he had been kicked by police officers at protests.

“The police today [NUJ Protest] have been beautiful – but that isn’t always the case,” he said. “Recent protests have been very bad. The worst was October last year, at the Climate Rush demo. One copper spent his time kicking my leg. Stood there with his steel toe caps kicking away – and me, a silver-haired man. I’ve still got chunks missing from my legs five months on. They want you to think: I won’t cover it next time. They have been using FIT [Forward Intelligence Teams, who use cameras], they have been using intimidation.”

Hoffman added, “It’s important the police know they’re being watched and observed. If you don’t see what’s going on, your society’s less democratic.”

It is almost like the lines have been drawn so indelibly, people are having to pick a side. It is sad to see but the police fall in line with the government and the majority sympathise with the press. This has led to a conflation of stories involving the G20 protests, police misconduct, and the death of (and vigil for) Ian Tomlinson. Judging by the Guardian’s recent coverage, you’d be forgiven for thinking that London was on the edge of civic breakdown.

I think the media and the Guardian in particular are taking a principled stance here and just reminding the Met at every opportunity that they are watched and the press will not be cowed. I think most of us realise that with millions of people in possession of recording equipment it is unenforceable to stop people from documenting the streets.

Ian Tomlinson’s death received a lot of coverage and rightly so, but I shall wait for the inquiry ruling before making a call, despite the early damning evidence. We, however, in the business of images know that they can never tell the full story. This is now an investigation of excessive force by the police and distinct from the main issue of photographers/civil rights.

Yesterday, the Guardian published this footage of the police threatening photographers with arrest if they did not move. Again, later the force apologized. But what is interesting here is the Guardian‘s decision to line up video footage of various scenes of confrontation from different days in the right hand nav bar. It is a dossier of police activity and unlike anything I have seen in mainstream media.

Photo: Roger Lancefield. The protesters stickers read "I am not a Terrorist, I am a Photographer". http://www.flickr.com/photos/rlancefield/3285904973/in/set-72157613975803636/

Photo: Roger Lancefield. The protesters stickers read "I am not a Terrorist, I am a Photographer". http://www.flickr.com/photos/rlancefield/3285904973/in/set-72157613975803636/

From the sublime to the ridiculous, the Guardian showed that front-line press aren’t the only ones under scrutiny. Metropolitan police deleted a tourist’s photographs this week to “prevent terrorism”. Klaus Matzka, the tourist involved summed his experience up as such:

“I’ve never had these experiences anywhere, never in the world, not even in Communist countries.”

So, at best you are harassed for your photographic activity and at worst, if thought to hold sinister motives, arrested and face a 10 year sentence.

Before all this gets to any court, however, the clashes are felt on the street, on the shins and in the constantly diminished rights to freedom of expression. Where citizen photographers may feel powerless, it seems the press – and the Guardian in particular – are just getting powered up.

_________________________________________

Thanks to all the Flickr users credited above for their images, but more importantly their acts of documentation in the face of legislation to prevent such freedoms. I hope we all stay out of prison.

EMAIL

prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com

@BROOKPETE ON TWITTER

Prison Photography Archives

Post Categories