The 198 photos of detainees held in Iraq and Afghanistan, released by the DoD (Department of Defense), show very little evidence in terms of prisoner abuse. The photos were heavily vetted and filtered by the DoD prior to their release. There are still approximately 1,800 photos still left to release. The photos were just released after a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request from the ACLU which was initiated in 2004.

The grainy pictures show what appear to be only minor or superficial injuries. Without context and specific case information behind each photo, it is difficult to determine which cases were substantiated. Many of those injuries could have been sustained prior to U.S. involvement with the detainees, or could have occurred during the initial detainment process. Like law enforcement, our military also documents injuries on detainees during the arrest and detainment process. This is not to say that some Iraqi and Afghan detainees were not subjected to some maltreatment. At least 65 servicemembers have been prosecuted under the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice).

Department of Defense spokesperson Cmdr. Gary Ross said that the photos originated from independent criminal investigations into allegations of misconduct by U.S. personnel. The investigations substantiated approximately 14 allegations of misconduct while another 42 allegations were proven unsubstantiated, he said. (Starr, 2016)

To label all of these photos as evidence of possible abuse is dangerous without all of the supporting evidence. The release of these photos can only fuel hostility and hatred toward our servicemembers still in Iraq. Regardless of whether some of these cases were substantiated, terrorist groups can still use the photos as propaganda against the United States.


Starr, R. B. (2016, Feb 5). Pentagon releases 198 photos of detainees. Retrieved Feb 7, 2016, from CNN:

Images courtesy of, Reuters