Information Warfare: Guilty Until Proven Innocent


December13, 2006: In the latest outbreak of lawfare, the ACLU is teaming up with former prisoners to personally sue U.S. officials, including outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and retired Lieutenant General Ricardo Salazar. This suit, concerning incidents at Bagram Air Base and Abu Ghraib, is the latest effort to push claims of torture that have been a stretch, to put it mildly. These suits against the individuals have the objective of creating more bad publicity around the big names (Rumsfeld and Salazar). Two other individuals sued, Colonels Thomas Pappas and Janis Karpinski, were punished for their roles in the Abu Ghraib scandal. Arguments as to whether the suit should continue were heard on December 8.

In both the case of Abu Ghraib and the abuse at Bagram, there was no evidence of any official approval for the actions. In fact, for the Americans, the actions of the MPs at Abu Ghraib and at Bagram Air Base are seen as the aberration, not the approved way of dealing with prisoners. In both cases, those responsible for the abuse were prosecuted and convicted. Some of those accused in the Bagram case were acquitted. It should also be noted that in these cases, the abuses were confined to a relatively small number of personnel in two military police companies and one military intelligence battalion - with two commanders in charge of Abu Ghraib relieved and punished.

In a sense, this lawsuit is more about furthering corrupt media coverage of the issue, in order to advance an agenda that believes terrorist acts are not an act of war, but merely a police matter. There has been no proof of any authorization of torture - and if anything, the official position of the Department of Defense (as laid out in publicly available publications) is that torture and abuse are not tolerated. The DOD has placed the results of its investigations online . The reports can be downloaded, and one can get the straight facts as opposed to the spin that has dominated media coverage.

What is also ignored is the evidence that by and large, detainees are treated well. In some cases, the Department of Defense ( DOD) has taken efforts to keep prisoners from starving themselves to death. The DOD has taken steps to ensure that the detainees are not disturbed during their prayers, and is also very sensitive about treatment of the Koran. The detainees get excellent medical treatment, and medics have reported suspected cases of abuse. Rumsfeld gets no credit for all of this, even though he was in charge of the Department of Defense for nearly six years. In the minds of the ACLU and other human-rights groups, the Department of Defense - and the officials who run it are guilty until proven innocent. - Harold C. Hutchison (


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