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Source of Terror Suspect Photos Sought

November 09, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon was investigating Friday to find out who took and released photographs of terrorism suspects as they were being transported in heavy restraints aboard a U.S. military plane.

Four photographs of prisoners -- handcuffed, heads covered with black hoods and bound with straps on the floor of a plane -- appeared overnight on the Web site of radio talk show host Art Bell.

"Anonymous mailer sends us photos taken inside a military C-130 transporting POWs," the headline said.

The photos are the first giving a glimpse into security measures aboard any of the airplanes used over the last year as suspects were transferred to prisons in and around Afghanistan and around the world, including to the high-security prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It has long been known that prisoners were heavily restrained, and photos of prisoners bound and kneeling after arrival in Cuba early this year created a stir among human- and prison-rights groups.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 13, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 6 inches; 243 words Type of Material: Correction
Terrorism suspects photo -- A photo caption that appeared Saturday in Section A contained unconfirmed information. The caption said that the photograph depicted prisoners, who were bound and shackled, being transported to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. However, as the accompanying story reported, a Pentagon spokesman said it had not been determined where the plane was going or when the photos were taken. The photo, distributed to the media, had appeared on the Web site of radio talk show host Art Bell with the headline "Anonymous mailer sends us photos taken inside a military C-130 transporting POWs."

The plane in the latest photos was a C-130, said Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman. But it wasn't yet determined Friday where it was going or when the photos were taken. Officials believe they were not authorized photos and know their release was unauthorized, he said.

The Air Force and U.S. Central Command were investigating the breach, said Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke.

"We have very very tight restrictions on any images of the detainees for security purposes and because we have no interest in potentially holding detainees up for any kind of public ridicule," she told a Pentagon news conference.

It is at least the third time prisoner photos have troubled the Pentagon.

Though the Defense Department has limited the news media in the kinds of photos it can take of prisoners from the counter-terrorism war, officials discovered that troops posed for photos with the American Taliban captive, John Walker Lindh, as he was handcuffed and wearing a blindfold carrying an obscenity that they had apparently scrawled across it.

The military itself takes photos for documentation and individual soldiers often take their own photos as souvenirs of deployments.

In a court motion, Lindh's lawyers also said this year that unofficial photos and videos of Lindh were taken aboard the amphibious assault ship Peleliu, where he was confined. Officials said an officer confiscated cameras and film and erased digital images.

Also as part of a court filing, Lindh's lawyers released a picture of him in Afghanistan, blindfolded, strapped to a stretcher and naked. Defense officials have said that while that photo may have appeared shocking, he was naked as part of his preparation for medical treatment.

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