Cross-posted at Daily Kos.
After the photos posted by a Navy wife on Smugmug.com were discovered, the Associated Press and reporter Seth Hettena published the photos, which were circulated worldwide and widely seen as evidence of abuse (more photos below the fold) by Navy Seals against detainees.
We already know about accusations of horrific abuse against Iraqi detainees by Navy Seals, one of whom is on trial in San Diego. See my Feb. 17 diary, “[UPDATED] Iraqi Died While Hung From Wrists (CIA,Army, Navy SEALs).”
We also know that “loose lips sink ships,” that covert ops need to remain covert, and that that Navy wife made a terrible mistake. Among the consequences:
Another Web site instructs “Remember these faces” over a flashing image of the faces of several SEALs taken from the photos. …
::: more below :::
Five U.S. Navy SEALs and the wife of one of the men have sued the Associated Press and a San Diego-based reporter, claiming the news organization endangered their lives and invaded their privacy …
The lawsuit, filed on Monday in San Diego federal court, marked a broader legal claim by the Coronado, California-based SEALs, who had earlier filed suit against the AP in state court after it published the 15 photos in December.
AP reporter Seth Hettena reported that the photos, date stamped May 2003, were placed on the photo-sharing Web site Smugmug.com by a Navy wife who said her husband brought them back from Iraq. …
Oddly enough, I couldn’t find — to date — a single journalism site or column that defends the Associated Press’s publication of these photos. Surely some journalists, hopefully Poynter and its regular participants, will weigh in.
The AP’s defense goes like this:
“The pictures are of obvious public interest. AP obtained them in a completely proper way and was right to publish them,” …
“These plaintiffs are trying to use a legal smokescreen to shift attention away from their own conduct and their own carelessness. …I don’t think they’re fooling anybody.”
The plaintiffs’ case:
The suit contended that the AP [and] reporter Seth Hettena, violated the woman’s privacy and also the copyright of the photographer by using the photos without permission.
The photos weren’t formally copyrighted at the time. But under federal law, Huston argued, any photograph in “recognizable form” is considered copyrighted even if it never is published or formally registered.
The suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in San Diego, seeks unspecified damages. It also asks the court to bar AP from further use of the photos and to require the news agency to protect the SEALs’ identities.
Of Note: AP reporter Seth Henna, a defendant in the suit, is still on the job covering the trial of a Navy Seal.
Mon Mar 21, 9:38 PM ET
By SETH HETTENA, Associated Press Writer
SAN DIEGO – Court-martial proceedings were postponed Monday for a Navy SEAL accused of prisoner abuse in a case that implicates the CIA in a gruesome death at Abu Ghraib.
The SEAL lieutenant is accused of punching an Iraqi detainee in the arm and allowing his men to abuse the prisoner, who later died during CIA interrogation at the prison in Iraq.
The trial was postponed to give attorneys time to resolve … how they will use classified material and witnesses. …
Just so you know that nothing is simple (at least for me, sigh), the Navy Seals were scouring Baghdad looking for suspects in the bombing of the Red Cross headquarters in Central Baghdad on October 27, 2003.
The bombing was “one of a series of four car bomb attacks that disrupted the first morning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. At least 35 people were killed and 230 wounded in the series of attacks, 12 of the casualties … at the Red Cross site.”
FROM MY FEB 17 diary, a photo of the Iraqi who died:
… Army Spc. Sabrina Harman, of the 372nd Military Police Company, poses with the body of Iraqi detainee Manadel al-Jamadi who is packed in ice at the Abu Ghraib prison. .. (AP Photo/ABC News, File) Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Despite all my criticisms of the Iraq war and my utter horror at any atrocities and abuses committed by our troops, I also admire — overall — the men and women of our armed forces. I particularly admire the intelligence, education, and physical abilities of members of the special forces. So I am especially saddened when any special forces member is accused of abuses. I suspect that our special forces are being overused, exhausted, and wrongly focused by Bush, Rumsfeld et al., and those factors may be a partial reason for the abuse cases we’re seeing. [PHOTO RIGHT: A snapshot of the Navy Seals calendar. Mr. October was SEAL Stephen “Scott” Helvenston, murdered and hung from the bridge in Fallujah.]
Here’s another view from columnist Tim Chavez of The Tennessean:
It’s not about the law. It’s about common decency. National Public Radio reported: ‘’The amateur snapshots show SEALs sitting on hooded and handcuffed Iraqis. Another picture shows a SEAL using a flashlight mounted on his pistol to illuminate the captured man’s face for a photo. The Navy maintains these are acceptable procedures for commandos as part of intelligence gathering.’’
Jim Houston, attorney for the SEALs and their families, told NPR: ‘’These guys are back in Iraq. Their faces are all over Al-Jazeera. … They’re on billboards in Cuba accusing them of being fascists and Nazis. There are photographs on Web sites where they’ve pulled out the digital faces that say, ‘Remember these faces.’ ‘’
Being a warrior in America is a difficult life to pursue. Without these warriors, however, there would be no America. Or a free world.
Lastly, here are a few words from Mike G, a citizen journalist at Participatory Media:
Sure the AP and Seth Hettena didn’t violate any laws…they are just guilty of being stupid. … Sure, the pictures should have never been posted and oh we will hear the lessons learned from that until the cows come home, ..
We all know how this pans out. The AP and Hettena look bad, the SEAL wives look bad, the suit causes all sorts of public outcry, Hettena either gets notoriety and/or slapped on the wrist, the suit gets dropped or settled out of court, and hopefully the idiot reporters just listen a little next time they decide to make a “breaking’ story out of some hot news two years too late on our special operators.
More harm than good guys, more harm than good. AP and Hettena, you should all be ashamed.
What do YOU think?