A Conspiracy of Indifference
After we filmed Yunis' story, we spent two months looking at DOD and Army documents released under the Freedom of Information Act to confirm details of his story. Not only did the documents confirm his story-down to detainee serial numbers written on his boxer shorts--but they also gave us insight into the operational mindset of the Army at the time of Yunis' arrest.
Line units like 2/3 FA (who arrested Yunis and his brothers) repeatedly and sincerely told me that once prisoners left their control they would go through a vetting process and it would be quickly determined whether or not they would face the justice system or be cleared and released. What those units didn't know was how much pressure there was to NOT release detainees out of fear and how much the growing detainee population strained an already flawed detention system.
We have put together a collection of documents to help better understand exactly what the operational mindset was during Yunis' arrest and detention. What they reveal is a conspiracy of indifference.
Page 5: "There is no evidence substantiating the belief that rumors concerning early release for Ramadan or any other external issue, was related to the riot at the prison. All evidence indicates that the detainees were simply protesting the deplorable food and living conditions."
Page 19: "The circumstances of incarceration must also be reviewed. Oftentimes when raids are conducted, everyone in the building is taken into custody and sent to a facility and identified as a security detainee. In some cases, these people are completely innocent and it can take months to rectify."
Page 18: "The facility contains 8 compounds that are smaller than standard. The compounds are designed to hold 500 prisoners. The current capacity averages approximately 575 - 600 prisoners per compound. This is causing security and sanitation issues within each compound. The compounds should hold only 500 prisoners.
AR 15-6--Allegations of Detainee Abuse at Abu Ghraib--Psychological Assessment: "Clearly some detainees at Abu Ghraib were totally humiliated and degraded. This is a classic example of the legal forumla that "predisposition + opportunity = criminal behavior." Predisposition included the psychological factors of negativity, anger, hatred and desire to dominate and humiliate. And, with an unsupervised workplace in which no threat or appropriate punishment would be forthcoming, there was opportunity. More over, competent authority needs to expedite the detainee release process so those detainees without intelligence value will be rapidly released. And we can learn from the program in place at Dover Air Force Base, where the remains of servicemen are received. Psychiatrists or psychologists are always present, and General Officers have the opportunity to observe the entire process of personnel conducting mortuary affairs, operations and how they cope with conditions of their workplace."
Detainee Release: November 7, 2003: "As you can see from the below SIR, the issues are that there are many Security Detainees that have been held for long periods of time and 1) Not interrogated yet. Or 2) have been questioned months ago and are still being held. I understand the process, yet, we MUST increase the speed of the interviews, release boards, etc. In order to maintain some peace last night, I asked the Prisoner compound representatives to provide me a list of prisoners that have not been seen. "
Food: October 27, 2003: "While I am addressing basic necessities; Contract Meals Disaster. That is the best way to describe this Issue. Short hundreds of meals every feeding, bugs and dirt are found in the meals several times a week, and for the past two days prisoners have been vomiting after they eat. That, coupled with the fact that their arrival time varies tremendously, this is of great concern as Ramadan has begun. We are now out of MREs for the prisoners and are attempting to get some today from the 541st."
DOD 472, Sworn Statement for Major, 6th MI BN, 98th Div: "They would raid a house and take everyone. They refused to let anyone go due to the fear that the wrong guy might be let loose."
Detainee Release: "Interviews with CJTF-7 Chief Magistrate, Appeal & Review Board members and release Review Board members indicated they believed up to 80% of detainees being held for security and intelligence might be eligible for release upon review of their cases..."
Detainee Health: "Previously, one unit reported there had been some conflict between AR 190-8 and Coalition Provisional Authority treatment policy, which reportedly dictated that US medical care was only available to detainees to prevent loss of life, limb or eyesight... At one I/R facility a senior medical NCO stated that over 50% of his population had diabetes and he had neither glucometers nor insulin."
"It became obvious to me that the majority of our detainees were being detained as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time...I think perhaps only one in ten security detainees were of any particular intelligence value."