Brooklyn's Own Abu Ghraib

Revolutionary Worker #1243, June 13, 2004, posted at

New pictures are leaking out of Arab and Muslim prisoners being brutalized by U.S. guards. But this time, the images aren't from Iraq--they were taken in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

More than 300 hours of secret videotapes exist--documenting the mistreatment of prisoners seized in the huge raids and roundups within the U.S. after 9/11.

At that time more than 1,200 people, mostly Arab and Muslim men, were seized by police across the U.S. People were snatched using crude profiling by religion and nationality. They were often held in secret, without charges, and interrogated. Often their families had trouble knowing where they were taken. It is not known how many are still held.

Few of these captives were ever charged with anything other than minor immigration violations. None was ever charged with any conspiracy to attack the U.S. Many were simply deported.

Many of those who were released or deported have claimed they were treated in extreme and abusive ways. And the government denied it. One prison official even insisted (a couple years ago) that his guards were "very polite" to the detainees.

Now the truth is starting to leak out.

These 300 hours of video were "discovered" hidden in a storage locker last year. People who have seen the videos claim they showed prison guards slamming people into walls, twisting their arms and wrists.

There is also evidence of sexual humiliation--similar to what was done in the U.S.-controlled prison of Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Detainees were stripped naked, forced to stand naked in front of female guards, and subjected to degrading mockery. Over a dozen guards are implicated.

One Muslim former detainee claims in a recently filed lawsuit that he was repeatedly strip-searched at the Brooklyn prison--and during those searches, he says guards inserted objects (like a flashlight and a pencil) into his rectum.

The government is moving aggressively to suppress this information and prevent any public trials of their guards. Here are some of their methods:

First, though this report and some photos were supposedly "released" last year, no one has heard of them. Until Abu Ghraib happened, the whole thing was just buried.

Second, the federal prosecutors stopped their "criminal probe" into the actions of the guards. Why? Because this same federal government had simply deported many of the people they were brutalizing. So if there are no witnesses or victims available to testify--the guards get off without charges or trial. (Even though all the evidence on these videotapes exist!)

Third, the federal government refuses to release the videotapes themselves to the public.

They are using an insulting (and increasingly familiar) argument. Bureau of Prisons spokesman Dan Dunne claims that releasing these tapes would violate "privacy rights". of the brutal prison guards!

Here is a government that respects NO ONE's privacy--launching one of history's greatest operations of police spying and snooping--but now wants to use "privacy rights" to cover its crimes. (Recently they claimed that photographing the returning coffins of dead U.S. soldiers would "violate the privacy rights" of grieving families! Now we are supposed to worry about how exposing prison brutality affects the "privacy rights" of those who did the brutalizing.

And finally, the Bureau of Prisons has announced a new policy: it will now be forbidden to videotape any strip searches. Obviously they want to make sure that their future abuse doesn't leave behind any evidence.