On Sunday, the New York Times posted a series of photos capturing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay detention camp, months after the attacks on September 11, 2001.
The photos were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Up until this point, the only leaked images of the prison were posted by WikiLeaks in 2011.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), enacted in 1967, gives the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. Agencies must disclose any information unless the FOIA exempts it; the photos from Guantanamo Bay did not adhere to those exemption guidelines.
The photos capture detainees blindfolded, shackled, and some with their hands duct-taped together. Many images show a marine with one foot in front of the chain shackling a prisoner’s feet together. If the prisoner were to try to flee, they would fall on their face.
Detainees lay in hospital beds in Fleet Hospital Twenty, where they received care for their ailments. Other images show prisoners kneeling on military ISO mats issued to them, using the mats as prayer rugs.
The photos give some insight into the prisoners’ daily lives. One image shows what appears to be a lunch: an orange, chopped carrots, a slice of bread, and beans. Detainees each had two buckets: one for washing and one for using the bathroom.
Most prisoners were fully blindfolded and masked, so it is challenging to identify specific facial features from the images. But prison staff and documents have confirmed one photo’s subject: Taliban prisoner Mullah Fazel Mohammad Mazloom. The photo captures three marines attempting to guide Mazloom onto a military bus.
Images were taken to give to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other military leaders to show them what the beginnings of wartime detention looked like.
Around 780 prisoners were detained at Guantanamo. Though former President George W. Bush described the men and boys as “the worst of the worst,” only 18 were charged, and only five were convicted of crimes.
Former President Barack Obama promised to close the prison during his term, but the order was blocked by Republican opposition. Today, 37 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.
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