Army investigates reports that U.S. troops took photographs of dead Iraqis and traded them to a pornographic Web site in return for access to that site, Army sources said Wednesday.
Army spokesman Paul Boyce told CNN that a preliminary investigation had found "no evidence of a felony crime," but both he and Col. Joseph Curtin said the Web postings, if verified, could constitute a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice provisions on good conduct.
"There is no criminal investigation into the matter of photos of deceased bodies in Iraq being posted on the worldwide Web anonymously," Boyce said. "Army criminal investigators examined this recently as a preliminary inquiry but found there is no specific evidence of a felony crime."
Curtin acknowledged an ongoing investigation, however, saying it was focusing on "allegations that soldiers may have exchanged personally taken photographs of dead Iraqis in exchange for pornographic access," reports CNN.
According to Independent, the photographs have outraged Arab and Muslim advocacy groups in the US and prompted human rights organisations to question whether they are not also a violation of the Geneva Conventions. They also constitute another potential public relations disaster for the United States as it continues to state publicly that it has the best interests of ordinary Iraqis at heart.
Some of the graphic website images are accompanied by openly racist comments from the soldiers who posted them. "What every Iraqi should look like," is the commentary next to a picture of a corpse whose brains and entrails are spilling out. In another image, six men wearing US Marine uniforms are smiling for the camera as they point to a burned body at their feet. The caption: "Cooked Iraqi."
Elsewhere, site visitors are invited to guess which body part is being depicted. The website owner, Chris Wilson, has been quite open about what he is doing. He said his site, which normally features photographs of the wives and girlfriends of his customers in pornographic poses, has proved very popular with the military.
About a year ago, in response to complaints that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were having trouble getting their credit cards processed and gaining access to the site, he agreed to offer free subscriptions in return for the graphic images. Those images, unlike the porn, are openly accessible to anyone.
Wilson's site is registered in the Netherlands, putting it outside the purview of the US legal system. He has pointed out that he is not a member of the military and so is not subject to their rules.