Six SEALs, Two “Does,” One Lawsuit


The Associated Press is getting sued for violating several Navy SEALs’ privacy by publishing photos depicting their possible abuse of Iraqi detainees.

The plaintiffs in the suit in California Superior Court are identified in court records only as “Six Navy SEALs” and “Two Jane Does,” who The New York Times says are two of the SEALs’ wives. Their suit targets the AP and its reporter Seth Hettena, alleging that by publishing the photographs—which had been posted on a website—the AP put the SEALs’ lives in danger.

The pictures in question were published with a December 3rd story in which Hettena reported: “The U.S. military has launched a criminal investigation into photographs that appear to show Navy SEALs in Iraq sitting on hooded and handcuffed detainees, and photos of what appear to be bloodied prisoners, one with a gun to his head.”

Three days later, a story by Hettena read in part, “Preliminary findings of a military inquiry suggest that some of the recently published photographs of Navy special forces capturing detainees in Iraq were taken for legitimate intelligence-gathering purposes and showed commandos using approved procedures.”

However, on December 16 Hettena reported that the SEALs were “expanding their investigation”. While the acts depicted in most of the photos were legit, “other photos appear to show Navy SEALs posing for photos on top of hooded and handcuffed detainees in the back of a pickup truck.”

Photographs have touched off several controveries surrounding the Iraq war. There have been the unauthorized images of American coffins, the images of beheadings of hostages, and the Abu Ghraib snapshots that transformed a quiet CENTCOM “investigation” into a massive scandal. What’s different about this instance is the lawsuit.

The anonymity of the accusers is another quirk—one seen earlier this month in the very interesting lawsuit by a CIA analyst known as “Doe” against the agency for punishing him because he didn’t follow alleged orders to skew intelligence reports, apparently on Iraq.