SEALs Expand Iraq Abuse Photos Probe

The Navy SEALs (search) are expanding their investigation into recently published photographs that show freshly captured prisoners and grinning commandos sitting or lying on hooded and handcuffed detainees in Iraq, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Following a preliminary inquiry, senior SEAL officials have decided to take a more thorough look at the circumstances surrounding some of the photos, Navy Cmdr. Jeff Bender said. Some of the images also show the bloodied faces of detainees.

Such an investigation, which will take up to a month, could result in disciplinary proceedings.

The preliminary inquiry by a single Navy investigator found that the majority of the 15 photographs published Dec. 3 by The Associated Press were taken for legitimate intelligence-gathering purposes and showed commandos using approved procedures, Bender said. He cited as an example a photo in which a weapon with a flashlight attached is pointed at a detainee's head to illuminate his face as another commando snapped a photo.

But other photos appear to show Navy SEALs posing for photos on top of hooded and handcuffed detainees in the back of a pickup truck. Bender declined to comment on the pickup truck photos, citing the ongoing investigation.

Bender said some SEALs have been called in for questioning during the preliminary inquiry, which was launched after the AP brought the photos to the Navy seeking comment.

An AP reporter found 40 photos of detainees on a commercial photo-sharing Web site. They were among hundreds posted by a woman who said her husband brought them back from Iraq.

Taking photos of prisoners for administrative or intelligence purposes is an exception to Navy regulations that generally forbid photos of prisoners of war.

Naval Special Warfare Group One (search), which oversees four SEAL teams based in Coronado, will take over the investigation. A new investigating officer will be assigned to handle the case.

Bender declined to say which of the SEAL teams was involved. However, some other photos show the insignia and patches of Seal Team Five (search), which is based in Coronado.

Date stamps on some of the photos suggest they were taken in May 2003. That would make them the earliest evidence of possible abuse or questionable handling of prisoners in Iraq.