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Web site: U.S. troops traded Iraq photos for porn access

No evidence of felony, Army says

From Barbara Starr
CNN Washington Bureau


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Army is investigating reports that 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."

Chris Wilson, owner of the site, told CNN that he had given members of the military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan access to the site for free -- if they provided him with a photograph proving they were serving there.

CNN could not verify the authenticity of the photographs and videos posted on the site and will not include its name because it is considered offensive by many people.

Wilson, of Lakeland, Florida, said the military hasn't contacted him about the postings or the anonymous posters and he doesn't "suspect they'd have reason to."

"It would be a matter of free speech," he said. "Since I'm not a member of the military, I'm not bound by the laws of the military."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), however, said the grisly practice may violate international laws of war.

The Geneva Conventions require respect for "the remains of persons who have died for reasons related to occupation or in detention resulting from occupation or hostilities and those of persons not nationals of the country in which they have died as a result of hostilities."

Wilson's Web site, which began as a place for men to post photographs and videos of their sexual partners, is hosted on servers located in Amsterdam, he said, and is bound by the laws of the Netherlands.

The site allows the anonymous postings of photographs and videos purportedly taken by members of the military with their own digital cameras. In particularly gruesome images, visitors to the site try to guess what body part is displayed.

U.S. military personnel also appear in some of the images.

Curtin said the investigation would try to verify the authenticity of the images and the identity of any U.S. personnel before it can determine if any prosecutable offense or violation of military policy exists.

"The photos show close ups of military uniforms and closeups of human body parts found allegedly in the streets of Iraq," Boyce said. "The military will work the matter within the chain of command in Iraq to ensure that personnel are aware of appropriate conduct and continue their sensitivity to the remains of local citizens and members of our Armed Forces -- since in some of the photos it is even difficult to discern the identity of the deceased."

The Web site also includes images purported to be from Afghanistan.

Wilson, 27, said gruesome photographs began to be posted because paid access to the site was blocked for those attempting access from so-called "high risk" areas like Iraq and Afghanistan. And members of the military, he said, wanted to be able to see the site.

"So I made a deal with them that if they sent me a picture proving they were serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, I would give them access to the site for free," he said.

Now, he said, some 30,000 of his 220,000 registered users or military members serving in the war zones.

The gruesome photos, he said, are "probably third or fourth" most popular areas on his 18-month-old Web site. The most popular, he said, are "the adult areas, for sure."

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