In a chilling note sent by email to Americans abroad and received by Breitbart News, the U.S. Embassy in Rome cautions citizens of a threat of attacks from “major terrorist organizations” due to the publication of compromising prisoner photos from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The security message titled “Release of 2002-2009 Iraq and Afghanistan Prisoner Photos” was sent on Friday and warns of a possible violent reaction to the publication of some 200 photos showing the alleged abuse of prisoners by American soldiers during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
An ACLU lawsuit filed in 2004 under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reportedly prompted the release of the pictures.
“U.S. citizens in Italy should be aware that the release of declassified photos of U.S.- or coalition-held prisoners from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts could prompt anti-U.S. protests and violence against U.S. interests including private U.S. citizens,” the message stated.
Along with urging citizens to exercise “particular caution” when traveling abroad, the State Department advises to U.S. visitors or residents in Italy to “be aware of their local security situation, and take appropriate steps to bolster their personal security.”
“There is a continuing threat in Europe from persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis,” the message reads.
The ACLU has insisted that the disclosure of these photos was “long overdue” but also that there are many photos more compromising than the ones published. The 198 photos released Friday, the group said, “are almost certainly the most innocuous of the 2,000 that were being withheld.”
The most damning photos, the group suggests, “include those related to the case of a 73-year-old Iraqi woman detained and allegedly sexually abused and assaulted by U.S. soldiers,” though the ACLU’s description of the photos themselves do not suggest sexual abuse.
The photos emerged from independent criminal investigations into charges of misconduct by U.S. personnel, according to a Defense Department spokesman. Fourteen of the allegations were found to be substantive and 65 service members were subsequently disciplined for misconduct.
“The disciplinary actions ranged from letters of reprimand to life imprisonment,” the Pentagon stated in a news release. “And of those 65 who received disciplinary action, 26 were convicted at court-martials.”
The photographs had been held from the public under the Protected National Security Documents Act of 2009, because of the fear that disclosure of the images “would endanger citizens of the United States, members of the U.S. armed forces or employees of the U.S. government deployed outside the United States.”
In November 2015, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter reviewed the photos and ruled that the 198 images released Friday did not need to be withheld from public viewing.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome