Original photo: PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images

At the Defense Media Activity, a little-known and oddly named office in Ft. Meade, Maryland, that provides “news and information to U.S. forces worldwide,” there are thousands of classified“educational” films about the American military—including a huge trove of secret home movies from Gitmo.

This week the public records clearinghouse Government Attic published a newly declassified, 102-page list of the DMA’s vast, secret media library. The declassified inventory contains some intriguingly titled entries like “HERE THERE ARE TIGERS (EVASION AND ESCAPE SOUTHEAST ASIA)” and “NUCLEAR WARFARE AT SEA.” It also contains roughly 30 pages of descriptions of videos, still images, and audio recordings taken at the terrorist prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, constituting hundreds of recordings that the public has never before seen, and, so long as they remain classified for reasons of national security, likely never will see. Among them appear to be recordings of detainee interrogations that military officials have previously claimed were never filmed.

But despite being placed under lock and key at an obscure agency by the highest levels of the Pentagon, the titles of the films seem almost mundane—portraits of ordinary life amid extraordinary rendition.

The recordings are undated, though a recording of the construction of Guantanamo Bay’s Camp Delta installation shows that the collection stretches back to at least 2002. Many of the recordings are generically titled, with descriptions like “DETAINEE TRANSFER” and “CAMP DELTA ACTIVITIES”:

Others are more detailed, with references to a “detainee barbecue” and a “mass casualty exercise”:

There appear to be videos of ribbon cutting ceremonies, detainees being transferred between cells, being released, and praying. Some references aren’t immediately clear, such as a video titled “AMBULANCE TRANSPORTS JUVENILE DETAINEES FROM DETAINEE HOSPITAL TO THE IGUANA HOUSE.”

Some videos appear to chronicle the mental and physical health of detainees—material that would be crucial and illuminating at a place that’s become synonymous with abuse, both mental and physical:

One film is titled “US NAVY DOCTOR - REMOVES STITCHES FROM DETAINEE’S KNEE.” Of course, so long as the film is classified, it’s impossible to know why the detainee needed stitches in their knee to begin with.

This is the sort of material human rights watchdogs like Naureen Shah, Director of National Security and Human Rights at Amnesty International USA, would love to view.

“I didn’t previously know of these films and it is incredibly interesting,” Shah told me in an interview. “We know Gitmo was considered a ‘battle lab’ for experimental, unproven techniques to control he behavior of the detainees, so every aspect of the detention site and handling of detainees warrants a really close review.”

Based on this film index, Shah believe “clearly they themselves were evaluating these tactics because they were interested in human experimentation.” The films themselves “could be a smattering of a much larger set of documents that show an overall environment where torture flourished,” Shah said.

Portraits of detainee life and wellbeing at Guantanamo have been choreographed by the military as much as possible, with journalist access carefully controlled and obstructed in order to prevent unflattering (or illegal) practices making it past the fences of Camp Delta. The Department of Defense has been especially careful about images and videos.

In 2004, the Washington Post reported on detainee interrogations conducted by so-called “Tiger Teams” comprised of agents from the FBI and CIA, in which “captives can be shackled and chained to steel rings fastened to the floor.” In that article, U.S. Army Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller stated on the record that Tiger Team sessions were never recorded:

The sessions are not videotaped or tape recorded, Miller said. The interrogations are designed primarily to yield intelligence, not evidence for a court, he said, adding that taping “causes us legal problems.” Detainees might gain access to tapes through court proceedings. “Then, it becomes exculpatory,” Miller said.

And yet the Defense Media Activity appears to possess a video titled “TIGER TEAM INTERROGATES DETAINEES,” with an identifying barcode of 55580090. General Miller retired in 2006.

There are many other interrogation recordings, including repeated references to so-called “psyops,” short for psychological operations. Some of the previously reported psyops at Gitmo included the use of music in a manner that could certainly be considered torture: “Metallica’s Enter Sandman has been played at cacophonous levels for hours on end,” the Guardian reported in 2008. Involuntary subjection to Rage Against the Machine was another favorite psyop. The DMA possesses a variety of classified psyop recordings, including “SAUDI’S IN CAMP FOUR FOR PSYOPS,” “PSYOP PRODUCTS,” “PSYOPS POSTERS HANGING IN CAMP DELTA,” and “PSYOPS AWARDS.”

The references to interrogations and psychological warfare stand in contrast to apparent recordings of moments that sound almost pleasant, including meals, games of soccer, and even perverse “farewell dinners” for detainees being released to other countries:

All of the above recordings are classified Secret or higher. Steven Aftergood, head of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, told me he was not previously aware of the recordings, adding that
“classified films are among the last things to be declassified because they are hard to review and cumbersome to process for release.” We can only imagine what they might show.

Gawker is currently pursuing the declassification and release of some of these films, a process that is sure to be long and very possibly fruitless.

You can browse the catalog in full below.