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. US special forces troops sue wire service claiming it endangered lives
LOS ANGELES (AFP) Mar 24, 2005
Five US special forces troops have sued the Associated Press claiming it endangered their lives by publishing photos of their unit allegedly abusing Iraqi prisoners, a lawyer told AFP Wednesday.

The five members of the Navy SEALs special forces unit and one of the men's wives filed suit against the international wire service Monday in the California city of San Diego, the Navy SEALs' lawyer James Huston said.

The suit claims that AP "violated copyright and privacy laws and endangered their lives by publishing photos of them," Huston told AFP.

"We are seeking unspecified damages for the copyright violations and also damages for the invasion of privacy and the damage done to these men's careers and the life changes to which they were subjected," he said.

The suit replaces an earlier action filed in December and adds fresh allegations of federal copyright infringement, Huston told AFP.

The pictures, which were distributed on December 3 last year, appear to show SEALs sitting on handcuffed Iraqi prisoners, including one detainee who had a gun to his head.

An attorney for the New York-based AP, Dave Tomlin, said in a statement that the agency had a right to publish the pictures of the SEALs with Iraqi prisoners because there was a public interest in doing so.

He said the use of the photos and the way in which they were obtained were "entirely lawful and proper."

But the SEALs lawsuit claims that the photos clearly show the faces of the five men, gave identifying information and depicted them in operations in Iraq where they can be identified by the enemy.

The lawsuit alleges that an AP reporter found the three photographs in a personal photo storage Web site started by one of the SEALs' wives and downloaded them.

Huston said that the pictures were downloaded despite the woman telling the wire service reporter that the SEALs could not be identified because "this would put their lives in danger."

"Now their photos are on websites, their faces are on websites, they are on billboards in Cuba, they are everywhere and anyone can go and get them or their families in San Diego," the lawyer told AFP.

The SEALs are asking for unspecified damages on their invasion of privacy claim and also want the court to preclude the AP from republishing the photographs.

The Navy goes to great lengths to protect the identities and whereabouts of its 2,400 SEALs -- which stands for Navy Sea, Air, Land -- many of them with classified missions around the globe, Huston said.

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