Almost a decade following the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, most Iraqi state documents stemming from Saddam Hussein's regime remain in the possession of the United States. U.S. military forces seized the majority of them in the invasion and occupation for intelligence exploitation, approximately a hundred pages of records and thousands of audio- and videotapes from Hussein's various bureaucracies of repression. Another 5.5 million pages of secret police files chronicling Hussein's Anfal genocidal campaign in Iraqi Kurdistan in the middle to late 1980s also are in American hands. These were seized by Kurdish forces in the uprising in northern Iraq in March 1991 and removed by the Pentagon in 1992 and 1993 to American soil for safe storage and analysis. Moreover, in 2005, an additional seven million pages that once belonged to the Ba'ath Party and security forces were also spirited out of Iraq by military transport with the assistance of the Iraqi Memory Foundation, a private Washington, D.C.-based group that entered Iraq as an American defense contractor to preserve the records of Saddam Hussein's regime. Each of these various caches of state security documents has been removed from Iraq under highly unique circumstances as a result of internal rebellion and more than a decade of hostilities between the United States and Iraq. This article examines the circumstances surrounding these removals, their custody and use, and the status and limits of the international laws of war regarding their capture and return.

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