In January 2004, while serving with the 372nd Military Police Company in Iraq, Joseph M. Darby, then an Army Specialist, anonymously turned in to Army investigators a fellow soldier's photographs depicting members of his unit taking part in the torture and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison.
Darby's tip calling attention to the abuse at Abu Ghraib resulted in an Army investigation into policies and practices at the prison. Several months later, when news and photographs of the abuse were published in American news media, his actions became the spark that ignited a firestorm
of global outrage at the United States.
Darby's act of conscience, widely chronicled in news reports, came after weeks of struggle over what to do about the photographs he'd discovered. His decision to turn in the pictures pitted him against his friends and fellow soldiers; in testimony before a military court proceeding for one member of his former unit, Darby told Army prosecutors his decision was a "moral call."
While Darby was cheered in some quarters, his actions were met with ambivalence and even scorn in others. People in his hometown told the news media he was a "rat" and suggested he might be responsible for the violent deaths of other Americans in retaliation for what had been exposed at Abu Ghraib. Darby was himself the target of death threats, and he and his wife were forced to move out of their home and into protective custody for a time.
Joseph Darby still serves in the United States Army, where he was recently promoted to the rank of Sergeant.
For the example he set of valor and courage in American public life, Joseph Darby was honored with the 2005 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.