Saturday, September 6, 2014

Up to 2,100 Photos of US Soldiers Abusing Prisoners May Soon Be Released


Would the release of 10-year-old detainee abuse photographs, such as one depicting US soldiers pointing a broom handle at a hooded detainee's rectum, incite terrorist organizations and threaten national security?
That's a question government attorneys will have to answer next week when they explain to a federal court judge why as many as 2,100 unclassified photos of US soldiers abusing Iraqi and Afghan captives should continue to be concealed from the public.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case, which resurfaced last week, is part of the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) long-running lawsuit against the US government to obtain documents about the treatment of detainees in custody of the CIA and military.
Last week, US District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein scheduled a hearing on the matter for September 8 and said he would allow the government to submit additional evidence to justify the withholding of the pictures before he renders a decision. But he also signaled that he may ultimately order the Department of Defense to release the abuse photographs, stating in a 21-page ruling that the government did not submit evidence to back up its 2012 claims that releasing the photographs would endanger national security and the lives of US military personnel.
"The government has failed to submit to this Court evidence supporting the Secretary of Defense's determination that there is a risk of harm," Hellerstein said, "and evidence that the Secretary of Defense considered whether each photograph could be safely released."
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Barack Obama inherited dozens of George W. Bush-era open-records lawsuits pertaining to Bush's post-9/11 interrogation program involving CIA prisoners and the treatment of detainees by US military personnel at prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama, who signed an executive order — one of his first acts as president — promising to usher in a new era of transparency and open government, had to decide whether his administration would fight various federal court rulings ordering the release of highly sensitive documents that laid bare the brutality of the treatment of detainees.