Bush Administration Once Again Attempts To Block Release Of Prisoner Abuse Photos In ACLU Lawsuit
NEW YORK – The Bush administration petitioned a full appeals court late Thursday to reconsider a decision ordering the Defense Department to release photographs showing detainee abuse by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In September, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordered the government to release the photos as part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit seeking information on the abuse of prisoners held in U.S. custody overseas.
“This petition is a transparent attempt to delay accountability for the widespread abuse of prisoners held in U.S. custody abroad by keeping the public in the dark,” said Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU. “These photographs demonstrate that the abuse of prisoners held in U.S. custody abroad was not aberrational and not confined to Abu Ghraib, but the result of policies adopted by the highest-ranking officials in the administration. The immediate release of these photos is critical to bringing an end to the Bush administration’s torture policies and for preventing prisoner abuse in the future.”
Since the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in 2003, the government has refused to disclose these images by attempting to radically expand the exemptions allowed under the FOIA for withholding records. The government claimed that the public disclosure of such evidence would generate outrage and would violate U.S. obligations towards detainees under the Geneva Conventions.
However, the appeals court rejected the government’s attempt to use the FOIA as “an all-purpose damper on global controversy” and recognized the “significant public interest in the disclosure of these photographs” in light of government misconduct. The court also recognized that releasing the photographs is likely to prevent “further abuse of prisoners.”
To date, more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU’s FOIA lawsuit. They are available online at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia
Many of these documents are also compiled and analyzed in “Administration of Torture,” a book by ACLU attorneys Jameel Jaffer and Singh. More information is available online at: www.aclu.org/administrationoftorture
In addition to Jaffer and Singh, attorneys on the case are Alexander Abdo and Judy Rabinovitz of the national ACLU; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the New York Civil Liberties Union; Lawrence S. Lustberg and Jenny-Brooke Condon of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons P.C.; and Shayana Kadidal and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
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