Prisoners in Iraq.
US should make public the pictures showing abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, as determined by a judge after a long legal battle over whether to allow the world to see possibly disturbing images of how the military treated their prisoners.
The verdict of the US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein given two months to the government, which spent a decade fighting to prevent publication, to decide whether to appeal before they can spread the images. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU, for its acronym in English) has long been trying to make public in order that the government take responsibility.
The Defense Department is studying the ruling and submit any future response to the court, Myles Caggins III spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel said. ACLU representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday night.
The organization said that the images “are clearly important in the ongoing national debate over government responsibility for prisoner abuse“.
The struggle over photographs dating back to the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and evokes images of abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, which provoked an international outcry after filtration in 2004 and 2006. In first steps in demand for 2004, the ACLU said the photos of Abu Ghraib as priority examples of the type of documentation that your organization claimed on the treatment received by detainees.
It is unclear how many pictures there may be more. The government has said it has 29 key images of at least seven different cities in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it is believed that perhaps could be hundreds or thousands more, Hellerstein said in a ruling in August. Some images that have been said “are relatively harmless, while others require a more serious consideration.” The judge determined that any published image must be edited to protect the identity of the people featured in it.
Some photographs taken by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were part of criminal investigations into alleged ill-treatment. Some show “soldiers pointing guns or rifles at the head of hooded and handcuffed detainees,” said the then attorney general and now Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan on appeal to the superior court in a previous phase of the case, which has come a long way past by courts and Congress.
The government has long been saying that publishing the photographs could provoke attacks against US troops and personnel abroad, and authorities have said that the risk is not reduced as the US military role in Iraq and Afghanistan was reduced.
In fact, “the danger associated with the release of these photographs has increased now” before the rise of the armed group Islamic State, said Rear Admiral Sinclair Harris, deputy director of operations staff, in a paper presented to the court in December. The Islamic State said, “Would use these photographs to encourage more supporters and followers to attack US military and government personnel.”
Within demand, in 2009 Congress passed a law that allows the government to secretly keep pictures if the Secretary of Defense certifies that their publication would endanger citizens, government employees or US military.
So far, the Secretaries of Defense have used that clause, but Hellerstein said the government has not been specific enough.