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US blocks release of Iraq, Afghanistan torture photos

Press TV [1]
Sunday, Nov 15th, 2009

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has blocked the release of new photographs showing prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq being abused by their Americans captors.

Gates said that public disclosure of the photos would endanger US citizens, US armed forces, and employees of the US government deployed outside the US.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had sued for the release of 21 color photos under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Obama administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court late Friday saying that Gates has invoked new powers blocking the release of the photos.

Federal courts had rejected the government’s arguments to block their release, so Congress gave Gates new powers to keep them private under a law signed by President Barack Obama last month.


Gates’ order specifically cites the 21 pictures sought by the ACLU, plus 23 additional ones cited in a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the second Circuit.

However, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the order covers all photographs from investigations related to the treatment of individuals captured or detained in military operations outside the US between Sept. 11, 2001, and Jan. 22, 2009.

Director of the ACLU National Security Project Jameel Jaffer said the group will continue to fight for the release of the photographs, arguing that Gates’ order is overly broad.

When President Barack Obama took office, he clarified he would not fight the release of these types of photographs. He reversed course in May and authorized an appeal to the high court.

Obama said he was persuaded that disclosure could further incite violence in Afghanistan and Iraq and endanger US troops there.

The photographs at issue were taken by service members and were part of criminal investigations of alleged abuse. Some pictures show “soldiers pointing pistols or rifles at the heads of hooded and handcuffed detainees,” Solicitor General Elena Kagan said in the appeal to the high court.

In one, “a soldier holds a broom as if ‘sticking its end into the rectum of a restrained detainee,'” Kagan said, quoting from an investigation report prepared by the Pentagon.