Second Circuit allows government to continue withholding detainee photos

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled Thursday that the US government can continue to withhold photos of alleged detainee abuse while it awaits a response from the US Supreme Court [official website]. The appellate-level decision followed a recent Supreme Court order [JURIST report] granting the government a 30-day extension to appeal a ruling mandating the release of the controversial photos, setting the new deadline to July 9. In requesting that the mandate be recalled [motion, PDF; JURIST report], the government filed partially secret statements [AP report] from US generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno. In his statement [text] warning against releasing the photos, Odierno referred to the 2004 release of photos from Abu Ghraib prison and the violence that likely resulted from them. Odierno maintained that the release of the photos in question would not only endanger military personnel, but also negatively affect US-Afghanistan relations. Congress is currently considering legislation [S 1100 materials] that would exempt the disclosure of certain photographs under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] in cases where the secretary of defense certifies that such disclosure would endanger US personnel. Although the proposed FOIA amendment was already agreed to by the Senate [Senate record, PDF] as an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations Act [S 1054 materials, PDF], Congress has tentatively agreed [NYT report] to a version of the spending bill that does not include the prohibitive measures.

Recently, former US Major General Antonio Taguba said that the photographs of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison depict acts of rape and sexual assault [JURIST report]. The Pentagon has denied [Reuters report] the allegations. In May, US President Barack Obama decided to seek a delay [JURIST report] of the release of the photographs in question, contrary to a previous agreement by the DOJ to release them pursuant to a court order [order, PDF]. The original district court order resulted from a FOIA challenge [ACLU materials] brought by the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] against the Department of Defense. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] affirmed the order in April.

 

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