ACLU Calls on Obama Administration to Release Bush-Era Prisoner Abuse Photos

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

James Freedland, (212) 519-7829 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org

ACLU Calls on Obama Administration to Release Bush-Era Prisoner Abuse Photos

NEW YORK - In
a letter sent to the Department of Defense today, the American Civil
Liberties Union called on the Obama administration to release
photographs depicting the abuse of prisoners by U.S. forces in Iraq and
in Afghanistan. In September 2008, a unanimous three-judge panel of the
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordered the Bush
administration to release the photos as part of an ACLU lawsuit seeking
information on the abuse of prisoners held in U.S. custody overseas.
The outgoing administration asked the full court to rehear the case,
but the court has not issued a decision on whether or not it will do
so. To date, the Obama administration has not expressed a position on
the litigation.

"President Obama's recent directives
committing to an unprecedented level of openness and accountability
warrant immediate public disclosure of these images," said ACLU
attorney Amrit Singh, who argued the case in court. "The American
public has the right to view these images to know what was done in its
name. Release of the photos would send a powerful message that the new
administration truly intends to break from the unaccountability of the
Bush years."

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 panel
rejected the government's attempt to use exemptions to 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." In its final months in office, the Bush administration
petitioned the full appeals court to reconsider, but to date, no action
has been taken.

"The Obama administration's
commitment to transparency is commendable," said Jameel Jaffer,
Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "We want to make sure
that this rhetoric becomes reality."

A copy of the ACLU's letter to the Department of Defense is available at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/38967res20090310.html

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 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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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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