Defense Department To Release Prisoner Abuse Photos By May 28 In Response To ACLU Lawsuit

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Laurie Gindin Beacham, (917) 251-8654 or (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

Defense Department To Release Prisoner Abuse Photos By May 28 In Response To ACLU Lawsuit

Photos Depict Abuse Of Prisoners By U.S. Personnel In Iraq And Afghanistan

NEW YORK - In
a letter addressed to a federal court today, the Department of Defense
announced that it will make public by May 28 a “substantial number” of
photos depicting the abuse of prisoners by U.S. personnel. The photos,
which are being released in response to a Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2004,
include images from prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan at locations other
than Abu Ghraib.

“These photographs provide visual proof that prisoner abuse by U.S.
personnel was not aberrational but widespread, reaching far beyond the
walls of Abu Ghraib,” said Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU.
“Their disclosure is critical for helping the public understand the
scope and scale of prisoner abuse as well as for holding senior
officials accountable for authorizing or permitting such abuse.”

The letter follows a September 2008 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the Second Circuit requiring disclosure of the photos and the
court’s subsequent refusal in March 2009 to rehear the case.  The
Defense Department has indicated that it will not ask the Supreme Court
to review the Second Circuit’s ruling.
 
Since the ACLU's FOIA request in 2003, the Bush administration had
refused to disclose these images by attempting to radically expand the
exemptions allowed under the FOIA for withholding records. The
administration claimed that the public disclosure of such evidence
would generate outrage and would violate U.S. obligations towards
detainees under the Geneva Conventions.

However, a three judge panel of the appeals court in September 2008
rejected the Bush administration’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." The Bush administration subsequently requested
that the full Court of Appeals rehear the case. That request was denied
on March 11, 2009. 

“The disclosure of these photographs serves as a further reminder that
abuse of prisoners in U.S.-administered detention centers was
systemic,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security
Project. “Some of the abuse occurred because senior civilian and
military officials created a culture of impunity in which abuse was
tolerated, and some of the abuse was expressly authorized. It’s
imperative that senior officials who condoned or authorized abuse now
be held accountable for their actions.”

The Department of Defense letter is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/39453lgl20090423.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 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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