House Approves Bill That Would Allow Suppression of Torture Photos

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Rachel Myers, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; media@aclu.org 
Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org 

House Approves Bill That Would Allow Suppression of Torture Photos

Lieberman Amendment Would Give Defense Department Authority to Exempt Photos From Freedom of Information Act

WASHINGTON - The House passed a homeland security appropriations bill today with an
amendment that would grant the Department of Defense (DOD) the
authority to continue suppressing photos depicting the abuse of
prisoners in U.S. custody overseas. The amendment, added by Senator
Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), would allow DOD to exempt the photos from the
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The photos were ordered released by
a federal appeals court as part of an American Civil Liberties Union
FOIA lawsuit.

The ACLU has been seeking the
release of the photos and other records related to detainee abuse
through FOIA litigation initiated in 2004 in the U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of New York. That court ordered the release
of the photos in a June 2005 ruling that was affirmed by the Second
Circuit in September 2008. After initially indicating that it would not
appeal the Second Circuit decision and would release the photos, the
Obama administration abruptly reversed its position in May and asked
the Supreme Court to hear an appeal. The Supreme Court is expected to
conference on whether it will hear the Obama administration appeal of
the Second Circuit ruling on October 30.

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:

"We are deeply disappointed that the
House voted to give the Defense Department the authority to hide
evidence of its own misconduct, and we hope the Senate will not follow
suit. If this bill does become law, the Secretary of Defense should not
invoke it. Instead, Secretary Gates should be guided by the importance
of transparency to the democratic process, the extraordinary importance
of these photos to the ongoing debate about the treatment of prisoners
and the likelihood that the suppression of these photos will ultimately
be far more damaging to national security than their disclosure would
be. The last administration's decision to endorse torture undermined
the United States' moral authority and compromised its security. The
failure of the current administration to fully confront the abuses of
the last administration will only compound these harms." 

The following can be attributed to Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

"It is disturbing that the House
would pass legislation that so blatantly undermines the Freedom of
Information Act. Authorizing the suppression of evidence of human
rights abuses perpetrated by government personnel directly contradicts
Congress' oversight obligations. We urge the Senate to stop this
provision from being enacted, and urge Defense Secretary Robert Gates
not to use this provision if enacted."

More information about the ACLU's FOIA litigation is available online at: www.aclu.org/accountability

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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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