A federal judge on Thursday lambasted the Obama administration for intentionally stalling the release of damning footage that depicts the force-feeding of a cleared Guantanamo Bay detainee, Syrian Abu Wa’el Dhiab.
The Department of Justice has employed a number of delay tactics, attorneys for Dhiab said, since Judge Gladys Kessler last October ordered the release of the videotapes, which reportedly show grisly footage of the prison hunger striker being fed via tube. Dhiab's legal team last year won the right to view the secret videos; a consortium of media organizations later pressed for the public release of the tapes.
Early Thursday, the Washington D.C. district judge was pushed to her breaking point.
As Justice Department lawyer Andrew Warden explained it would take even longer than the government previously asserted to redact and release the 32 tapes, Kessler reportedly interrupted, saying: "No, that’s not how we are going to it. The Government has made it possible to delay this for, according to my count, eight and a half months. Eight and a half months...We are going to move as fast as we can."
Kessler continued, saying the DOJ's attempt to appeal the decision was "as frivolous an appeal" as she had ever seen.
Cori Crider, an attorney with the UK-based justice group Reprieve, which represents Dhiab, said the U.S. government "has been playing stall ball from the second we forced them to turn over this grisly secret footage, and they remain determined to keep every second of it out of the hands of the U.S. media."
"Their motive is obvious," Crider continued, "if Americans were permitted to see the truth in these tapes, the conversation about Guantánamo would change overnight."
Instead of respecting the court order, Crider added, "the government plans to repeat its 'sky-is-falling' claims in a desperate attempt to stop a single frame of the force-feeding footage of my client ever being seen by the public. The press have a Constitutional right to report on these trials, and the footage is of major public interest."
International human rights organizations widely consider force-feeding a form of torture.