ACLU urges NY court to permit abuse photos release
NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union urged a federal appeals court Monday to allow the release of disturbing pictures of detainee abuse despite the Obama administration’s stance that the images could incite violence in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In papers filed Monday with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, the ACLU noted that the appeals court and a district judge had already rejected government arguments that the photographs could lead to violence and generate propaganda.
The Obama administration last week asked the court to override its own mandate and keep the pictures secret, saying they pose “a clear and grave risk of inciting violence and riots against American and coalition forces, as well as civilian personnel, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The administration said it plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
The ACLU also said the appeals court should disregard the government’s argument that Congress was considering enacting a law that might let the secretary of defense exempt the pictures from disclosure under the Freedom Of Information Act.
The ACLU called the possibility of legislation “far too speculative” to cause the appeals court to change its mind.
ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh said the appeals court had already noted the significant public interest in the disclosure of the photographs and had recognized the public’s right to see the connection between torture and abuse and the responsibility of high level officials.
“They also recognize that photographs convey what words cannot convey,” she said.
Janice Oh, a spokeswoman for government lawyers, said the government had no comment on the new filing.
The administration had indicated it was going to release the pictures until President Barack Obama reversed the decision.
The ACLU had sought the release of the pictures as part of a FOIA request that was opposed unsuccessfully by the Bush administration.