WCW Home News Recent News 10-29-09 President Signs Law Giving Defense Department Authority To Exempt Photos From Freedom Of Information Act
10-29-09 President Signs Law Giving Defense Department Authority To Exempt Photos From Freedom Of Information Act PDF Print E-mail
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ACLU Renews Call For Secretary Gates Not To Block Release Of Torture Photos

From ACLU.org |Original Article
 

WASHINGTON - President Obama today signed into law a Homeland Security
appropriations bill that grants the Department of Defense (DOD) the authority to
continue suppressing photos of prisoner abuse. The amendment, which would allow the
DOD to exempt photos from the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), is aimed at photos
ordered released by a federal appeals court as part of an American Civil Liberties
Union FOIA lawsuit for photos and other records related to detainee abuse in U.S.
custody overseas, although it would apply to other photos in government custody as
well. Earlier this month, the ACLU sent a letter to Secretary Robert Gates urging
him not to exercise the authority to suppress the photos in their case, stating that
the photos "are of critical relevance to an ongoing national debate about
accountability."

"We are disappointed that the president has signed a law giving the Defense
Department the authority to hide evidence of its own misconduct, and we hope the
defense secretary will not take advantage of that authority by suppressing photos
related to the abuse of prisoners," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU
National Security Project. "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 would ultimately be far more damaging to national
security than their disclosure. The last administration's decision to endorse
torture undermined the United States' moral authority and compromised its security.
A failure to fully confront the abuses of the last administration will only compound
these harms." 

Another provision contained in the new law allows the transfer of detainees from
Guantánamo Bay to the U.S. for prosecution.

"This law allows the administration to transfer prisoners to the U.S. for criminal
trials in the federal courts, and the administration should now do exactly that,"
said Jaffer. "The military commissions at Guantánamo are not just unlawful but
unnecessary. The federal courts are fully capable of prosecuting terrorism suspects
while protecting both national security interests and fundamental due process. It's
time to shut down Guantánamo, transfer the military commissions trials to federal
courts that uphold the rule of law, and transfer prisoners whom the administration
does not intend to charge to countries where they won't be in danger of being
tortured. Indefinite detention without charge or trial undermines the most basic
values of justice and fairness."

 
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