Secretary Gates signs order barring release of torture photos

Secretary Gates signs order barring release of torture photos

Pursuant to new powers delegated to him by Congress, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has executed an order blocking the release of photos depicting the torture of detainees. In doing so, it becomes highly unlikely that the Supreme Court will further consider making the photos public, as a lower court had ordered.

In a new supplemental brief [PDF link] filed with the high court, the administration’s attorneys argue that the new law Congress passed to allow Gates this authority effectively exempts the photos from the Freedom of Information Act, therefore invalidating an earlier lawsuit.

“It now seems likely that today’s action will put an end to the issue, making it unnecessary for the court to hear the case,” MSNBC reported.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which sought the photos’ release, had urged Secretary Gates to release the photos. In an open letter [PDF link], the ACLU said the images must be seen because they show the “pervasiveness” of abuse across Iraq and Afghanistan and that it was “aberrational.”

“The government has previously asserted that disclosing these photographs poses risks in part because it is a ‘particularly critical time’ in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan,” ACLU attorneys Jameel Jaffer and Alexander A. Abdo noted at the letter’s conclusion. “We accordingly ask that you review any decision to withhold any photographs every ninety days to account for changing circumstances.”