Bush administration delays release of prisoner abuse photos


Nick Juliano
Published: Friday November 7, 2008

The Bush administration is doing everything it can to delay compliance with a court's order that the Pentagon turn over pictures of prisoners abused in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new court filing.

A three-judge appeals court panel in September ordered the administration to turn over 87 photographs depicting abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and other sites. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the photos in 2005.

On Thursday, the administration requested a review of that decision by all 12 appeals court judges. The ACLU expected the move, a lawyer for the group said previously, but it was nonetheless a frustration for those attempting to uncover the full extent of abuse that accompanied the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"This petition is a transparent attempt to delay accountability for the widespread abuse of prisoners held in U.S. custody abroad by keeping the public in the dark," Amrit Singh, and ACLU staff attorney, said in a news release Friday . "These photographs demonstrate that the abuse of prisoners held in U.S. custody abroad was not aberrational and not confined to Abu Ghraib, but the result of policies adopted by the highest-ranking officials in the administration. The immediate release of these photos is critical to bringing an end to the Bush administration's torture policies and for preventing prisoner abuse in the future."

The ACLU's ongoing FOIA lawsuits have compelled the release of more than 100,000 pages of documents, including memos authorizing CIA torture.

At issue are 87 photographs the ACLU believed were taken by members of the military at facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the Abu Ghraib prison that became synonymous with US abuses after humiliating photos from there first appeared in the New Yorker in early 2004.

Although the government stopped trying to fight the full release of Abu Ghraib photos after they all were independently published in 2006, the ACLU says the Pentagon continues to keep hidden 29 additional images from at least seven different locations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The appeals panel went on to overturn the government's attempt to use FOIA as "an all-purpose damper on global controversy" in finding that the exemptions to the public records law the administration had claimed were not valid.