themcglynn.com

14 Nov

Gates Bars Torture Photos’ Release

Gates’ new authority comes from a law, signed by President Barack Obama last month.

—A sketch by Thomas V. Curtis, a former Reserve M.P. sergeant, showing how a detainee in Afghanistan was allegedly chained to the ceiling of his cell. (Wikimedia Commons).
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Defense Secretary Robert Gates has used powers granted to him by a controversial new law to block the court-ordered release of numerous photos of detainee abuse, government lawyers revealed in a court filing [PDF] Friday evening.

Gates’ new authority comes from a law, signed by President Barack Obama last month, that gives the Secretary of Defense the power to rule that photos of detainees are exempt from release under the Freedom of Information Act. Gates’ action on Friday was the first use of the new FOIA exemption since it passed Congress last month. The photos in question are the subject of a years-long legal fight by the American Civil Liberties Union, which first filed a FOIA request for records pertaining to detainee treatment, rendition, and death in May of 2005. The case is currently being reviewed by the Supreme Court.

The administration first sought to change FOIA in June, shortly after deciding to contest a ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that ordered the photos’ release. The resulting bill, championed by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), was specifically designed to nullify the effect of the appeals court’s ruling. Since the court had ruled that the photos couldn’t be withheld under an existing FOIA exemption, the Obama administration simply asked Congress to carve out a new exemption. Despite objections from liberal members of the House, Congress obliged.

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