Federal Appeals Court Rejects Release of Abu Ghraib Photographs

From [HERE] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that photographs of detainees taken by US military personnel can be withheld from release.

In 2003 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text, PDF] for the release of photographs depicting torture at military detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of September 11, 2001.

The government has argued that the photographs may be withheld pursuant to various exemptions to the FOIA.

In 2009 Congress passed the Protected National Security Documents Act (PNSDA) [text, PDF], which permits the government to withhold disclosure of any photographs taken between September 11, 2001, and January 22, 2009, that related to individuals detained by US forces. The Secretary of Defense must additionally issue a certification stating any release would endanger US personnel abroad.

After an extensive appeals process, a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered [JURIST report] the Department of Defense [official website] to release the detainee abuse photographs in 2015.

In this most recent decision, the court sided with the government’s argument that once the Secretary issues a certification, the court may not order disclosure if the decision to withhold information is “logical and plausible.” The court found that these photographs were protected under the PNSDA and deferred to the judgement of the executive decisions pertaining to national security challenges.

Several lawsuits [JURIST report] are still active against contractors allegedly involved in the torture a the Abu Ghraib prison.