'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, July 25, 2005

Harm to Individuals 

Remember about a month ago when I wrote that due to an ACLU FOIA case the Pentagon was about to release additional photos and video of torture at Abu Ghraib? Well, wouldn't you know it, they've decided to refuse to comply. Here's E&P:

So what is shown on the 87 photographs and four videos from Abu Ghraib prison that the Pentagon, in an eleventh hour move, blocked from release this weekend? One clue: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress last year, after viewing a large cache of unreleased images: "I mean, I looked at them last night, and they're hard to believe.” They show acts "that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane," he added.

A Republican Senator suggested the same day they contained scenes of “rape and murder.” No wonder Rumsfeld commented then, "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse."

Yesterday, news emerged that lawyers for the Pentagon had refused to cooperate with a federal judge's order to release dozens of unseen photographs and videos from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq by Saturday. The photos were among thousands turned over by the key “whistleblower” in the scandal, Specialist Joseph M. Darby. Just a few that were released to the press sparked the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal last year, and the video images are said to be even more shocking.

The ACLU says that the Pentagon is claiming releasing the material could be harmful to "individuals":

In a letter filed at the eleventh hour, the Department of Defense claims that photographs and videos of abuse that the court had previously ordered redacted for future release "could result in harm to individuals" for reasons that will be set forth in a memorandum and three declarations that the government will file under seal with the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York.

Under the government’s proposal, the documents explaining the government’s reasons for withholding the images of abuse will not be available to the public except in redacted form, and the photographs and videos may never be made public.

The ACLU has expressed skepticism at what appears to be yet another attempt by the government to deny the public critical information about the abuse and torture of prisoners.

Maybe the full letter is clearer but who are these "individuals" the Pentagon is so worried about harming? -- The victims of torture. A lot of harm has already come to them. Must be individuals with names like Bush, Rumsfeld, Feith, Miller, Gonzales, etc.

It is amazing that the Freedom of Information Act even exists. Chomsky, when called upon to defend an assertion he frequently makes, that despite its flaws the US is probably the freest country in the world, often mentions the FOIA, a bit of legislation that contributes deeply to the rights of citizens and that is uniquely American. It is not surprising that this administration feels it can simply ignore it.

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