A judge could rule on whether to order the release of new photographs from the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison anytime after Dec. 15, an ACLU spokesperson told RAW STORY.
The 144 photographs and four videos, which have been seen by New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh, are alleged to contain photographs of U.S. servicemembers involved in raping detainees, possibly underage. The photos and videos are in addition to an earlier set of photographs already released.
The Bush Administration has successfully blocked their release, first saying they needed time to anonymize those engaged in illicit behavior, and then seeking a permanent block, arguing the photos could endanger troops and civilians overseas.
The ACLU sued to have the photos released under the Freedom of Information Act, and won the last round in court.
Judge Alvin Hellerstein in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the Defense Department must release the images and videos, saying that suppressing them would only create more intrigue about their contents. The Department then appealed, and was granted an extension through Dec. 15. If their appeal is rejected, the Bush Administration could take the case to the Supreme Court.
"Suppression of information is the surest way to cause its significance to grow and persist," Judge Alvin wrote. "Our struggle to prevail must be without sacrificing the transparency and accountability of government and military officials. These are the values [the Freedom of Information Act] was intended to advance, and they are at the very heart of the values for which we fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is a risk that the enemy will seize upon the publicity of the photographs and seek to use such publicity as a pretext for enlistments and violent acts. But the education and debate that such publicity will foster will strengthen our purpose and, by enabling such deficiencies as may be perceived to be debated and corrected, show our strength as a vibrant and functioning democracy to be emulated."
A coalition of 14 media organizations and public interest groups organized by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press have filed an supporting amicus brief in the case. The coalition includes CBS Broadcasting Inc., NBC Universal Inc., and The New York Times Co.
"The government has taken the position in this case that the more outrageously the behavior exhibited by American troops, the less the public has a right to know about it," said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy Dalglish. "Such a stance turns the Freedom of Information Act inside out."