Monday, November 02, 2009

Now, back to the real world, Part 5

Last Wednesday, the same day that Barack "Some stuff I do is good and some stuff is really, really crap" Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, he also signed a "Homeland Security," i.e., Defense of the Fatherland, spending bill which effectively blocks the release of photos of the abuse of prisoners in US custody abroad.

The ACLU said in a statement that
[t]he amendment, which would allow the DOD to exempt photos from the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA), is aimed at photos ordered released by a federal appeals court as part of an American Civil Liberties Union FOIA lawsuit for photos and other records related to detainee abuse in U.S. custody overseas....
Obama initially agreed to release the photos in response to the appeals court ruling. But the military high command and the right wing raised a ruckus, arguing that release of the photos would endanger US troops - apparently under the theory that it's that photographs rather than the actual torture which generates the anger.
At issue are 21 photos of detainees in US custody that the Department of Defense has been fighting tooth and nail from releasing. ...

Major General Antonio Taguba, the author of a report on allegations of detainee abuse in U.S. prisons in Iraq, said that photos exist depicting the following:

–An American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner.
–A male translator apparently raping a male detainee.
–A female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

Other photographs depict sexual assaults on prisoners with a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube, according to Taguba.
The ACLU urged DOD Ubermeister Robert Gates to decline to use his new-found authority to conceal evidence of "misconduct" - that is, torture, rape, and other brutalities - but I suspect that is just a formality of argument as I don't believe for an instant that the ACLU thinks that the same administration which has fought it every step of the way will suddenly do the right thing.

One important sidebar is that the court ruling compelling release of the photos still stands, but enforcement was delayed to allow time for the adminsitration to appeal to the Supreme Court, an appeal which is now pending. If SCOTUS either declines to accept the appeal or hears it an upholds the appeals court, the photos could still come out, the new law notwithstanding.

Footnote, It Can't Be All Bad News Div.: The Defense of the Fatherland bill also allows Guantanamo Bay prisoners to be moved to the US for trial, bypassing the illegal and absurd military commissions. And in a related matter, on Monday the ACLU obtained additional documents on the Shrub gang's torture program. With the help of the courts, the group has over time pried hundreds of such documents out of the Executive Branch.

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