The Supreme Court has handed the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) a stunning defeat by reversing a lower Court’s order allowing the release of photographs showing alleged prisoner abuse in Guantanamo Bay. A report yesterday from Democracy Now! highlighted the ACLU’s fight to have the photographs released in order to bolster its argument that “detainee abuse was widespread during the Bush administration.”
The ACLU has argued that some of the photographs show:
Soldiers pointing pistols or rifles at the heads of hooded and handcuffed detainees,” a soldier who appears to be striking a detainee with the butt of a rifle, and a soldier holding a broom “as if sticking its end” into a prisoner’s rectum.
The ACLU has been fighting for release of the images since 2004, when it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, as well as a subsequent lawsuit later that year when the Bush administration denied the FOIA request. From the ACLU’s perspective, the suit was filed because of the need for America’s transgressions—especially those committed under the leadership of former President George W. Bush—to be made public. As Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project put it:
Their disclosure would both discourage abuse in the future and underscore the need for a comprehensive investigation of past abuses. And we continue to believe that permitting the government to suppress information about government misconduct on the grounds that someone, somewhere in the world, might react badly or even violently, sets a very dangerous precedent.
Here is where the ACLU gets it wrong. It is the release of the photographs that would set a bad precedent, not the opposite, as they argue. The fact is, there are those who would use the images to “react badly or even violently,” and this important point should not be dismissed out of hand. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, for one, had warned the Supreme Court that:
Disclosure of those photographs would pose a clear and grave risk of inciting violence and riots against American troops and coalition forces.
And she was right.
Down but not out, the ACLU has vowed to continue the fight to have the photographs made public. ACLU Legal Director Steven Shapiro re-iterated the organization’s position:
We continue to believe that the photos should be released, and we intend to press that case in the lower court. No democracy has ever been made stronger by suppressing evidence of its own misconduct.
This is not surprising, coming as it does from an organization that has made its reputation by defending America’s enemies. The ACLU has, in the past, defended Sami Al-Arian, the former North American head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, radical attorney Lynne Stewart, currently in prison for aiding “blind sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman, and has even filed suit on behalf of three suspected al-Qaida operatives against aircraft maker Boeing for allowing the CIA to transport them to Arab countries for interrogation.
In fact, the ACLU’s relentless fight to have the Guantanamo photographs released in order to humiliate this country, without concern for the well-being of our overseas troops and private citizens (who may be put at risk by their release), is exactly what one would expect from an organization that has opposed virtually every post-9/11 national security measure that the U.S. government has enacted.