An appeal court has today ordered the Obama Administration to redact 12 hours of secret Guantánamo force-feeding footage in preparation for its public release, rejecting the Administration’s argument that not one single frame should be seen by the public.
The classified videos, which show Guantánamo prisoner Abu Wa-‘el Dhiab being forcibly removed from his cell and force-fed by the US military, were ordered to be released to the public by federal Judge Gladys Kessler in October 2014, following a First Amendment intervention from 16 US press organizations in the abuse case Dhiab v Obama.
The Obama Administration defied Judge Kessler’s order to prepare the videos for release, complaining that the process was too much work and insisting that revealing even one frame from the videos posed a national security risk. Leaving the videos unredacted, the Administration took the case straight to D.C.’s federal Court of Appeals in an attempt to get the order overturned.
In a judgment handed down today, the Court of Appeals ruled that the Administration’s refusal to comply with the lower court’s order was wrong, and rejected its attempt to use the ‘burdensome’ task of redacting videos as a reason to circumvent the First Amendment.
The Obama Administration must now comply with Judge Kessler’s original order to redact the videotapes to address national security concerns, and submit the redacted tapes to her court for reconsideration ahead of their release.
Alka Pradhan, Reprieve US attorney for Mr Dhiab, said: “The Obama Administration’s defiance of Judge Kessler’s order suggests a basic contempt for both the court’s authority and our First Amendment rights, which the Circuit judges recognized.
“The Administration is fighting hard because once those videotapes are redacted, they are one step close to public release – and the government is one step closer to being held accountable for their treatment of Guantanamo detainees. Yet the harder the Administration resists, the more they confirm that they have much wrongdoing to hide.
“It is time to stop running absurd arguments, and simply to do the right thing: expose and end the ongoing abuse of hunger-strikers at Guantanamo Bay.”