- The Washington Times - Friday, September 30, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — Pictures of detainee abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison must be released, despite government claims that they could damage America’s image, a federal judge ruled yesterday.

U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan have proved that they “do not need pretexts for their barbarism.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sought the release of 87 photographs and four videotapes as part of an October 2003 lawsuit demanding information on the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody and the transfer of prisoners to countries known to use torture. The ACLU contends that prisoner abuse is systemic.

Brutal images of the abuse at the prison already have been widely distributed, but the lawsuit covers photos not seen by the public.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had maintained in court papers that releasing the photographs would aid al Qaeda recruitment, weaken the Afghan and Iraqi governments and incite riots against U.S. troops.

Judge Hellerstein, who was nominated to his post by President Clinton in 1998, said in his 50-page opinion that he respected Gen. Myers’ arguments. But he added that his job was “not to defer to our worst fears, but to interpret and apply the law, in this case, the Freedom of Information Act, which advances values important to our society, transparency and accountability in government.”

The ruling was expected to be appealed, which could delay a release for months.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero called the ruling historic.

“While no one wants to see what’s on the photos or videos, they will play an essential role in holding our government leaders accountable for the torture that’s happened on their watch,” he said.

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