At Public Hearing Today, ACLU to Argue for Release of Photographs and Videos Depicting Detainee Abuse

August 30, 2005 12:00 am

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In Newly Unsealed Documents, Government Claims Accountability is “Misunderstood” Outside U.S.

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union will again appear before a federal judge Tuesday, August 30, to seek the release of Defense Department photographs and videotapes depicting the abuse of prisoners held by the United States at Abu Ghraib.

The ACLU today also released previously redacted government documents, including declarations by General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Ronald Schlicher, former Deputy Assistant Secretary and Coordinator for Iraq in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs of the Department of State, in which they argue that the photographs and videos should not be made public. General Myers also argues that “the democratic idea of public accountability… is misunderstood in other parts of the world.”

“Accountability isn’t ‘misunderstood’ by the world, it’s misunderstood by the Bush administration and it hasn’t happened. That’s why the American public has a right to see these images for itself,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “Instead of hiding evidence of the military’s misconduct and failure of leadership from the public, the government should appoint an independent counsel to uncover the full truth about the extent of the abuse and who is responsible.”

The hearing, which will be open to the public, will address the government’s legal arguments to prevent the public release of images depicting abuse. (Note: the hearing time has been changed to 3 p.m. Eastern. Further details are below.)

The government previously argued that it should be permitted to withhold not only the photographs and videotapes, but also large parts of the government’s legal papers filed in this case. The court rejected this argument at a hearing on August 15, ruling that most of the legal papers must be made public.

Included in papers unsealed today is General Myers’ argument that the photographs must be withheld because “our democratic idea of public accountability — the airing of misdeeds by government officials and employees in order to hold government to the highest standards of conduct — is an idea that is misunderstood in other parts of the world.”

In response, the ACLU’s Romero said the government’s conduct in this litigation “suggests that some senior U.S. officials are merely trying to cover up the failure of the military leadership. Indeed, these images are a critical component in the quest for public accountability.”

The legal papers released today also demonstrate the government’s continued failure to acknowledge that abuse of prisoners was widespread, and not limited to Abu Ghraib.

For instance, General Myers’ declaration states that the images at issue concern the “isolated activity by one military unit,” and could be used to characterize detainee abuse as being “more widespread than it was.” Documents obtained as a result of the ACLU’s FOIA request provide overwhelming evidence that the abuse of prisoners was not confined to Abu Ghraib but was widespread and systemic. These documents are available online at

WHO: Amrit Singh of the ACLU will be arguing the case. Other attorneys involved are Megan Lewis and Lawrence Lustberg of Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C.; Jameel Jaffer and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Art Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the New York Civil Liberties Union; and Barbara Olshansky of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

WHEN: The hearing will be held Tuesday August 30 at 3:00 p.m.

WHERE: U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, 500 Pearl Street, Courtroom 14D

WHAT: Argument for the release of photographs and video depicting the abuse and torture of prisoners held by the U.S. at military bases and other detention facilities overseas.

A web feature about the case, including PDFs of the documents released by the government, is online at

The newly released version of a declaration by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, is available online at: and

The newly released version of a declaration by former Deputy Assistant Secretary and Coordinator for Iraq in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs of the Department of State Ronald Schlicher declaration is available online at:

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