The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the secretary of defense not to exercise his authority to withhold photos of detainee abuse that was granted to him by Congress — pending an expected signing by the president — earlier this week.
In a letter to Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the ACLU urged him to "not invoke your new and discretionary authority to suppress images of abuse."
Congress passed legislation on Tuesday that exempts from public disclosure images depicting the torture of detainees in U.S. custody. The Supreme Court last week postponed whether it would hear arugments in the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act suit that sought access to the photos, because if the bill is signed into law it could make the long-fought battle over the torture photos moot.
"We are deeply disappointed that Congress has voted to give the Defense Department the authority to hide evidence of its own misconduct,” said the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer in a release. “Secretary Gates should be guided by the importance of transparency to the democratic process, the extraordinary importance of these photos to the ongoing debate about the treatment of prisoners and the likelihood that the suppression of these photos would ultimately be far more damaging to national security than their disclosure.”