With some sharp words for the Obama administration, a federal judge on Tuesday declined to second-guess an earlier decision ordering the release of videos of a Guantanamo detainee being force-fed.
While acknowledging that more appeals are on the way in the long-running case, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said in her nine-page decision that nothing has happened to change her mind about the videos.
“What the government is really saying is that its classification system trumps the decisions of the federal courts as to the public's access to official court records,” Kessler wrote. “In other words, the Executive Branch (in this case, the military) purports to be a law unto itself.”
Kessler added that “the Government’s justifications for barring the American public from seeing the videotapes are not sufficiently rational and plausible to justify barring release of the videotapes.”
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Sixteen media organizations, including the New York Times, Associated Press and McClatchy, have joined in seeking release of the Guantanamo tapes to the public on First Amendment grounds.
Cori Crider, strategic director for the group Reprieve, which represents some of the Guantanamo detainees, said in a statement Tuesday that “the Obama administration has dragged its feet for over a year to stop the American press and public seeing a single frame of these tapes.”
Former detainee Mohammed Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who has since been released following more than a dozen years of detention, started a hunger strike while at Guantanamo. The videotapes of his being force-fed span some 11 hours.
“I want Americans to see what is going on at the prison today, so they will understand why we are hunger-striking, and why the prison should be closed,” Dhiab once said, in a statement cited by Kessler. “If the American people stand for freedom, they should watch these tapes.”