[JURIST] US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] officials said Thursday that they would release at least 44 photographs [letter, PDF] "depicting the treatment of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan," pursuant to a court order. In a letter sent to Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website], the DOJ said it would comply with his 2005 order [text, PDF] to release 21 photos, taken by an investigator at Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive] prison and later provided to the Army's Criminal Investigative Division [official website] after the Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] lost a challenge to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] request brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website]. The DOD subsequently appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website], and lost [opinion, PDF; JURIST report]. In the letter to Hellerstein, the DOJ informed him that they would not appeal their case to the Supreme Court, but instead would comply fully with the FOIA request and said:
the government is also processing for request a substantial number of other images contained in Army CID reports that have been closed during the pendency of this case; these other images will be processed consistent with the court's previous ruling on responsive images in this case.The DOJ said they had reached an agreement with the ACLU and that the photographs would be released by May 28, 2009. ACLU staff attorney Amrit Singh said [press release] that the disclosure of the photos "is critical for helping the public understand the scope and scale of prisoner abuse as well as for holding senior officials accountable for authorizing or permitting such abuse."
The ACLU has recently been successful in obtaining documents through FOIA requests. Last week, the Obama administration released [JURIST report] four secret CIA memos that detailed interrogation techniques in response to an ACLU freedom of information request. Last month, in another FOIA case, Hellerstein ordered [JURIST report] the CIA to produce reports on the destruction [JURIST Archive] of 92 videotapes of detainee interrogation, or in the alternative explain why they cannot, after the ACLU alleged that their destruction violated [ACLU press release] a court order. Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] has issued new FOIA guidelines [memorandum, PDF; JURIST report], designed to increase transparency in government. The new guidelines were issued last month, following President Barack Obama's January memorandum [text], favoring disclosure [JURIST report].