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Obama administration asks Supreme Court to block release of detainee abuse photos

[JURIST] The Obama administration on Friday petitioned [cert. petition, PDF] the US Supreme Court [official website] to overturn a district court order mandating disclosure of detainee abuse photos [JURIST news archive], alleging that this could lead to further violence in Iraq and Afghanistan that would endanger US civil and military personnel. According to the government, Exemption 7(F) of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), [5 USC § 552(b)(7)(F)] is applicable under the current circumstances of the case reasoning that:

The court of appeals' view that Congress intended to require disclosure when a death or multiple deaths could reasonably be expected to result if the particular victims could not be sufficiently identified in advance disregards Exemption 7(F)'s fundamental concern with human life and safety and misapprehends the practical balance that Congress struck in that exemption.

The photos are now part of the records of the Department of Defense and the Department of the Army. Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) National Security Project Jameel Jaffer referred [press release] to the Obama administration's position as disappointing since the administration previously had agreed [letter, PDF; JURIST report] to carry out the court order.

In June, the US Senate [official website] voted unanimously to approve [JURIST report] legislation [S 1100 materials] that seeks to prohibit the photos' release. The bill would carve out an exception in the FOIA for certain photographs when such disclosure would endanger US personnel. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled in June that the US government could continue to withhold photos [JURIST report] of alleged detainee abuse while it awaits a response from the Supreme Court. The original court mandate to release the photos came from a FOIA challenge successfully brought by the ACLU in 2005 and confirmed by the Second Circuit in April of this year.

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