Federal judge rules government does not have to release Guantanamo videotapes

Federal judge rules government does not have to release Guantanamo videotapes

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] ruled [text, PDF] Friday that the US government does not have to release photographs and videotapes taken during the investigation of Mohammed al-Qahtani’s connection to the September 11 attacks. Al-Qahtani was held in Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] until his charges were eventually dropped. The videotapes depict al-Qahtani’s interrogations, something the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website] claims should be public record [complaint, PDF]. However, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald stated in the order:

Ultimately, however, we find that the DOD’s submissions provide adequate justification for the Government’s invocation of [Freedom of Information Act] Exemption 1. In particular, we find it both logical and plausible that extremists would utilize images of al-Qahtani (whether in native or manipulated formats) to incite anti-American sentiment, to raise funds, and/or to recruit other loyalists, as has occurred in the past.

The cited exemption refers to 5 USC § 552(b)(1)(A) [text]. Further, Buchwald noted that she reviewed the tapes and images and determined that, contrary to the CCR’s position, they do not display any misconduct by government officials. Therefore, there was no reason the government’s stated exemption to the Freedom of Information Act should not apply.

This is the most recent development in the several controversies surrounding Guantanamo Bay. Last month the US transferred [JURIST report] two Guantanamo detainees to Algeria. In July a US court ruled [JURIST report] that Guantanamo guards were allowed to continue detainee genital searches. In June a federal judge called on members of Congress and President Barack Obama [official website] to give serious consideration to formulating a different approach [JURIST report] for the handling of Guantanamo detainee cases. Just days prior Obama had appointed [JURIST report] Clifford Sloan to be the new envoy in charge of closing Guantanamo. The appointment followed a speech [JURIST report] Obama made in May that outlined US counterterrorism policy and efforts.