By: LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press Writer
(AP) A judge said he generally ruled in favor of public disclosure when he ordered the government on Monday to reveal some redacted parts of its argument for blocking the release of pictures and videotapes of detainee abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein made the statement in open court after meeting in a closed session with lawyers for the government and the American Civil Liberties Union, which is seeking release of the pictures and tapes.
Hellerstein said his rulings pertained to arguments by Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and Ronald Schlicher, deputy assistant secretary and coordinator for Iraq in the Department of State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.
“By and large, I ruled in favor of public disclosure,” he said.
He gave U.S. Attorney David Kelley, who argued the case, time to appeal the rulings.
Myers and Schlicher had submitted declarations describing why they thought releasing the photographs would threaten national security. Myers wrote that releasing the photographs would aid al-Qaida recruitment, weaken the Afghan and Iraqi governments, and incite riots against U.S. troops.
The judge has said he believes photographs “are the best evidence the public can have of what occurred” at the prison.
The ACLU has sought the release of 87 photographs and four videotapes taken at the prison as part of an October 2003 lawsuit demanding information on the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody and the transfer of prisoners to countries known to use torture. The ACLU contends that prisoner abuse is systemic.
The judge said the case presented a clash between those seeking to protect national security and those seeking to keep the public informed so that there can be accountability for public officials.
He called Myers the most important military official in the country and said, “I need to pay careful attention to what he says.”
The judge scheduled arguments on the question of whether the photographs and videos should be released for Aug. 30, saying a speedy decision is important so the public’s right to know isn’t compromised.