Yesterday, news emerged that lawyers for the Pentagon had refused to cooperate with a federal judge’s order to release dozens of unseen photographs and videos from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq by Saturday.At the very least, the court never ordered the release of these photos and videos. Nor can I find any indication that the military was ordered to turn them over to the court. The only order I can substantiate is a court order to prepare the photos and videos for release. The Pentagon did that, and then filed for a FOIA exemption 7F.
It’s worth mentioning that the Pentagon has never tried to hide the existence of these photos and videos. In a Senate hearing on May 7, 2004, Donald Rumsfeld said the acts in the pictures “can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane.” The question is whether any good will come of releasing these images to the media. As Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Skinner put it, it’s a matter of context:
These abuses were tragic and they damaged our country’s image, but they were not part of any legal, authorized interrogation process. More than 25 individuals have been held accountable for criminal acts and other violations at Abu Ghraib, and almost every piece of evidence that critics have used against us has come from our own investigations.We have that context. But when the photos and videos are available to the sponsors of global terrorism, will they provide that context? How could we expect them to, when the New York Times won’t?