First Amendmentg

Videos of forced feedings at Gitmo must be released, federal judge rules

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A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has ordered the release of 28 videos showing a Guantanamo detainee’s forced feedings and removals from his cell.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler cited a First Amendment right of access to the videotapes, report the New York Times, the Miami Herald and The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times. How Appealing links to additional coverage and the opinion (PDF), issued on Friday.

Kessler said the military’s justifications for keeping the tapes secret are “unacceptably vague, speculative, lack specificity, or are just plain implausible.” Ruling on a petition filed by 16 news organizations, Kessler said the government could shield the identities of jailers and medical personnel by blurring their faces and disguising their voices.

The news media sought the tapes by intervening in a suit filed by Guantanamo detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who has filed a habeas petition that challenges the conditions of his confinement along with his forced feedings. He supports release of the videos. (The Times identifies the detainee as Jihad Ahmed Mujstafa Diyab.)

The government had argued release of the tapes could provide detainees with new ways to thwart forced feedings, could expose medical and military personnel to possible attack, could help adversaries reconstruct camp infrastructure, could help detainees find items that could be used as weapons, could serve as terrorist propaganda, and could encourage other detainees to engage in disruptive behavior.

The day before Kessler ordered release of the videos, she ruled that a hearing on the forced feeding procedures should be mostly open.

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