Force-feeding videos from Guantanamo should immediately be prepared for release, media organizations said Monday, but the US government argued doing so would compromise national security.
In early October, a federal judge in Washington ordered President Barack Obama’s administration to make public 28 videos showing inmates being fed by tubes inserted through the nose. The judge granted a thirty day delay on his order for the government to consider an appeal.
“Releasing the videos as the court has ordered will give rise to security and operational harms” to the Guantanamo operation, said Rear Admiral Kyle Cozad, the commander of the US Guantanamo joint task force.
The videos show Syrian detainee Abu Wa’el (Jihad) Dhiab as a feeding tube is inserted and removed, as well as the location of guards and the room used during the procedure, Cozad said, “all images that have not been released previously.”
“It is hard to imagine a more explicit description of the process utlilized than that which is found on videotapes of the actual execution,” Cozad said.
He said the potential harm is all the more concerning because of the ongoing US military operations in the Middle East. The videos provide a window into the layout of Camp Delta, where detainees are force-fed, and could undermine the functioning of the camp, the military has said.
The 16 news organizations calling for the videos’ release said the footage has been withheld for more self-interested reasons.
“This is a case of the government seeking secrecy to prevent accountability, not to protect national security,” said the news outlets, which include The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian.
“There is no imminent threat of a public release that might compromise national security,” they argued in a court document.
The media groups said the videos cannot all be “reasonably” deemed as classified, and the government should redact the necessary information and release the remaining footage. The government has said it would take 25 days and three Pentagon technicians to transcribe the videos and blur faces and places depicted in them.
Dhiab has requested the release of the videos as part of his challenge of the force-feeding process, which he likens to torture. He has been held since 2002. He was cleared for release in 2009 but has been held at the US naval base in Cuba without charge or trial. He’s among six detainees scheduled to be transferred to Uruguay.
Inmates in Guantanamo staged hunger strikes to protest against their indefinite detention in the camp, which Obama has pledged to close. Authorities said the force-feeding was necessary to keep the protesters alive. The judge should rule on the tapes’ release in the beginning of November. SAPA