Judge right to rule that prison photos public
As abhorrent to U.S. values as was the 2003 conduct of soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, hiding the evidence of their misconduct would be worse.
We commend U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, who agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union that 74 photos and videos of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners were public information.
It's hard to dispute the statements of Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, that releasing the photos will cause problems for soldiers serving in Iraq. Repercussions from Iraqi militants are likely.
The judge stated the issue well, however.
"Fear of blackmail is not a legally sufficient argument to prevent us from performing a statutory command," wrote Judge Hellerstein. "Indeed, the freedoms that we champion are as important to our success in Iraq and Afghanistan as the guns and missiles with which our troops are armed."
He also reminded the Department of Defense that fear of retaliation is not a particularly compelling argument.
"The terrorists in Iraq do not need pretexts for their barbarism," Judge Hellerstein wrote, and America "does not surrender to blackmail and fear of blackmail is not a legally sufficient argument."
The time for the U.S. military to avoid the embarrassment depicted in the photographs was before they were taken, not after.
The world accuses us of much, and it is accurate in some of those accusations. We should never allow them to be accurate in a claim that our government bypasses the rights granted to its people by the U.S. Constitution.
Abusing prisoners is shameful. Hiding the fact would undermine the principles we hold most dear.