Judge orders U.S. to prepare sample of force-feeding videos

By Eric Tucker
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Months after ordering the public release of more than two dozen videos that show the force-feeding of a Guantanamo Bay detainee, a federal judge last Friday directed the government to move the process forward by getting eight of the recordings ready by next month.

The judge in October had directed the Justice Department to publicly release videotapes showing the feeding of Syrian hunger-striking prisoner Abu Wa'el Dhiab. But she said at the time that the tapes would remain sealed until some of the information on them, such as voices and faces of prison workers, could be redacted.

Last Friday, she told the government to complete by August 31 the redaction of eight of 32 videos that are being released. She also ordered redactions by September of a separate compilation, a roughly 75-minute video that was prepared by Dhiab's attorneys.

Media organizations including The Associated Press had asked the judge to unseal the videos, saying the public has a significant interest in how the government is treating terrorism suspects held at the detention facility.

"We want to get all of the tapes, and we want to get all of them as quickly as we can," David Schulz, a lawyer for the media groups, said at a hearing last Thursday.

Justice Department lawyers have fought those demands, and in December asked a federal appeals court to overturn Kessler's decision and to extend the delay in releasing the tapes until the appeal is resolved.

Cori Crider, a lawyer for Dhiab, called the judge's ruling "a great win for the U.S. press, and for the First Amendment."

"The Obama administration has been kicking and screaming to avoid processing even one minute of this footage, and never wanted to have to give a specific reason for keeping it secret," Crider said in a statement.

U.S. officials had argued that the release of the videos would inflame anti-American sentiment, but Kessler has appeared skeptical of that argument. She also criticized the government for what she said has been a monthslong delay in complying with her order.

"The only thing consistent about the government's position has been its constant plea for more time," Kessler wrote.

Published: Tue, Jul 14, 2015