Our need to know--the ACLU and Abu Ghraib
Let's see if I've got this straight: US District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein has ordered the release of more Abu Ghraib photos to help the ACLU prove that prisoners have been abused, and it's OK because the terrorists don't need those photos in order to hate us, they can do it very well for no reason at all.
And to think I used to give money to the ACLU.
This article from about a month ago makes the situation even more puzzling. Apparently, back then, Judge Hellerstein seemed to be very hesitent to release the photos because of the national interest involved. Why the change in one short month?
I haven't found an answer, but the article explains why the ACLU is so hot to have these photos splashed all over the cable news networks and the newspapers: they're only thinking of us:
ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh argued that release of the pictures was necessary for the public to assess the scope of the abuse and whether it could have been carried out without the knowledge of military leaders.
Thanks a lot, ACLU. I really, really appreciate it. I'm sure that once I look at those photos I'll instantly know how high up the responsibility goes--no doubt, one of them features Rumsfeld holding a naked prisoner on a leash.
The underlying basis of Judge Hellerstein's decision appears to be compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. Apparently, the present rule is that information should be released under the act unless "disclosure would be harmful."
Our legal system ordinarily requires that a rape victim's name not be released because it might be harmful to her. A juvenile's court records are sealed because it might be harmful to the minor in question. The potential harm in both situations trumps the public's right to know.
In the present case, the public has seen photos of Abu Ghraib ad nauseum, so seeing a few more is hardly likely to give the us needed and vital information. The only effect such release is likely to have is to harm us, our soldiers, and our country still further.
Whether or not the terrorists need such information to hate us is hardly relevant; they could certainly use it.
I'm with Dickens--the law is an ass (not to mention the ACLU).
[ADDENDUM: I didn't see this when I wrote the post, but in the NY Times article on the subject, it mentions that, when the photos are to be released, the rights of the detainees to privacy will be protected:
Judge Hellerstein ordered that the images be edited to hide the faces of the Iraqi prisoners, to avoid violations of their privacy under the Geneva Conventions. He concluded that one videotape sought by the A.C.L.U. could not be adequately edited, and that it not be released.
So, to recap: a certain videotape will be surpressed because the right of the detainee to privacy overrides our need to see still more and more and more photos of abuse that has already been more than adequately covered in the press. But the rights of our servicemen and women to be protected from further inflammatory publicity on the matter, and our own right to be protected against increased rage in the Islamicist world, are both less powerful than that detainee's right to privacy. I'm in awe.
It's certainly possible that this decision makes perfect sense, if I were to read the entire transcript of the judge's ruling. Sometimes learning the details of a case makes all the difference in the world. But from what I've read in the press so far, this one seems misguided.
It's being appealed; it will be interesting to see what ultimately happens. But I think cases like this are an excellent example of why the public has become more dissatisfied with the judicial system in general.]