On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler denied a request from the Obama Administration which sought to reverse a previous ruling by Kessler that ordered the release of videos showing the force-feeding of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.
The Washington Post reports that Judge Kessler called the abuse of prisoners being held without charges a “burning, controversial issue in this country.” In October 2014, Kessler ruled that the Obama Administration must unseal 32 video tapes related to the force-feeding of Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who was then being held without charge at the military prison in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba.
Dhiab was kidnapped by the Pakistani government in 2002 before being handed over to the United States on suspicion of terrorism. At the end of 2014, after twelve years behind bars with no trial, Abu Wa’el Dhiab was finally released to Uruguay. The violence and forced-feeding procedures have caused permanent damage to his health and he is now confined to a wheelchair.
The videos in question show Dhiab subjected to violent “forced cell extraction” and forced-feeding. The forced-feeding sessions began after he refused to eat. Dhiab’s lawyers allege that he was subject to this process over 1,300 times. He had been protesting his treatment and conditions at the prison by participating in a hunger strike which at one point had spread to 100 detainees in the facility.
Although the government requested Judge Kessler reconsider her decision, The Post reports “edited versions of eight of 32 videos and two compilation videos of Dhiab, with information such as the voices and faces of prison workers redacted” have been handed over.
“The importance of releasing the videotapes to the public in order to ‘enlighten the citizenry’ and ‘improve perceptions of the proceeding’s fairness,’ cannot be overstated,” stated Judge Kessler.
Kessler’s nine-page order stated the government had not offered evidence to support their claims that releasing the classified videos would somehow endanger the national security of the United States. Judge Kessler has clashed with the government’s attorneys throughout the case.
The Obama administration is expected to appeal once more before the tapes are officially released to the public. The administration previously attempted to use Executive Order 13,526 (which governs the Executive Branch’s classification of national security information) to deny the release of the tapes. Judge Kessler said it “would displace the court’s power to seal its own record, putting that authority in the government’s hands alone.” She also stated, “the judiciary has the discretion to seal or unseal a judicial record.”
The government had previously argued that the release of any footage of the force-feeding “provides the enemy with opportunity to search for weaknesses and vulnerabilities.” When President Obama attempted to seal the videos, several news organizations came together in opposition of such a move, including ABC News, Associated Press, First Look Media, Guardian, McClatchy, NPR, New York Times and Reuters.
Judge Kessler sided with the organizations and Dhiab. Kessler called the governments arguments “unacceptably vague, speculative,” and “plain implausible.” She stated that:
“It is our responsibility, as judges, as part of our obligation under the Constitution, to ensure that any efforts to limit our First Amendment protections are scrutinized with the greatest of care. That responsibility can not be ignored or abdicated.”
The government has also attempted to keep the hearings away from the public eye, but, once again, Judge Kessler intervened. Judge Kessler ruled that the U.S. government could not close the hearing and called the efforts by the Department of Justice “deeply troubling.” Even more telling is the fact that during those hearings the government was not able to get a single witness to testify in favor of the forced-feeding practices.
The whole force-feeding debacle is yet another example of the lies of the Obama Administration and the dangers of government. The entire history of the Guantanamo Bay military prison is a disturbing view into how the American Empire views it’s enemies.
We have been taught to see foreign human beings as less than, or deserving of the punishment dealt by an increasingly totalitarian government. We cannot allow this to go on any longer. It’s time for all liberty loving, awakened Americans to stand up to the injustices of the U.S. government.