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Judge Orders Release of Guantanamo Force-Feeding Videos

With a public evidentiary hearing looming on the issue of force feeding of Guantanamo detainees, a district court judge in Washington, D.C., issued two rulings that showed that she's not afraid of a showdown with her Article II counterparts: one keeping the ruling open to the public, and a second that should lead to the release of videos of the feedings.

The legal battle that is set to take place will be about whether the feedings are humane, while the battle for public opinion, which will be fought in the news during election season, could turn on the videos themselves, which will be partly redacted to hide the identities of Guantanamo staff, reports The New York Times.

Judiciary v. Executive

This wasn't just about a single case or a few videos: This is the first time a court has denied the government's request to keep Guantanamo information confidential.

"The Court is well aware, as the Government has emphasized, that in no case involving Guantanamo Bay detainees has any court ordered disclosure of classified information over the Government's opposition. However -- to be clear -- that does not mean that in a given factual situation no court has the discretion to do so if warranted," U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler wrote.

"Quite the contrary. Our Court of Appeals has stated that it is the judiciary's responsibility, when ruling on an issue as overwhelmingly important as diminution of our precious First Amendment rights, to ensure that classification of the items in question, i.e., the FCE videos, is proper."

And, at least in this case, Judge Kessler wasn't convinced.

Why Release the Videos?

"I want Americans to see what is going on at the prison today so they will understand why we are hunger-striking, and why the prison should be closed," Jihad Ahmed Mujstafa Diyab, a Syrian who has been held for 12 years without trial, said in a court filing.

The government had argued to keep the videos under wraps, citing security concerns such as the inmates learning the prison's layout, enemies using the footage for propaganda, or targeted attacks against the staff themselves. Judge Kessler dismissed all of the government's arguments, calling them "unacceptably vague, speculative," or "just plain implausible," though she will allow the government to blur the faces of participating staff members.

Meantime, an evidentiary hearing, which the Times calls "a miniature trial over whether the practices are humane," is scheduled to proceed this week.

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