Monday, October 6, 2014

Judge Orders Release of Guantanamo Videotapes

According to an associated press writer, Ben Fox, U.S. District Court Judge, Gladys Kessler, ordered the CIA to release 28 videotapes that consist of the treatment performed towards the hunger strike of a Guantanamo prisoner, Abu Wa’el Dhiab. Dhiab’s lawyer, John Eisenberg, challenged force-feeding as an abusive treatment. Dhiab believes that these protocols must be acknowledged and by doing so, “these terrible practices will come to an end.” The order was basically made due to several public media requests. Fox explains that in order to avoid any sort of government appeal, the release of the videotapes will have to be audited for the “protection of the identities of Guantanamo Bay staff is a legitimate goal”. Fox also states that the Obama Administration is limiting the amount of information that would be released but Kessler points out that the court will not “disclose classified information over the government’s opposition” when it comes to dealing with detainees.

So, was it right for Kessler to order the release of these videotapes?  Several individuals actually agree with the release of these tapes such as attorney David Schultz. He agrees that the public has “the right to know what their government is up to”. With this stated, it is clear for Kessler to cite the First Amendment in order to "override the government's secrecy" for the U.S. have stopped the disclosure of the amount of hunger strikers in the Guantanamo prison. She states that the government’s reason for keeping such secrecy is “unacceptably vague, speculative…. And just plain implausible." Richard Butler, a former Navy commander, also states that force-feeding may even be used to instigate “anti-American sentiment”. On the other hand, Butler adds that if public videos of such medical interactions with guards and detainees were to be released, then, it could potentially worsen the public’s perception of those who are detained. Overall, Butler states that any public release about detainees, will serve as a “serious damage to national security".

In my opinion, it seems difficult to decide if Kessler had made the right decision due to the fact that if these videos were to be made public, just as Butler stated, they would potentially damage national security, but if these videos were audited prior to publicizing them and if the court will not publicize any sort of classified information about the government, wouldn’t it not pose as a threat to national security? It’s also difficult to decide if forced feeding violates Article 13 (this states that prisoners must be humanely treated) because it does cause pain and distress towards a detainee but does not qualify as ‘causing death or endangering the health of a prisoner’. I believe that releasing these videos would go both ways in which the public would either perceive that the government’s protocol in handling hunger strikes as inhumane or humane. One might agree with the government that these protocols are humane for it “protects the health of detainees” and in addition to that, these hunger strikes could be perceived as an ‘easy way out’ for the detainees. On the other hand, these protocols are harsh and painful which allows the public to argue that force-feeding is ‘inhumane’ treatment. To make some sort of progress, the government should reconsider to how these hunger strikes have come to light to avoid extreme protocols when dealing with hunger strikes in Guantanamo. 

Fox issues that more than half of the detainees have not had a fair trial for more than a decade. In class, we learned about the Fifth Amendment that states that every person has a right to due process. The deprivation of a fair trial for these detainees may be one of the key factors of the hunger strikes in Guantanamo. In addition to that, the absence of a free trial also violates Article 14. 

On a similar article, Charlie Savage states that Dhiab’s lawyers are “asking Judge Kessler to require the government to use less painful procedures… before he is at risk of serious bodily injuries." Even though the government portrays that these videos may cause ‘damages to the national security’, it is evidence that is needed to acknowledge and change the treatments that detainees are experiencing. 

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