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Obama Administration Ordered to Prepare Release of Videos of Former Guantanamo Prisoner Being Force-Fed

Judge Gladys Kessler

President Barack Obama’s administration has been ordered by a federal judge to prepare videos of forced feedings of a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner for release on August 31.

Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a forty-six year-old Syrian, was imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay from 2002 to December 2014. He remained in detention for five years after Obama’s own review task force cleared him for release. He was released with five other prisoners to Uruguay.

During his confinement, Dhiab protested by engaging in hunger strike. He endured torture and abuse as military personnel subjected him to forced feedings, and Dhiab filed a lawsuit prior to his release, which sought to put a stop to the forced feedings.

On October 3, 2014, Judge Gladys Kessler rejected several secrecy arguments, ruled against the government, and ordered the administration to review videos and prepare them for the release. The administration filed what Kessler has now referred to as a “frivolous” appeal.

On July 10, Kessler ordered the government to stop stalling and complete redaction of eight videos by August 31. The rest of the videos are to be redacted and prepared for release by September 30.

“There will be no extensions of time granted,” Kessler stated.

Cori Crider, an attorney for the human rights organization, Reprieve, which has represented Dhiab, called the order a “great win for the US 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 declared. “That is because the real reason for trying to hide Mr Dhiab’s face is that what he suffered is a scandal and an embarrassment to the administration that allowed it.”

“Images of a suffering detainee are matters of public importance and should no more be suppressed than those of Abu Ghraib, Eric Garner or Rodney King.  An administration truly committed to transparency would release the tapes forthwith.”

Crider added the government was “rightly chided by the judge” and will now have to give reasons for “every frame” of footage they want to keep secret.

Justice Department attorney Andrew Warden has complained that “removing the faces and names of US personnel at Guantanamo remains a laborious process,” according to The Guardian. But Kessler does not want to hear any more gripes from the administration.

“We’re going to move as fast as we can,” Kessler said during a hearing on July 9.

There are 116 prisoners still in detention at Guantanamo Bay. Prisoners remain engaged in hunger strikes. However, for the last couple of years, the Pentagon has treated this as a state secret and refused to reveal any information on how many are being force-fed at the military prison.

Dhiab has stated:

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. If the American people stand for freedom, they should see these tapes.

Soon, Americans will have an opportunity to see the truth of what has been happening to people like Dhiab detained at Guantanamo.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."