FILE – In this March 30, 2010, file photo, reviewed by the U.S. military, a U.S. soldier stands in the turret of a vehicle with a machine gun, left, as a guard looks out from a tower at the detention facility of Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. Naval base in Cuba. A federal court of appeal not to the government to release graphic videos of a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner being force-fed during a hunger strike. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
WASHINGTON – The public does not have the right to see graphic videos of a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner being force-fed during a hunger strike because they are considered and can harm national security, a federal court of appeal ruled Friday.
The Associated Press and 15 other news organizations had sought release of the video, with the argument that they were part of the public record.
But the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the First Amendment right to the videos is offset by the fear that their release could endanger troops and fuel global hostilities against the united states.
“The government’s interest in ensuring the safe and secure conduct of military operations clearly overcomes any qualified First Amendment right of access,” Judge A. Raymond said Randolph.
The court overturned the ruling of a federal district judge, who had ordered the videos released with the redaction to protect the identity of the AMERICAN staff. That order was on hold pending the appeal.
The videos show the military removal of the former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab from his cell, strapping him to a restraining chair and force-feeding him meals through a tube to keep him alive during his hunger strike, according to the court documents.
The Syrian native was held at Guantanamo for 12 years before it is released in 2014 and established in Uruguay with five other prisoners. During his last four years in detention, he along with other detainees in a hunger strike to protest against their incarceration.
Dhiab filed a lawsuit seeking to stop officials from force-feeding him, a process he describes as torture. The government sent Dhiab’s lawyer copies of video recordings of his client is force-fed, and the lawyer that recording in the record under seal.
Media organizations argued that the public has a strong interest in seeing the videos to know how the government treats terror suspects held in the detention facility.
But the court agreed with the government that the release of the videos “would be likely to harm national security” in different ways.
It would encourage other prisoners to provoke or resist the guards. And the release of the videos could provide “terrorist elements with propaganda to fuel their continued global hostilities against the United States,” said Randolph.
While the three judges hearing the case agreed on the outcome, they disagreed on how to apply the First Amendment when it comes to court records. Randolph said the public’s First Amendment right to see court records applied to criminal proceedings but not in civil proceedings as Dhiab in which he was challenging the conditions of confinement.
But Judge Judith Rogers wrote separately to say that the First Amendment would guarantee access to records in such cases because they are similar to the criminal procedure. Judge Stephen Williams said that the First Amendment of the law was not clear, but once that “the security interests invoked by the government is mandatory.”