Pentagon video editors are on the clock now that a federal judge has ordered that several hours of “disturbing” force-feeding videos from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay are to be redacted and prepared for public release before the end of next month.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler issued the ruling on Friday, ordering the government to complete the redaction process that she initially ordered more than 10 months ago.
She set an August 31 deadline to prepare eight of the 32 tapes for release.
Kessler also ordered the government to redact an additional two compilation tapes before the end of September: one tape created by the government and one by attorneys representing Abu Wa’el Dhiab (pictured above) — a former Guantanamo detainee whose legal struggle has served as the catalyst for the pending disclosures.
That puts roughly five hours of footage on track for release, pending a final appeal by the government once the redactions are completed.
During proceedings on Thursday, attorneys representing Dhiab accused the government of slow-walking the court, noting that the Pentagon was first ordered to begin prepping the tapes last October.
Kessler appeared sympathetic to those concerns. When a Justice Department attorney initially proposed the revised August 31 deadline in court, citing “technological burdens” faced by Pentagon video editors, Kessler shot back saying, “That’s not going to be.”
While acceding to that timetable on Friday, Kessler again chastised officials for the delays to date.
“The only thing consistent about the Government’s position has been its constant plea for more time,” Kessler wrote in her order, adding that the “Government has failed, after having managed to stall for nine months by filing a truly frivolous Appeal with the Court of Appeals, to use the additional time it has already received.”
All parties are to return to the court in the middle of October to review the tapes, upon which, Judge Kessler instructed that “there will be no extensions of time (emphasis hers).”
In addition to Dhiab, a group of media organizations — including The Intercept’s parent company, First Look Media — have intervened in the case to compel release of the tapes, claiming that the American people have a first amendment right to know what’s being done at Guantanamo in their name.
In 2013, a mass hunger strike swept across the facility with more than 100 prisoners participating at its peak. The government responded with the widespread use of force-feeding — a painful procedure that’s been condemned by the American Medical Association and human rights groups.
Although prison officials admit that force-feedings continue, they refuse to disclose just how many of the 116 detainees still remaining at Guantanamo are currently participating in a hunger strike.
(This post is from our blog: Unofficial Sources.)
Photo: Screengrab from Barricada interview with Dhiab in February.