A federal judge who previously ordered the federal government to release edited videos that show the force-feeding of a Guantanamo Bay detainee denied Tuesday a government request that she reconsider that order.
In her denial, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler called the treatment of prisoners held for years without charge a “burning, controversial issue in this country.”
Kessler directed the Justice Department in October 2014 to release videotapes showing the feeding of Syrian hunger striker Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who was subsequently released to Uruguay after 12 years of detention at the U.S. military base in Cuba.
While asking Kessler to reconsider, the government since August has turned over — under seal — edited versions of eight of 32 videos and two compilation videos of Dhiab, with information such as the voices and faces of prison workers redacted.
In a nine-page order, Kessler wrote that she hoped final rulings on an inevitable appeal would come as soon as possible. She also wrote that the government had not supported claims that releasing the classified videos would endanger national security by spurring extremist attacks against U.S. personnel or encouraging resistance by Guantanamo detainees.
“Transparency about the actions of our government — including the judiciary — is one of the cornerstones of our democracy,” Kessler wrote in the case, in which news media organizations, including The Washington Post, sought the recordings.
She added, “The importance of releasing the videotapes to the public in order to ‘enlighten the citizenry’ and ‘improve perceptions of the proceeding’s fairness,’ cannot be overstated.”