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Breaking News: Supreme Court overturns decision of 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that had ordered disclosure of detainee photographs

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

The Washington Post is reporting:

The Supreme Court has thrown out an appeals court ruling ordering the disclosure of photographs of detainees being abused by their U.S. captors.In doing so Monday, the high court cited a recent change in federal law that allows the pictures to be withheld.

The justices issued a brief, and expected, order Monday directing the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York to take another look at a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union to obtain the photos of detainee abuse. President Barack Obama at first didn’t oppose the release, but he changed his mind, saying they could whip up anti-American sentiment overseas and endanger U.S. troops.

The administration appealed the matter to the Supreme Court, but also worked with Congress to give Defense Secretary Robert Gates the power to keep from the public all pictures of foreign detainees being abused.

Gates invoked his new authority in mid-November, saying widespread distribution of the pictures would endanger American soldiers.

The ACLU has said it will continue fighting for the photos’ release.

The actual order reads as follows:

09-160
DEPT. OF DEFENSE, ET AL. V. ACLU, ET AL.
The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. The judgment is vacated and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit for further consideration in light of Section 565 of the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2010, and the certification by the Secretary of Defense pursuant to that provision. Justice Sotomayor took no part in the consideration or decision of this petition.

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.