The US Supreme Court on Monday nullified an appeals court order that would have obligated the Obama administration to release photographs depicting US soldiers subjecting prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq to horrific acts of torture.
In an unsigned three-sentence decision in the case, Department of Defense v. ACLU, 09-160, the Supreme Court granted an Obama administration petition vacating the order and sent the case back to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, telling the lower court it must review the case in light of a law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in October.
The law in question was written as a specific response to the circuit court’s ruling in October 2008 requiring that the photos be released. Attached to an appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security and signed into law by Obama, it gave Secretary of Defense Robert Gates the power to suppress the torture photos if he determines they may threaten US military operations. Gates invoked the measure on November 13.
It is now anticipated that the circuit court will side with the Obama administration and rule against the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU.)