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Supreme Court Asked to Block Release of Iraq Abuse Photos

Agence France Presse

Lawyers for President Barack Obama's administration have asked the US Supreme Court to block the release of photos showing prisoner abuse by US soldiers in Iraq.

The lawyers argue that releasing the photos would unnecessarily endanger US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The president of the United States and the nation's highest-ranking military officers responsible for ongoing combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have determined that disclosure by the government of the photographs... would pose a significant risk to the lives and physical safety of American military and civilian personnel by inciting violence targeting those personnel," the lawyers said.

The court's nine justices, including newly-confirmed Justice Sonia Sotomayor, will decide in coming months whether to take up the petition.

This spring, a lower court granted a request by the American Civil Liberties Union, a US rights group, that the photographs be made public and ordered the Defense Department to make them available by the end of May.

But on May 13, Obama said he had decided to appeal the decision and seek court approval to block the release of the photos, fearing that their release could stir anti-American sentiment and endanger US troops.

The photographs, according to details included in the brief filed by Solicitor General Elena Kagan, depict various humiliating and abusive tactics being used against prisoners who are often naked and hooded.

Kagan's filing also notes that the abuse was investigated and "three of the six investigations led to criminal charges and in two of those cases, the accused were found guilty and punished."

The brief also cites the opinions of various senior military officials with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, who warn that the release of the photos would endanger US troops.

The ACLU filing in the case notes that lower courts have rejected the argument that the photos can be blocked because of the potential backlash against US forces their release might prompt.

"These photos would provide a visual proof that prisoner abuse by US personnel was not aberrational, but widespread, reaching far beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib," the ACLU said.

"As disturbing these photos may be, it is critical that the American people know the full truth about the abuse that occurred in their name."

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