NEW YORK – A judge has ordered the government to release four videos from Abu Ghraib (search) prison and dozens of photographs from the same collection as photos that touched off the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal a year ago.
The federal judge issued the order late Wednesday requiring the Army to release the material to the American Civil Liberties Union to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (search).
The ACLU (search) said the material would show that the abuse was "more than the actions of a few rogue soldiers."
Judge Alvin Hellerstein (search) said the 144 pictures and videos can be turned over in redacted form to protect the victims' identities. He gave the Army one month to release them.
The judge ordered the release after he viewed eight of the photos last week. They were given to the Army by a military policeman assigned to Abu Ghraib.
In October 2003, the ACLU filed a lawsuit seeking information on treatment of detainees in U.S. custody and the transfer of prisoners to countries known to use torture. The ACLU contends that prisoner abuse is systemic.
"These images may be ugly and shocking ... (but) the American public deserves to know what is being done in our name," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU.
So far, 36,000 pages of documents and the reports of 130 investigations, mostly from the FBI and Army, have been turned over to the ACLU. The group is seeking documents from the CIA and the Department of Defense as well.
The judge said last week that he believed photographs "are the best evidence the public can have of what occurred" at the prison.
Government lawyer Sean Lane had argued that releasing pictures, even in redacted form, would violate Geneva Convention rules by subjecting the detainees to additional humiliation.
Lane did not immediately return a telephone message for comment Thursday.