A judge in the federal circuit of Washington ruled this afternoon that U.S. officials must make video available to the public of 28 instances in which they force-fed a hunger-striking Syrian detainee in the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Guardian's Spencer Ackerman, national security editor for one of the media organizations who had challenged the U.S. administration's pleas for secrecy, explained the stakes in Judge Gladys Kessler's ruling to disclose the videos of Abu Wa'el Dhiab being "forcibly removed from his cell and fed through a tube inserted through his nose into his stomach":
The tapes will provide unprecedented visibility into a practice that Dhiab and other detainees says amounts to torture, a claim categorically rejected by the Obama administration and the military.
While the government is expected to appeal the decision later on Friday, Kessler ordered that the public versions of the tapes to be released obscure "all faces other than Mr Dhiab's, voices, names, etc." The unclassified version of the videos "may then be entered on the public docket," Kessler wrote.
The federal government had argued that publishing videos of the force-feedings would give future detainees the knowledge they needed to counter the tactic. U.S. attorneys also claimed the videos would violate the detainees' rights to privacy under the Geneva Conventions.
Though the public has not yet seen actual instances of force-feeding of prisoners in terror detention, there have been several renderings and reenactments of the activity, including the animated short embedded below and this video in which Yasiin Bey, the rapper formerly known as Mos Def, submitted to the process last year.
[AP: In this Feb. 2, 2002 file photo, a detainee from Afghanistan is carried on a stretcher before being interrogated by military officials at the detention facility Camp X-Ray on the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba.]