WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court expressed concerns Thursday about the prospect of ordering the Obama administration to release graphic videos of a former Guantanamo Bay inmate being force-fed during a hunger strike.
Judges hearing arguments in the long-running legal dispute considered whether any First Amendment interest in releasing the footage is outweighed by possible harm to national security.
The Associated Press and 15 other news organizations say the public has a constitutional right to see the videos.
The government says the tapes are classified and warns they could be used as propaganda by extremist groups to incite anti-American sentiment.
U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler last year rejected the government’s concerns as vague and speculative. She ordered the videos released with redactions to protect the identities of U.S. personnel, but the release has been on hold pending appeal.
The three-judge appeals panel gave no obvious indication of how they would rule. But at times, they pressed lawyers on both sides over how much deference courts should give to the government’s interest in protecting national security.
The videos show former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Abu Wa’el Dhiab being forcibly removed from his cell, strapped to a restraining chair and force-fed his meals through a tube.
The Syrian native was held at Guantanamo for 12 years before being released in 2015 and resettled in Uruguay with five other detainees. During his last four years in detention, he joined other detainees in a hunger strike to protest their confinement. He tried to stop government officials from force-feeding him, a process he describes as torture.
Justice Department lawyer Catherine Dorsey told the judges the government had no expectation the videos would ever be made public when they were offered under seal as evidence in Dhiab’s civil case.
“There is no First Amendment right to these classified videos,” she said.
Even if the First Amendment comes into play, she said, national security concerns take precedence because the videos “can directly be used to incite violence.”
David Schulz, representing the media organizations, argued that the public has a significant interest in seeing the videos to know how the government is treating terror suspects held at the detention facility.
Under the administration’s logic, Schulz said, the more objectionable the government’s conduct, the more likely government officials will argue it should be hidden from public view.
“That can’t be right,” he said.
Schulz also said the government had not offered a “logical and plausible basis” to show that disclosing the tapes would lead to violence against the nation.
But Judge Stephen Williams said the possibility of a violent response to the videos was only one of the government’s concerns. U.S. officials have also said disclosure could compromise prison security and endanger military personnel by encouraging other detainees to become uncooperative.
Judge Judith Rogers noted that lower courts often defer to the concerns of correctional officers in other cases and wondered why that wouldn’t apply here.
Schulz said the trial judge did give deference to the government’s concerns, but concluded it didn’t meet the standard of showing “serious damage” to national security.
Dhiab has since begun another hunger strike in Uruguay and is demanding he be allowed to leave the South American country.
President Barack Obama indicated early in his presidency that he wanted to close the prison at Guantanamo, but he’s been blocked by Congress. Obama said Thursday he is not ready to concede that the facility will remain open when he leaves office.
The government has been steadily releasing prisoners and the Pentagon says 61 detainees now remain there.
NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook is adding an “instant video” feature to text messages within its Messenger app. This means users can send each other videos while they are texting in the app, in case words are not quite enough.
This is different from video calls, which have been available in Messenger since 2015. The latest feature is for those times when you don’t necessarily want to make a full-fledged video call, but find that a photo or text won’t do. Maybe you’re walking by a prolific street performer and want to share a video with a friend you’re texting, or share a baby giggle with your partner.
To send instant video, both you and the recipient have to have Messenger open. Tap on the video icon to start sharing real-time video.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The State Department says it’s evaluating a video released by the Afghan Taliban showing a Canadian man and his American wife warning that their Afghan captors will kill them and their children unless the Kabul government ends its executions of Taliban prisoners.
The video, which has not been independently verified by The Associated Press, shows Canadian Joshua Boyle and American Caitlan Coleman, who were kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2012, calling on Canada and the United States to pressure the Afghan government into changing its policy on executing captured Taliban prisoners.
Coleman has told her family that she gave birth to two children in captivity.
“I would tell you that the video is still being examined for its validity,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday, in response to a question at his daily briefing. “We remain concerned, obviously, about the welfare of Caitlan and her family, and we continue to urge for their immediate release on humanitarian grounds.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the AP that the video was not new and had in fact been recorded in 2015. Mujahid said Boyle and Coleman and their two children remain in captivity but in good health.
The AP could not immediately verify the date of the recording. However, even if the video was recorded in 2015, it would mark the first time the couple has appeared in a video since 2013.
The footage, which was uploaded Tuesday on YouTube, came to public attention through the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity online.
In a statement Tuesday, Global Affairs Canada spokesman Michael O’Shaughnessy said the government was aware of the latest video. He said the government will not comment further or release any information that might risk endangering the safety of Canadian citizens abroad.
In the video, the scraggily bearded Boyle says the couple’s captors “are terrified of the thought of their own mortality approaching, and are saying that they will take reprisals on our family.”
Coleman, wearing a black headscarf, then adds: “I know this must be very terrifying and horrifying for my family to hear that these men are willing to go to these lengths, but they are.”
A phone message left at a number listed for Coleman’s family in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, was not immediately returned.
The couple set off in the summer of 2012 for a journey that took them to Russia, the central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and then to Afghanistan. Her parents, Jim and Lyn Coleman, last heard from their son-in-law on Oct. 8, 2012, from an internet cafe in what Josh described as an “unsafe” part of Afghanistan.
In 2013, the couple appeared in two videos asking the U.S. government to free them from the Taliban. The Colemans received a letter last November in which their daughter said she had given birth to a second child in captivity.
“I pray to hear from you again, to hear how everybody is doing,” the letter said.
In July, Jim Coleman, speaking to the online news service Circa News, issued a plea to top Taliban commanders to be “kind and merciful” and let the couple go.
“As a man, father and now grandfather, I am asking you to show mercy and release my daughter, her husband, and our beautiful grandchildren,” Jim Coleman said. “Please grant them an opportunity to continue their lives with us, and bring peace to their families.”
Associated Press writer Charles J. Gans in New York contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department said Tuesday it is evaluating a video released by the Afghan Taliban showing a Canadian man and his American wife warning that their Afghan captors will kill them and their children unless the Kabul government ends its executions of Taliban prisoners.
The video, which has not been independently verified by The AP, shows Canadian Joshua Boyle and American Caitlan Coleman, who were kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2012, calling on Canada and the United States to pressure the Afghan government into changing its policy on executing captured Taliban prisoners. Coleman has told her family that she gave birth to two children in captivity.
“I would tell you that the video is still being examined for its validity,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in response to a question at his daily briefing. “We remain concerned, obviously, about the welfare of Caitlan and her family, and we continue to urge for their immediate release on humanitarian grounds.”
The video, which was uploaded Tuesday on YouTube, came to public attention through the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist activity online.
In the video, the scraggily bearded Boyle said the couple’s captors “are terrified of the thought of their own mortality approaching, and are saying that they will take reprisals on our family. They will execute us, women and children included, if the policies of the Afghan government are not overturned, either by the Afghan government or by Canada, somehow, or the United States.”
Coleman, wearing a black headscarf, added: “I know this must be very terrifying and horrifying for my family to hear that these men are willing to go to these lengths, but they are.”
Resilient is the word I think best describes the people of Louisiana. You have to be here. Just over a decade ago the gulf coast region was slammed by Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 hurricane with max wind speeds of 174 miles per hour, causing over 100 billion dollars in damage, and contributing to the deaths of nearly 2-thousand people. Then in 2010, gulf coast residents endured the worst oil spill in U.S. history and clean-up efforts took years to get the area back to normal again. Now, the residents are dealing with the country’s worst natural disaster in over 3 years since Sandy made landfall in the Northeastern part of the U.S.
Historic floods ravaged areas around Baton Rouge, La. killing 13 people and damaging at least 40-thousand homes. Flooding began August 12th and continued for multiple days causing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes. I recently traveled to the devastated area. The clean-up effort is still underway and the people here can still use a lot of help.
As I traveled through communities like Denham Springs, Livingston and Albany, I saw the roads lined with piles of people’s possessions. Water rushed into many of these homes destroying everything. While many people are lucky to still be alive in some cases…it’s heart breaking to see their memories and hard work sitting on their front lawns ready to be scooped up and hauled away by FEMA.
Their homes are unlivable; just a shell. Many are living with friends, in shelters, and at hotels. Some of these people didn’t have flood insurance because flooding just isn’t typical in this area. No one here really expected it to ever happen. I’ve heard people refer to it as the 500 year flood. It’s going to take a while to restore a sense of normalcy here. From what I read and the people I talked with, able body people are needed here to help with the clean-up so I decided to make my way south to do my best to help some of the people in need in Louisiana.
I spent time with a couple living north of Albany, LA, Joanne and Roy Hobbs. The couple in their 60s was jarred awake at 2am on August 12th by a wall of water washing through their home. They were forced out through a rushing river of water to their neighbors across the street who owned a home with a second story. They stayed there until the National Guard came to rescue them hours later.
Once the water receded they came back to their home to find everything they owned damaged by the flood waters. Even the walls had to be torn down.
I spent two days working with the Hobbs to transport their damaged belongings to the curb to be picked up and disposed of. In the blazing Louisiana heat and humidity we hustled to move furniture, damp dry wall, carpet, electronics and pretty much everything this family had worked so hard to build and experience. What’s even more heart-breaking is Roy lost his home and possessions during Hurricane Katrina. He moved away from typical flood zones because he didn’t want to have to deal with disasters like that again. Unfortunately, he is now too familiar and rebuilding once again. I guess it is tough to predict a flood like this.
It was a good feeling knowing I helped this family and was able to get all of their stuff moved out of their front yard. They said it was the first time in a couple weeks their home actually looked like a home again from the outside and not a junk yard.
After spending time with the Hobbs family, I moved to one of the areas most severely damaged by the flood, Denham Springs, LA. Driving through the area it was tough to find a home not impacted by the flooding. Here I met with an organization “Operation Blessing” a disaster relief service helping to prepare meals for people in the community who are struggling after losing everything in the floods. I helped cook and clean for about 5 hours and there was a constant flow of people coming through looking for a meal to get them through the rebuilding process and simply to the next day. It was rewarding working with a variety of volunteers from around the country from Texas to Michigan traveling to Louisiana to help. It goes to show how many good people are out there.
It was tough seeing the destruction and people’s lives turned upside down but I am thankful I had the opportunity to help some really great people in Louisiana. The clean-up and rebuilding will take months and years to complete but the people here as always will bounce back with love, positive spirits and hard work.
SEATTLE (AP) — The Seattle Police Department says a failure in the storage system that holds its digital in-car video has wiped out two days’ worth of recordings.
The department says the affected recordings date to July 13 and 14. The majority were of in-car video tests that officers conduct at the start of their shifts or of low-level disturbance calls.
But about one-quarter of the recordings — 537 of them — had evidentiary value. Those include 89 arrests, 138 traffic citations, 95 oral warnings, 60 crisis contacts and five low-level uses of force.
The department says it will start using additional technical and procedural controls to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and that it’s proceeding with all investigations stemming from police work on July 13 and 14.