World & Nation

Federal judge orders videos of Guantanamo force-feedings unsealed

Guantanamo Bay prison
The restraint chair used to force-feed detainees on hunger strike at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A federal judge ruled Friday that the Obama administration must release videos of a prisoner being force-fed.
(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

A federal judge has ordered the Obama administration to release videos of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner being force-fed.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler issued an order Friday that requires the federal government to release the 28 videos to the public and more than a dozen news outlets that sued to obtain them.

Tribune Publishing, which owns the Los Angeles Times, was among the news organizations seeking the release of the videos.

The case centers around Abu Wa’el Dhiab, also known as Jihad Ahmed Mujstafa Diyab, a Syrian citizen who has been at Guantanamo since 2002. Dhiab has been on a long-term hunger strike, according to court records.


The government began force-feeding him through his nose starting in April 2013, court documents say, and has continued to do so. Dhiab and several other prisoners have sued to try to stop the force-feedings.

At one point, federal officials said they had video of Dhiab’s force-feedings, recorded between April 9, 2013, and Feb. 19, 2014.

According to court documents, Dhiab wants the videos made public, saying, “I want Americans to see what is going on at the prison today.... If the American people stand for freedom, they should watch these tapes.”

Federal officials had released the videos to Dhiab’s attorney, and a number of news outlets sued in June to make them public.


The government argued, however, that releasing the classified videos would harm national security, by showing the physical layout of the prison, identifying guards who participate in the feedings, and creating the risk that others might use the videos for propaganda.

In a 29-page opinion, Kessler said it “strains credulity to conclude that the release of these videos has a substantial probability of causing the harm the government predicts.”

Kessler ordered that the videos be released after excluding names, faces and voices of all other people besides Dhiab.

In May, Kessler temporarily banned U.S. military officials from force-feeding Dhiab, but reversed her order a week later, saying she ";simply cannot let [him] die.";

That case is ongoing, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. The government asked Kessler to seal those proceedings, a motion she denied Thursday.

For more breaking news, follow me @cmaiduc

Get our Today's Headlines newsletter