The U.S. government can keep pictures of detainee abuse secret while it asks the Supreme Court to permanently block release of the photographs on the grounds they could incite violence in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, a federal appeals court said Thursday.
The one-paragraph ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan came after the Obama administration asked the court to keep the pictures secret so it could appeal to the nation's highest court.
The administration last month said the disturbing photographs pose "a clear and grave risk of inciting violence and riots against American and coalition forces, as well as civilian personnel, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan."
The appeals court stayed its order supporting a lower court judge's decision to order release of the photographs until the Supreme Court had a chance to consider the case.
The administration had indicated it was going to release the pictures until President Barack Obama reversed the decision.
To support its arguments, the government filed partially secret statements from two top U.S. generals, David Petraeus and Ray Odierno.
In the filings, Odierno, who commands the troops in Iraq, said the 2004 release of photos of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison "likely contributed to a spike in violence in Iraq" that year. Petraeus, who oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, said the images could also lead to more violence in Pakistan because it deals with Taliban attacks.
The American Civil Liberties Union had sought release of 21 pictures, saying the action would make the government more accountable and help bring an end to the abuse of prisoners.