No Blackmail

NO BLACKMAIL….A federal judge has ordered the government to release dozens of pictures and videotapes from Abu Ghraib that have been withheld on the grounds that they would provoke terrorists and incite violence against U.S. troops in Iraq. Here’s his reasoning:

U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said that terrorists “do not need pretexts for their barbarism” and that suppressing the pictures would amount to submitting to blackmail.

“Our nation does not surrender to blackmail, and fear of blackmail is not a legally sufficient argument to prevent us from performing a statutory command.”

This is as perfect a demonstration of turning the right’s own weapons against it as I’ve ever seen. Terrorists “do not need pretexts for their barbarism.” The United States “does not surrender to blackmail.” That’s perfect, especially coming from a judge who’s a former JAG lawyer.

The decision will be appealed, of course, so don’t get too excited at this blow against government secrecy. But it’s still worth noting just for its poetic beauty.