NEW YORK (AP) -- The government has asked a federal appeals court to reconsider its order to release 21 pictures of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying it could jeopardize the safety of U.S. troops.
Government lawyers said in papers made public Friday that the issue was of "exceptional importance."
In September, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the U.S. to give the pictures to the American Civil Liberties Union. Now the government has asked all 12 judges on the court to hear its case.
In the court papers, the government said release of the pictures would pose a grave risk of inciting violence and riots against American troops and coalition forces.
The government said its chief objection to the ruling was the finding that it had to be specific about the potential threat. Nevertheless, it was prepared to prove that release of the photos could endanger soldiers' lives, the government said.
Amrit Singh, staff attorney with the ACLU, said the government was engaged in a delay tactic to evade its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act.
"These photographs are of critical importance in trying to bring to light the scope and scale of prisoner abuse," she said.
Singh said the pictures were significant because they were taken at locations in Afghanistan and Iraq other than the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. They proved the government was wrong when it said the abuse at Abu Ghraib was an isolated event, she said.
The Abu Ghraib photographs sparked international outrage because they graphically depicted American troops abusing and sexually humiliating inmates. One picture showed a naked, hooded prisoner on a box with wires fastened to his hands and genitals.