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Release of abuse photos blocked

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US defence secretary Robert Gates has blocked the release of 44 pictures of foreign detainees abused by their captors, saying it would endanger American soldiers.

The Obama administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court on Friday night saying Mr Gates had invoked new powers blocking the release of the photos.

The American Civil Liberties Union had sued for the release of 21 colour photographs showing prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq being abused by Americans. Federal courts had rejected the government's arguments to block their release, so Congress gave Mr Gates new powers to keep them private under a law signed by President Barack Obama last month.

Mr Gates's order covers the 21 pictures sought by the ACLU, plus 23 additional ones. The new powers were included in a budget Bill for the Homeland Security Department. "Public disclosure of these photographs would endanger citizens of the US, members of the US armed forces, or employees of the US government deployed outside the US," Mr Gates said in his order blocking release of the photos. Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project, said the group would continue to fight for the release of the photographs, arguing that Mr Gates's order was overly broad. "We think the photos are an important part of the historical record. They are critical to the ongoing national conversation about accountability for torture," Mr Jaffer said. "It sets a bad precedent for the government to be suppressing information that relates to government misconduct."