Obama Reverses Position on Release of Detainee Abuse Photos

Oh gee, it looks like he’s changed his mind AGAIN!!  From Wapo:

   

 President Obama will oppose the release of several dozen photos depicting abuse of detainees held in U.S. military custody abroad, reversing his previous position on the grounds that the pictures could inflame anti-American sentiment and endanger U.S. troops

In announcing the shift today, the White House said in a statement that Obama “strongly believes that the release of these photos, particularly at this time, would only serve the purpose of inflaming the theaters of war, jeopardizing US forces, and making our job more difficult in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Justice Department officials told a federal judge late last month that the U.S. government did not intend to fight a court order to turn over a total of 44 photos, which were sought by the American Civil Liberties Union under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

A U.S. attorney was unequivocal in a letter to the judge on April 23: “The parties have reached an agreement that the Defense Department will produce all the responsive images by May 28, 2009.”

But White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters yesterday that Obama has “great concern” about the impact that releasing the photos would have on soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Asked whether the Justice Department’s decision might be reversed, Gibbs declined to reaffirm the government’s intentions. “I don’t want to get into that right now,” he said, adding a moment later that “I’m not going to add much to that right now.”

The administration said today that Obama met last week with White House lawyers and informed them that he did not “feel comfortable” releasing the photos because of the reaction they could cause against U.S. troops and because “he believes that the national security implications of such a release have not been fully presented to the court.”

At the end of the meeting, Obama directed the lawyers to object to the release of the photos. He informed Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, of his decision during a meeting yesterday at the White House.

Gibbs’s suggestion yesterday that the administration was reconsidering its position drew immediate criticism from a lawyer for the ACLU. “The suggestion that they may be reconsidering that decision . . . is deeply troubling to us,” said Jameel Jaffer, director of the group’s National Security Program.

Another ACLU lawyer handling the suit said that the photos will depict a pattern by U.S. officials of improperly treating detainees.

“We expect the government to hold true to their word,” Amrit Singh said yesterday. “It is critical that they be released so that the full scope and scale of prisoner abuse can be examined by the public.”

 Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and  Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) wrote Obama last week to urge him to fight the release of the photos.

“The release of these old photographs of past behavior that has now been clearly prohibited can serve no public good, but will empower al-Qaeda propaganda operations, hurt our country’s image, and endanger our men and women in uniform,” wrote Graham and Lieberman.

Questions about the photos come on the heels of Obama’s decision to disclose memos from top Bush administration officials about the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which critics consider torture.

The memos have sparked a fierce debate about those techniques, with former vice president Richard B. Cheney accusing the Obama administration of undermining the country’s safety by ruling them out of bounds.

The photos also stir memories of images from the former Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, which fueled a firestorm of controversy about abuse of detainees. The current photos are from other prisons.

Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 13, 2009; 1:10 PM

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