Wire: Obama Flip-Flops on Release of Detainee Photos
Off the Wire:
Obama said photos "not particularly sensational" while White House officials said releasing photos would further "inflame anti-American sentiment and endanger U.S. troops."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Obama can simply issue an Executive Order to prevent the release of the photos... if that is what he really wants to do.WASHINGTON, May 13, 2009 -- Newswires reported this afternoon that President Obama will oppose the release of several dozen photos said to depict purported 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.
The Washington Post reported that in announcing the shift today, the White House said in a statement that Obama "believes that the release of these photos, particularly at this time, would only serve the purpose of inflaming the theaters of war, jeopardizing U.S. forces, and making our job more difficult in places like Iraq and Afghanistan."
However, in a report from the Associated Press, Obama was quoted as saying the detainee photos he wants to block from release are "not particularly sensational."
Obama spoke on the South Lawn of the White House after his decision to block the photos' release was made public by aides.
Obama 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.
The Washington Post said 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."
The Washington Post reported the following details:
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."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 some critics consider torture.
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.
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, the Washington Post said.
This is a developing story.
(Report from newswire sources.)
Sources: Obama Reverses Position on Release of Photos of Detainee Abuse
Obama says detainee abuse photos not 'sensational'
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