Sunday, May 17, 2009

Obama reverses on releasing detainee photos

In a dramatic, high-profile reversal for his young administration, President Barack Obama is seeking to block the release of 44 photographs depicting abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by small number of individuals,” the president told reporters Wednesday as he left the White House on a two-day trip to the Southwest.

“In fact,' he said, "the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”

And, he added, distribution of the photos could also have a “chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse.”

The Justice Department had already agreed to release the photos by May 28 in response to a lawsuit, but Obama is shifting course.

“Last week, the president met with his legal team and told them that he did not feel comfortable with the release of the DOD photos because he believes their release would endanger our troops, and because he believes that the national security implications of such a release have not been fully presented to the court,” said a White House official who asked not to be named.

“At the end of that meeting, the president directed his counsel to object to the immediate release of the photos on those grounds,” the official said.

Obama’s reversal is sure to set off an outcry on the left, which has pushed the Obama administration to come clean about interrogation policies and other actions carried out by the Bush administration.
Obama endorsed such openness during the campaign – and even released memos detailing interrogation practices critics call torture.

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