With Pressure Growing over Torture Pics, Obama Turns to Supreme Court to Stop Release
First, President Obama said he would agree to the release of 21 photos of prisoner abuse by U.S. military personnel (and 23 additional photos "identified as responsive"), as ordered by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in response to a suit filed by the ACLU. Then Obama changed his mind, and on Thursday, went to back to the Circuit Court and asked it, according to the Washington Post, "to recall its order requiring the release of photographs held by the Pentagon."
But, there was a new wrinkle. The UK Telegraph released a story saying the photos that could be released included horrific pictures from Abu Ghraib that "show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency." Furthermore, their sourcing was impeccable, as the information came from Gen. Antonio Taguba, who had conducted an internal Pentagon investigation of the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004.
Do you smell the rising smoke of a pending scandal growing? If not, consider what came next.
Today, Scott Horton posted a story at The Daily Beast, verifying the authenticity of the British paper’s report:
The Daily Beast has obtained specific corroboration of the British account, which appeared in the London Daily Telegraph, from several reliable sources, including a highly credible senior military officer with firsthand knowledge, who provided even more detail about the graphic photographs that have been withheld from the public by the Obama administration.
A senior military officer familiar with the photos told me that they would likely provoke a storm of outrage if released. The well-informed source confirmed, just as reported in the Telegraph, that many of the photographs are sexually explicit, including those mentioned above. The photographs differ from those already officially released.
It took less than a day for the next turn of events. According to a CNN report, the Obama administration has made a motion to recall their request for a hold on the pictures release from the federal appeals court, and will take their request directly to the Supreme Court.
The government said it would proceed "absent intervening legislation" from Congress….
Last week, the Senate voted for the Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act, which would limit the reach of the Freedom of Information Act in this instance. The House could adopt a similar provision next month as part of an omnibus spending bill.
The government has until June 9 to file its initial appeal with the Supreme Court.
The quick change in strategy by Obama points to a great deal of anxiety about the impact these photos will have; and I don’t mean necessarily the photos directly related to the ACLU suit, but those other pictures — hundreds or thousands of them, including the suppressed Abu Ghraib photos — which would have to be released "consistent with the Court’s previous rulings on responsive images in this case." (H/T Peterr).
While it may be true that the Obama administration and the generals and admirals in the Pentagon are afraid of the effects the pictures’ release might have on U.S. efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, it seems just as likely that they are very worried that if these photos are released in toto that demands for investigations and prosecutions here in the U.S. will become overwhelming.
Government censorship is usually directed against the domestic population. This case appears no different. It appears Obama is not above using the Supreme Court for political purposes. They should turn down his request.