WASHINGTON – Congress is set to allow the Pentagon to keep new pictures of foreign detainees abused by their U.S. captors from the public, a move intended to end a legal fight over the photographs’ release that has reached the Supreme Court.
Federal courts have so far rejected the government’s arguments against the release of 21 color photographs showing prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq being abused by Americans.
The Obama administration believes giving the imminent grant of authority over the release of such pictures to the defense secretary would short-circuit a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The White House is asking the justices to put off consideration of the case until after a vote on the measure in the House and Senate, as early as next week. The provision is part of a larger homeland security spending bill and would allow the defense secretary to withhold photographs relating to detainees by certifying their release would endanger soldiers or other government workers.
President Barack Obama initially indicated he would not fight the release of the photographs. He reversed course in May and authorized an appeal to the high court.
The president said he was persuaded that disclosure could further incite violence in Afghanistan and Iraq and endanger U.S. troops there.
The photographs at issue were taken by service members in Iraq and Afghanistan and were part of criminal investigations of alleged abuse. Some pictures show “soldiers pointing pistols or rifles at the heads of hooded and handcuffed detainees,” Solicitor General Elena Kagan said in the appeal to the high court.
In one, “a soldier holds a broom as if ’sticking its end into the rectum of a restrained detainee,’” Kagan said, quoting from an investigation report prepared by the Pentagon. Two investigations led to criminal charges and convictions, she said.
Kagan said the military has identified more than two dozen additional pictures that could be affected by the court’s ruling.
It doesn’t seem to me like there’s any good argument from preventing the public from seeing what was done in it’s name.