Change Watch: Obama signs bill that will hide torture pictures

The Homeland Security appropriations bill President Obama signed into law last week includes a provision authorizing the Defense Department to continue to conceal photos documenting the torture and abuse of prisoners in U.S. military custody, according to reporting in The Washington Independent.
The American Civil Liberties Union had specifically sought those photos, and sued to get them, among other documents relating to detainee abuse, in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The exemption signed, however, is much broader than simply the photos sought in the lawsuit. It would apply to any other photos taken between Sept. 11, 2001 and Jan.22, 2009 that the Secretary of Defense has certified would, if released, endanger U.S. citizens, servicemen, or employees overseas.
President Obama had agreed to release the photos, but changed his mind after consulting with DOD secretary Robert Gates and others at the Pentagon, who warned the photos would endanger U.S. servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan by making the Afghan resistance fighters mad at us.
New York Rep. Louise Slaughter defends the Freedom of Information Act during the debate over releasing photographs of American personel abusing detainees.

The provision was the inspiration of Sen. Joe Lieberman (it almost goes without saying) specifically to thwart the ACLU suit. Although a federal appeals court last year ordered the government to produce the unclassified photos, ruling that the Freedom of Information Act can’t be trumped by citing unspecified dangers to unspecified potential targets of the anger that the information may produce, the government refused to release the pictures and appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. The bill signed Wednesday was supported by nearly all Democrats, despite including the language weakening the FOIA and attempting to get around both lower court rulings and any similar future judgment by the high court.

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