Thursday, April 23, 2009

Obama Administration to Release More Photos of Detainee Abuse

I'm genuinely surprised by this move:

The Obama administration agreed late Thursday to release dozens of photographs depicting alleged abuse by U.S. personnel during the Bush administration of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At least 44 pictures will be released on May 28 -- making public for the first time images of what the military investigated as abuse that took place at facilities other than the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Defense officials would not say exactly what is contained in the photos, but said they are concerned that the release could incite a backlash in the Middle East.

The photos are apparently not as shocking as the photographs from the Abu Ghraib investigation that became a lasting symbol of U.S. mistakes in Iraq. But some show military service members intimidating or threatening detainees by pointing weapons at them. Military officers have been court-martialed for threatening detainees at gunpoint.

Now as near as I can tell from this article, the release of the photos is prompted by an ACLU lawsuit. But of course, the Obama administration could simply do what the Bush administration did and refuse to disclose the photos, or fight a court order for years, or simply lose or destroy the photos. So the question is, why is Obama agreeing to release these photos now? It's not as if the furor over the most recent torture revelations will have died down in a month. Is he doing it because he feels it's necessary to air our dirty laundry so we can move on after having a full public accounting of our practices in the war on terror? Does he want to fan the ardor those calling for the prosecution of Bush administration officials (albeit in a back-handed way)? Or does he sincerely believe that the right thing for the government to do is release even the most politically inconvenient information when it's required by law? I'm genuinely puzzled; eight years of Bush malfeasance and Democratic ineptitude has conditioned me to expect the worse I suppose.

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