Wed, 13 May 2009 21:14:08 +0000 – Wow, I guess the Obama administration is learning that campaigning is not the same as governing. Photos of the alleged abuse of prison detainees were supposed to be released later this month but now the president has decided not to go through with the plan after all. The president made a statement today after the daily White House press briefing. He said that the photos were not worse than the previous ones we have seen. However, there is some speculation from some members of the legal community and former members of the intellgence groups involved in these cases that the photos may include sexual images and perhaps show Americans defacing the Koran. My guess is that if the photos contained this kind of content the Muslim community would react even more strongly then they did the first time around.
The details from today are as follows; today the Obama administration decided against releasing photos from a Freedom of Information request by the the ACLU. In what had to be a dance that would make Fred Astaire proud, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs attempted to manoeuvre though a minefield today. The briefing was one hour late and there must have been briefings for Mr. Gibbs ahead of the briefing so that he could take the press corps' heat. Later, as the president left for a trip out West he addressed the content of the photos explained why he made the decision not to release them.
During the press briefing we were treated to phrases like "the existence of the photos isn't the only thing that denotes the existence of an investigaton" or " the release of [the] photos will provide a disincentive for detainee abuse investigation." Saying that the release of the photos was sensational, Gibbs then said "nothing is added by " release of the photos." -- What is happening now is the the president has asked his lawyers to go back to court and make an argument to the Second Circut Court Court of Appeals arguing against the release of the photos based on national security concerns.
The argument that got me, however, was that the release of the photos would provide a "disincentive" for detainee abuse investigation as future abusers would know that any photo they took would be released to the public. That argument makes NO sense. Why not just have an executive order that all interrogations be videotaped and not destroyed? The other argument is that release of the photos does not advance the investigations --which also makes little sense.
Where I am sympathetic to President Obama is in this area -- why should this president have to feel the pain of another administration's malfeasence? I am also sensitive to the fear that the release of these photos will cause more problems. However, I am suspect about Mr. Gibbs declaration that the photos' release was going to cause problems in specific countries -- that this was going to cause problems in Afghanistan and Iraq. But I think the real issue is that the White House is afraid of inflaming the citizens of Pakistan. -- That is not necessarily a bad thing, but in terms of the transparency this president promised on his second day of office it does not exist any longer, at least not on this issue.