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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 6/10/10

Obama Continues to Stonewall Efforts to Hold Bush Administration Officials Accountable, Block Release of Photos

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Despite the fact that more and more information continues to trickle out because of the diligence of individuals, groups and organizations concerned about accountability for torture and other violations of civil liberties, the Obama Administration continues to block the release of photos, withhold information and stonewall efforts to hold Bush Administration officials accountable.

Throughout the Obama Administration, episodes have regularly taken place each time firsthand accounts on "enhanced interrogation techniques" and terror suspects in prisons and descriptions from policy papers detailing interrogation procedures are released as a result of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The requests usually lead to press releases issued by human rights organizations, which usually lead to the information released being shared through blogs, Internet news sites, newspapers, and quite often segments on cable news channels.

Coverage that promotes calls for accountability for torture and other civil liberties violations then gets kicked around and, invariably, a few congressmen or senators end up pledging support for inquiries into "possible" torture or display intent to investigate "possible" crimes committed further (this usually happens when they appear on television). But, the coverage always ends up dissipating and the Obama Administration always seems to conclude that properly releasing all information and media related to the crimes is not worth doing;"it's better to move forward than look backward" is what White House officials claim.

A year and one month ago, the Obama Administration opted to "block the court-ordered release of photos showing U.S. troops abusing prisoners." The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a request for the release of the photos in April 2009 but, one month later, the Obama Administration determined the photos would "further inflame anti-American opinion" and put U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan at risk.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan (and now an Obama Administration nominee for the Supreme Court) published a brief suggesting an earlier court decision to release the photos should be overturned. Her brief made the same argument the Obama Administration delivered to the press. It also featured this bit of information on the photos:

""the photographs include an image showing several soldiers posing near standing detainees who are handcuffed to bars with "sandbags covering their heads" while a soldier holds a broom as if "sticking [its] end* * * into the rectum of a restrained detainee," CID Report D 4782; see Pet. App. 169a-170a (discussing Report D); an image of a solider who appears to be in the process of striking "an Iraqi detainee with [the butt of] a rifle," CID Report F 8653; and several other images that show soldiers pointing pistols or rifles at the heads of hooded and handcuffed detainees."

The ACLU released a response to the Obama Administration's decision that was written by Executive Director Anthony Romero and stated, "The Obama administration's adoption of the stonewalling tactics and opaque policies of the Bush administration flies in the face of the president's stated desire to restore the rule of law, to revive our moral standing in the world and to lead a transparent government. This decision is particularly disturbing given the Justice Department's failure to initiate a criminal investigation of torture crimes under the Bush administration."

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for OpEdNews.com
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