Obama Administration Reverses Promise to Release Torture Photos

Today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs announced that the Obama administration will not release the photos depicting the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, reversing an earlier Defense Department statement to a federal judge that it would release a “substantial number” of photos in response to a court ruling in a long-standing ACLU lawsuit.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said in a statement this afternoon:

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.

It is true that these photos would be disturbing; the day we are no longer disturbed by such repugnant acts would be a sad one. In America, every fact and document gets known — whether now or years from now. And when these photos do see the light of day, the outrage will focus not only on the commission of torture by the Bush administration but on the Obama administration's complicity in covering them up. Any outrage related to these photos should be due not to their release but to the very crimes depicted in them. Only by looking squarely in the mirror, acknowledging the crimes of the past and achieving accountability can we move forward and ensure that these atrocities are not repeated.

If the Obama administration continues down this path, it will betray not only its promises to the American people, but its commitment to this nation’s most fundamental principles. President Obama has said we should turn the page, but we cannot do that until we fully learn how this nation veered down the path of criminality and immorality, who allowed that to happen and whose lives were mutilated as a result. Releasing these photos — as painful as it might be — is a critical step toward that accounting. The American people deserve no less.

ACLU staff attorney Amrit Singh blogged about the importance of the release of these photos in March on Huffington Post:

The public value of these images is considerable. As visual records, they convey what words could not possibly communicate. As evidence of abuse at locations other than Abu Ghraib, they undermine the Bush administration’s claim that abuse was aberrational. The disclosure of these images is critical to help the public understand the scope and scale of prisoner abuse as well as the extent to which such abuse was caused by policy decisions. Disclosure is also crucial for assessing official responsibility for the abuse.

You can learn more about the lawsuit at www.aclu.org/torturefoia.


View comments (63)
Read the Terms of Use


Please consider the safety of our troops and our nation! Stop pushing this agenda!!


The new boss is looking a lot like the old boss. These pictures must be bad. Very bad.


Good job OBAMA dont listen to the Anti- American ACLU

Keith Heyne

Your response to President Obama's decision not to release the torture photos is a major overreaction. I don't want to see the photos and it doesn't do anygood for the nation to see them either. The president made a mature and realistic decision. This nation is trying to move on from this issue, why don't you. To release the photos would damage foreign relations. ACLU is overstepping its boundaries.


I heard Ms. Amrit Singh's comments today regarding treatment of terrorists. She makes assumptions that I do not and I make assumptions that she does not. For me, terrorists deserve whatever treatment their targets deem fitting. They are not soldiers. They do sometimes combat soldiers, but more often they kill innocent civilians. Their targets include someone's daughter, someone's wife, someone's mother, someone's grandmother. And they hide in their own grandmother's house, store their rockets in her bedroom and launch firefights from her parlor window. These are not human beings. In all the wars past, I believe combatants out of uniform were summarily shot or hanged on the spot of their capture, unless they could be coerced to give information. So, Ms. Singh's assumption that these things deserve good treatment is her mistake. I wouldn't inflict harsh treatment, generally, even on these things unless I thought I could get information and in that case, there is no cruelty they do not deserve. If and when they capture our soldiers, we know what they do with them, don't we? If they are so inclined they don't hesitate to torture if it could possibly serve their purposes and when they're through with that, they generally cut off their heads. And this behaviour is not random nor rare. It is their method. I will pray for their souls, but in their present incarnation, I would choose to use them as best they might be used to our purposes, then either stow them away in dark holes or simply lob off their heads, slowly with a bamboo saw. I am glad that my society is not as cruel as I might be. Most of us are gentle and kind, but we don't have to be naive dupes wringing our hands over the fates of monsters. Ms. Singh makes that mistake. They are not soldiers, they are monsters. Kill them. You might read, "To Kill a Mockingbird," for the lesson of what is the proper treatment of mad dogs and the proper answer to unprovoked assault on innocents.

Ann Chapman

I almost always understand and support ACLU positions, but I hope you will drop your suit concerning the torture photos. President Obama has made a reasonable decision and I completely support that decision.


I saw Anthony Romero on Hardball tonight. I want him to know how I feel.
Some Americans are so afraid that we are piling debt on our children and grandchildren that they will never be able to pay....Well, that is just money!
The real bankruptcy going on is the moral bankrupty of our children and our grandchildren if we do not get to the bottom of this torture issue. We will never, ever be respected again in the world, and we will remain in just as much danger as we are told we are in now; maybe more, if we as a nation refuse to look the ugly truth head-on and start to come to terms with it.
I cannot be a proud American again until torture is surgically removed from the American mind, heart, soul and government.
Only then will we leave our posterity a moral nation purged clean of this damage and darkeness.
This is beyond party affiliation, beyond fear of retribution from other countries, which I believe is imminent anyway, and beyond the military protection issue, I am sorry to say.
This is about the moral health and well-being of our children and our nation, What will this country be like in 20 years if our children grow up learning that torture is acceptable? Just imagine a generation of adults who accept and use torture! Goodbye, America if that should happen.


In all fairness if these photos are released then I want to see video of atrocities that were done to American contractors, Daniel Pearl,Nick Berg and others. If Islamic terroristic beheaders are to be inflamed, then it is only fair that the American public be able to see what these pigs did to our citizens. Then they can decide for themselves what is torture and what isn't. The fact that the ACLU and the far left do not want this shown on the mainstream media is telling. The fact that the ACLU could care less that releasing any more photos could put Americans at risk is also telling. The ACLU does nothing for the good of Joe Taxpayer. You are doing what you can to aid and abet the enemy. Be fair. Make sure that if one set of photos are released, that the beheading videos are released and mandated to be shown to all voting age taxpayers. They are graphic but at least there will be a sense of fairness and not a sense of stabbing the American military and military personell in the back.

Alvin McCuistion

President Obama disappoints at times --voting for the FISA bill, hesitancy in camcelling the gays-in-military standoff, temporarily continuing the Military Commissions and, now, this. It's especially galling in that the photos were being released in response to a court order. Hope you can keep the pressure on to further this action and make them available.


What is wrong with you people!!!
why are you so up in arms about what you call such horrible torture that some of our men did to the Iraq terroist. it is nothing more then what our special forces had to go through for their training for gods sake!
Why are you not up in arms about the torture they have done, how they be head our people,torture them and drag them through the streets beating them to death!!!
you are a shame to our country and our soldiers!!!
stay the hell out of the war, frankly i finally agree with something our leader has done! you flipping bleeding hearts care nothing about your own country why don't you leave and go over there and take care of the poor terroist you worry about them so much more!!
you make me so sick!!! you un american idiots
there has been so much more good our soliers have done over there and there is so much horror they have done to us and their own people but you ignore that! wake up you fools


Stay Informed