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.


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Eric B.

May 13, 2009

Keep up the good fight. President Obama must reverse his decision, yet again, to hold the torture photos open to the public! This nation is not a monarchy, not a communist regime, we are a government by the people, for the people!


I am surprised and delighted!

Tonto, but not fool

Yes the fotos should be release. Probably the only ones that do not know the horrors are the US people. We should know what our leaders do so we know why we have reverses...Dont hide the facts with the excuse to protect us. It is hipocritical, face the facts so we can correct them, Grow up.

Charles G

I agree 100% with Obama's decision. He was smart to do what he did, and it is a out time.

ACLU I'd like you all to dry up and blow away!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm so sick of you guys I could throw up!

Charles G

ACLU and our schools. You guys are the reason our schools are in the bad shape they are in today.

You have destroyed our value system, and made it so difficult for teachers to teach.

Have you seen the movie 187? I dare you to watch it. It should shake up your decisions to give kids so many rights in school.
Kids come to school for one reason...to learn. Not to carry a cell phone, not to talk in class, not to disrespect teachers, and if they need to be paddled, then paddle them, if they need detension, and the parents need to come pick them up or they walk home, so be it.
You ACLU idiots like Amrit Singh, should be kicked out of this country. Love what our forefathers gave us, or LEAVE!
I bet you won't post this will ya?


This is a war. These soldiers are over there protecting us, the people of The United States. These pictures are nothing we need to worry about. The soldiers did not kill these POWs. They may have humiliated or even beat up these POWs but that is not a reason to demand these photos be released. These people are our enemies, remember September 11th. I guarantee these POWs are being treated 100 times better than our own troops would be treated as POWs of our enemies. If the ACLU really wanted to help America, they would raise money to support the disabled veterans returning from these wars. However, the ACLU is content assisting our government in wasting money with frivolous lawsuits over photos.


ACLU get it through you thick one minded heads IT SAVED LIVES OF AMERICANS!!!!!!! Let it F-n go.


releasing this photos serves no real purpose other than to provide web site fodder for insurgents, lose potential allies amoungst the native populations in the Midlle East, and to put our troops at risk. Give it up!

Ms. Muhammad

I believe President Obama is taking the right course of action. If the photos are for a case then they generally don't need to be shown to the public. And for Ms. Singh, a mockery is showing the kind of demeaning activity that took place to the whole world. Get off your personal agenda and understand how the Muslims would feel about seeing themselves dehumanized.

Jon Hite

And if these photos are released by the government, how will we find an unbiased jury to sit on the trial of the people who allegedly committed these crimes? Doesn't Obama's decision today move the ball toward the appointment of a Special Prosecutor, who can review the evidence and bring forth charges, or not, against those who committed, and ordered, and authorized, the crimes claimed by those who seem to be in the know?


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