President Barack Obama reversed himself today and instructed lawyers in the Jusice Department to fight the release of pictures alleged to show mistreatment of detainees in U.S. custody. The pictures were the subject of an American Civil Liberties Union Freedom of Information Act request first denied by the Bush Administration. The ACLU sued to win release of the pictures and won a lower court ruling ordering the Pentagon to turn them over by May 28th. Just last week, President Obama said that his Administration would comply with the court ruling and release the pictures said to portray abuse along the lines of other photographs taken at the Abu Gharib prison in Iraq during the height of the American occupation.
White House Prrss Secretary Robert Gibbs made the announcement earlier today at the daily press briefing.
"There was a lot of back and forth in his mind over the course of several weeks about ensuring that [the decision to fight the release] protected those that keep us safe, that it protected national security. The president fame to the determination that the decision that he made was consistent with all those criteria.
Nothing is added by the release of the photos."
The ACLU was not amused. Amrit Singh, an attorney representing the ACLU in the case condemned the president's decision in strong terms. "Essentially, by witholding these photographs from public view, the Obama Administration is making itself complicit in the Bush Administration's torture policies." That reaction is likely to be shared by human rights organizations and anti-war groups, which have been staunch supporters of the Obama Administrations reversals of Bush-era policies in the war on terror.
Republicans, on the other hand, praised the president's decision, calling it a victory for the safety of American troops. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said the decision showed that President Obama was sanding up for the troops. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) released a statement saying that releasing the photos would only embolden America's enemies. "I hope the Administration continues to vigorously defend this position in the weeks and months to come," Boehner said.