Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Barack Obama, Protector of Torturers

(Cartoon by 'Mr. Fish; used w/out permission)

Ahhhh, Transparency!!!

The headline on Jason Leopold's piece on The Public Record says it all:

Obama Promises Senators He Will Help Pass Bill Banning Torture Photos
President Barack Obama sent a letter July 29 to Senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham informing them that he would work with Congress to ensure legislation is passed that would block the release of any photographs and videos depicting U.S. Soldiers abusing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan captured after 9/11.

The disclosure was made in a footnote in a 33-page petition the Obama administration filed Friday with the U.S. Supreme Court. Neither the White House nor spokespeople for Lieberman and Graham responded to phone calls and e-mail queries seeking a copy of the letter.

The petition confirms that the contents of the 44 images at issue, which was first reported by The Public Record, includes one in which a female solider pointed a broom at one detainee “as if I was sticking the end of a broom stick into [his] rectum.”

Other photos at issues show U.S. soldiers pointing guns at the heads of hooded and bound detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. The filing also notes that the detainee abuse was investigated by the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Division and “three of the six investigations led to criminal charges and in two of those cases, the accused were found guilty and punished.” [Background on the photographs can be found HERE and HERE.]

The petition requests that the high court take up the administration’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling requiring the Department of Defense to turn over the photographs to the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in 2003 to gain access to the images.

In June, the Senate unanimously passed the Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act of 2009, an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations spending bill sponsored by Lieberman and Graham. The House of Representatives referred the amendment to two House committees on June 18 where it is pending.

Additionally, on July 9, the Senate unanimously passed the amendment again as it was attached to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill.

“The President recently informed the sponsors of the pending detainee photograph legislation that he “support[s] this legislation” and “will work with Congress to get it passed,” says the footnote in the Supreme Court petition prepared by Solicitor General Elena Kagan, quoting from Obama’s July 29 letter to Lieberman and Graham.

The bill has faced opposition in the House and that may explain why the Obama administration has decided to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if the House kills the measure altogether

Lieberman, I-Conn., and Graham, R-S.C., were sharply critical of Obama’s decision not to fight a final ruling in March by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that called upon the Department of Defense to release the photographs. Obama indicated he would abide by that decision but he abruptly shifted his stance after he was publicly criticized by the likes of Dick Cheney and his daughter, Liz.

Lieberman and Graham’s amendment would authorize the Secretary of Defense to prohibit the release of the abuse photographs and videos for three years and renew it for three year intervals thereafter. The Obama administration would presumably drop its appeal if the House passes the legislation when it returns from its summer break in September.

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