President Barack Obama today reversed the decision to unilaterally release photographs that allegedly show detainee abuse. We applaud him for that decision.
Andy McCarthy wrote yesterday that Obama has the authority to end the litigation:
Thus, if President Obama wanted to keep these photos from being exploited by America’s enemies, all he would need to do is issue an executive order sealing them, based on a finding (which could be drawn from public statements he has already made) that their release would imperil the national defense — as well as frustrate ongoing American foreign-policy efforts in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, and elsewhere in the Muslim Middle East.
Some will say that the president won’t do that because he does not want to anger the anti-war Left, a significant part of his base. In truth, the president is the anti-war Left. He won’t issue an executive order of this kind because he wants the photos revealed. It is important to understand that disclosure here is not an inevitable outcome. It is a choice. It doesn’t have to happen unless Obama wants it to happen.
President Obama will see a vicious backlash from the anti-war left:
Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU, said the president’s decision “makes a mockery” of his promise of transparency and accountability.
“Essentially, by withholding these photographs from public view, the Obama administration is making itself complicit in the Bush administration’s torture policies,” Singh said. “The release of these photos is absolutely essential for ensuring that justice was done … for ensuring that the public could hold its government accountable, and for ensuring that torture is not conducted in the future in the name of the American people.”
Singh said his organization is prepared to “do whatever it takes” in order to have the photos released.
We agree with Andy McCarthy:
“Unless something is done, the photos … will cause American soldiers, American civilians, and other innocent people to die … Time is running out — the danger is not.”
President Obama’s first duty is to America’s defense; photos alleging detainee abuse would be used by al Qaeda as recruiting tools, make us less safe at home, and further endanger our brave troops.
We could live with an Executive Order ending this litigation. The ACLU would not like that decision yet their obligation is to their clients, not national security.
Update: Statement by the President on … detainee photographs 4:12 P.M. EDT May 13, 2009
It’s therefore my belief that the publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals. In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.
Update II, May 14, 2009: ‘Photo Follies’ by Andy McCarthy:
President Obama doesn’t need approval from the courts, so why is he passing the buck to them? If he now believes, as he says, that “the most direct consequence of releasing [the photos] … would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger,” he can end this right now.
Why doesn’t he? Could it be that he wants to be able to vote “present”? Is it that, no matter how this comes out, he wants to be able to tell both the antiwar Left and Americans concerned about national security that he tried to look out for them but, alas, it was the court’s call? I suspect that’s the case, and, if I’m right, that’s foolish on Obama’s part. Presidents don’t get to hide that way. This is his call. He should make it.