The lawyer pushing for the release of photographs showing the harsh treatment of suspected terrorist detainees said President Barack Obama was backtracking on his word and commitment to transparency by reversing course and objecting to the release of those photos.
Jameel Jaffer, a chief litigator for the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project, described Obama's reversal as "very disappointing" during an interview with Fox News.
"It is inconsistent not only with commitments the Obama administration has made to us and to the courts but inconsistent with the promise of transparency that President Obama has repeated so many times," he said.
Jaffer, who has filed suit for the release of these photographs under concerns over civil liberty violations and possible detainee abuse, noted that the Obama White House still had a steep hill to climb in its efforts to suppress the release of the photos. Jaffer has won his case in the district court in New York as well as a three-judge appeals court. The Bush Administration, towards the end of its term, asked the full Second Circuit Appeals Court to review the matter. They refused to do so.
"At this point," Jaffer said, "the burden is on the government because there is a court order that requires them to release these photos. So they are either going to have to seek Supreme Court review or come up with some creative strategy to get yet another hearing below the lower courts."
"These photographs are critical to the historical record so it is very disappointing... that the administration is going to try and suppress them," he added.
The President announced that he would oppose the release of the detainee photos on Wednesday after what spokesman Robert Gibbs described as a long process of determining what was the best course of action. The president, he added, was concerned about the impact such photos could have on U.S. Armed Forces. A White House aide sent this explanation for the decision on condition of anonymity.
Last week, the President met with his legal team and told them that he did not feel comfortable with the release of the DOD photos because he believes their release would endanger our troops, and because he believes that the national security implications of such a release have not been fully presented to the court.
At the end of that meeting, the President directed his counsel to object to the immediate release of the photos on those grounds.
Yesterday, during a meeting at the White House, the President raised the issue of these photos with General Odierno and told him of his decision to argue against this release.
Through his actions from the first days of his administration, the President has made it clear that the United States will hold itself and all the men and women who serve our country to the highest standards of conduct.
The President would be the last to excuse the actions depicted in these photos. That is why the Department of Defense investigated these cases, and why individuals have been punished through prison sentences, discharges, and a range of other punitive measures. But the President strongly believes that the release of these photos, particularly at this time, would only serve the purpose of inflaming the theaters of war, jeopardizing US forces, and making our job more difficult in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
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