Last night, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said it had come to an agreement with the Obama administration for the release of some 44 photographs depicting detainee abuse by U.S. personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq. The photos are from Air Force and Army criminal investigations into the treatment of detainees.
"This will constitute visual proof that, unlike the Bush administration's claim, the abuse was not confined to Abu Ghraib and was not aberrational," said the ACLU's Amrit Singh in a statement. "Their disclosure is critical for helping the public understand the scope and scale of prisoner abuse as well as for holding senior officials accountable for authorizing or permitting such abuse."
The ACLU made its Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request in 2003 for materials surrounding investigations into detainee abuse, but the Bush administration claimed that disclosure of such evidence would violate U.S. obligations toward detainees under the Geneva Conventions, and prompt worldwide outrage against the US. Last September, a three-judge panel of the appeals court rejected that position, and the full appeals court denied the Bush administration's argument on March 11.
But yesterday Acting U.S Attorney Lev L. Dassin wrote to the ACLU, saying that the Pentagon was preparing to release 21 photos at issue in the appeal, plus 23 others "previously identified as responsive." The letter added that the Pentagon also was "processing for release a substantial number of other images contained in Army CID reports that have been closed during the pendency of this case."
Is this a good idea?
Some say absolutely -- that this is the only corrective to a long period of abuse and secrecy that surrounded it. Others believe the move could have a chilling effect on the CIA even beyond President Obama's decision last week to release the so-called "torture memos."
"My sense is the president was trying to please a lot of audiences at one time and that over the last (week) he has totally failed to put the mind of the intelligence community at ease," Mark Lowenthal, a former senior adviser to one-time CIA Director George Tenet, told the AP. "He is going to end up with a national clandestine service that will not be willing to do anything because they feel he will not be there for them when they need him."
What do you think?