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Congress, Obama Team Up to Block the Release of Detainee Torture Pics

June 2, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

I highlighted this in yesterday’s link roundup, but I think it deserves a bigger mention here. Salon’s Glenn Greenwald found buried in the Iraq/Afghanistan supplemental funding bill a provision to override FOIA laws, retroactively, and block the public release of all torture photos. Here’s an excerpt from his post, which was also posted to Boing Boing today:

The White House is actively supporting a new bill jointly sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman – called The The Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act of 2009 – that literally has no purpose other than to allow the government to suppress any “photograph taken between September 11, 2001 and January 22, 2009 relating to the treatment of individuals engaged, captured, or detained after September 11, 2001, by the Armed Forces of the United States in operations outside of the United States.” As long as the Defense Secretary certifies — with no review possible — that disclosure would “endanger” American citizens or our troops, then the photographs can be suppressed even if FOIA requires disclosure. The certification lasts 3 years and can be renewed indefinitely. The Senate passed the bill as an amendment last week.

Just imagine if any other country did this. Imagine if a foreign government were accused of systematically torturing and otherwise brutally abusing detainees in its custody for years, and there was ample photographic evidence proving the extent and brutality of the abuse. Further imagine that the country’s judiciary – applying decades-old transparency laws – ruled that the government was legally required to make that evidence public. But in response, that country’s President demanded that those transparency laws be retroactively changed for no reason other than to explicitly empower him to keep the photographic evidence suppressed, and a compliant Congress then immediately passed a new law empowering the President to suppress that evidence. What kind of a country passes a law that has no purpose other than to empower its leader to suppress evidence of the torture it inflicted on people? Read the language of the bill; it doesn’t even hide the fact that its only objective is to empower the President to conceal evidence of war crimes.

Two (meta) points:

1) We’re happy to see that Glenn used our bill text permalinking tool to provide a primary source directly to this small portion of the larger bill. A lot of bloggers don’t even give a primary source when they write about more straight-forward bills in Congress, or even give the real name of the bill so people can look it up themselves, so Glenn’s usage is outstanding. Kudos.

2) Note the disturbingly hilarious mix up in the Boing Boing comments thread.

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