The United States Supreme Court granted a request Tuesday to delay
its decision on whether the Obama administration may continue to block
the release of images depicting the torture of terror war detainees in
The decision to delay comes as Congress and the Obama administration
appear to have agreed on the passage of a new law that would delegate
all authority over the photos to the Secretary of Defense, effectively
removing the courts from the process.
"The Obama administration believes giving the imminent grant of
authority over the release of such pictures to the defense secretary
would short-circuit a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties
Union under the Freedom of Information Act," the Associated Press reported on Saturday.
"The ACLU said the administration's about-face 'makes a mockery' of
Obama's campaign promise of greater transparency and accountability,
and damages efforts to hold accountable those responsible for abusing
prisoners," CNN added on Tuesday.
The photos relate to abuse alleged to have taken place between 2001
and 2005 in Abu Ghraib and six other prisons. Some of the photos were
said to depict rape and sexual abuse, though the Pentagon has denied this.
Some of the images depict U.S. soldiers pointing guns at the heads
of prisoners. Another, according to Solicitor General Elena Kagan,
shows a soldier "holding 'a broom as if sticking its end into the
rectum of a restrained detainee,' Kagan said, quoting from an
investigation report prepared by the Pentagon," AP reported.
Justices were expected to discuss the case during a closed-door
session on Friday, but a letter from the solicitor general may have
played a role in their decision to delay that hearing.
"Kagan's letter advised the court about Congress' 'recent and significant legislative developments,'" Fox News noted.
"Her request was unusual in that she asked the justices to delay
consideration of the government's own case. But the letter shows the
Obama administration's top priority is keeping the pictures sealed -
and that it believes that can be better accomplished by legislative
means than court action."
The Pentagon said US military commanders had sternly warned the
president that the photos could be used as a recruiting tool by
extremists and jeopardize the safety of US troops. Federal courts have
ruled against the government in a series of decisions on the matter
after the ACLU sued to force disclosure.
"Congress should not give the government the authority to hide
evidence of its own misconduct, and if it does grant that authority,
the Secretary of Defense should not invoke it," ACLU National Security
Project Director Jameel Jaffer said in a press release. "If this
shameful provision passes, Secretary Gates should take into account the
importance of transparency to the democratic process, the extraordinary
importance of these photos to the ongoing debate about the treatment of
prisoners, and the likelihood that the suppression of these photos will
ultimately be far more damaging to our national security than their
disclosure would be."
"The publication of these photos would not add any additional
benefits to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a
small number of individuals," President Obama said in May after
reversing his promise to have the images released.