SAME we can believe in

SAME WE CAN BELIEVE IN: The Obama administration has granted Defense Secty. Robert Gates new powers to block the release of 21 color photos showing prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq being abused by Americans. The ACLU sued for release of the images. Federal courts previously rejected attempts to keep them secret. ACLU: "No democracy has ever been made stronger by suppressing information about its own misconduct."


  1. Two clarifications:

    1) They are not just blocking those photos, but are trying to extend the ban to ALL photographic evidence of detainee mistreatment since 9/11.

    2) This power actually comes from an amendment to a recent budget bill, an amendment put forth by Lieberman and Graham. The administration was filing a brief saying that Gates was invoking his new power.

  2. If I were Obama (a constitutional scholar and Nobel prize winner) I’d fight it too.

    I would fight it so that courts have to force the release, and so the judicial/executive precedent was settled that the president can not withold such information just ‘cuz he wants to.

    Obama fighting and losing this is a a WIN for America.

    Not sure that’s what’s afoot, but that’s how I’d do it, that’s how the checks and balances system wants it done.

    1. Really?

      Maybe that’s what Bush the constitutionalist was all along too – just invoking unitary executive powers to provoke the judiciary to put him in his place?

      Except they didn’t.

      Sometimes hope is blind.

  3. @mdh
    * by sending 13k more troops to Afghanistan in March, and increasing the daily death toll 3x, he is also showing us the folly of war.
    * by giving our tax money to failing banks and car companies, he is reminding us of the dangers of corporatism.
    * by keeping int’l IP negotiations secret, he is helping to give exposure to great groups like the EFF, thus securing openness in gov’t in the future.

    So either he is a genius, and he is able to ensure our future freedom by denying it now, or you are once again being duped.

  4. I can understand why he is doing this though I disagree with it. He’s trying to reach out to the Middle East and these photos would just fan the flames further and become a recruitment tool for terrorists. Obama is trying to put this stuff behind us.

    I disagree with the title of the article. You can’t honestly say this is the same kind of administration as the last one. The Bush administration advocated torture and tried to cover it up to protect their own asses.

    1. “Obama is trying to put this stuff behind us.”

      You don’t put stuff behind you by covering it up, you do so by preventing it from happening again and/or punishing those who continue to act in this way.

      1. You don’t put stuff behind you by covering it up, you do so by preventing it from happening again and/or punishing those who continue to act in this way.

        This is true. Seems to me that Obama was pretty clear about his stance when he pushed through the executive order to ban the use of torture and his directive to close gitmo.

        Anyone can always do more in any situation… the problem is that Obama has to keep the republican warmongers happy by not taking any drastic steps that they can jump on as evidence of him “weakening americas national security” – the most pathetic and baseless of all pollitical accusations.

        Can you not see how the release of new detainee abuse photos will have a DIRECT affect on terrorist recruitment and help fuel agression towards US soldiers overseas? Think about the media frenzy we had when the last bunch got leaked. How is a repeat of that frenzy possibly going to have a positive effect?

        It seems to me Obama realises that releasing these photos would be good to sober the US population up to the realities of the crimes committed on their behalf. Even as a political tool, they’re valuable evidence of why republicans are/were bad, but the potential cost (literally in the blood of US servicemen) is a cost he is not willing to cover.

        Let’s be honest here.. I think people are just annoyed that they cant see soemthing they know exists. There is no doubt about whether detainees were abused – it is commonly accepted knowledge – so why do we need to see the pics? I reckon it’s mostly just curiosity mixed with a kiddy-tantrum.

        1. How is a repeat of that frenzy going to have any positive effect?

          Punishing criminals rarely has any direct positive effect – it’s bad for the criminal and doesn’t make up for the crime. But it’s important because it encourages others not to commit the same crime. For the same reason, it’s important that this kind of abuse have consequences, and covering up details is an important part of making sure it doesn’t.

  5. I have to say, I don’t get his approach at all. (If you do get it, please explain.)

    By doing this he’s siding with the abusers, and dragging the issue out (on the principle that an issue isn’t settled — people don’t stop obsessing over it — until all the facts are known and acknowledged).

    Instead, he could be siding with those who want abuse to stop. It seems like he could be saying “it wasn’t us, it was the last guys. We don’t and won’t stand for this and those who commit these horrible acts will be punished.”

    Why stand for lies and cover-ups when you could stand for truth and justice? People have a tremendous power to forgive if you just come clean, especially if it wasn’t you doing it in the first place.

  6. I have to sympathize with the President’s administration on this one.

    On the one hand, he should listen to advocates who want transparency, because they believe that it will remove any license for the intelligence and military community to torture detainees.

    On the other hand, during a war, the President has to take into account the opinions of his military commanders. In this case, the concern is that releasing the photos is tantamount to printing the recruitment fliers for people with whom we are at war. I think that concern is valid.

    I think war is dumb, but it has already happened. Acknowledging that, I would have doubts about a Commander-in-Chief that could look at a General and say that prompt, unprecedented transparency was worth risking his troops’ lives for.

    1. “On the other hand, during a war…”

      Such an argument would be easier to swallow if the US was not engaged in wars that are likely to be perpetual.

  7. At some point after the election, some crafty alien managed to slip one of those pods into Obama’s bedroom.

    Or maybe he just doesn’t really believe what he pretended to, and has little intention of making most of the changes he promised. At any rate, I’m sure that this is indeed not the change most of his supporters envisioned. (“We’ll do things different by … doing more of the same! Telecom immunity! State secrets privilege! More troops abroad! Torture is okay! BTW I read that email you’re typing, and I have to say I don’t much like it.”)

  8. “Such an argument would be easier to swallow if the US was not engaged in wars that are likely to be perpetual.”

    Yeah, that.

  9. “Or maybe he just doesn’t really believe what he pretended to”

    Or maybe he just doesn’t really believe what we pretended to believe he believed.

    — MrJM

  10. Maybe we don`t get the genius of this or Obama.
    Obama does a Bush and no one cares.
    Problem solved, dudes and dudettes!

  11. Lets see them try to stop wikileaks and bit torrent. Hasn’t the Obama administration ever heard of the Streisand effect?

  12. On the optimistic side . . .
    Since we know that Attorney General Eric Holder has a special prosecutor investigating torture under the Bush Administration, maybe they’re trying to protect that investigation? Maybe?
    This goes along with the interrogation of so-called high value detainees being put under the charge of the the White House, and being taken away from the CIA and the DoD.
    So maybe it’s not really a case of SAME . . .

  13. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

    Clinton campaigned to reverse the bans of gays in the military, and only got the tiniest of concessions. Clearly the American military is stronger than the President. They don’t want these photos available, so they won’t be.

    They are trying people in civilian court that they know have never been a threat, but are keeping the military tribunal for those like Omar Khadr that are survivors of military firefights that led to American injury.


    Really? Pictures will inflame more hatred than the rumours? So it’s actually *worse* than they imagine? Wow, I didn’t think that was possible, but if you say so, the American military dismembered them while still alive, damning allah while spilling animal ejaculate all over them and preventing them from prayer and waterboarding and stress positions and britney spears and being force-fed during ramadan, besides the choking and rape of course. O, and electroshock! Forced drugging! Fecal force-feeding!

    Seriously though, the imaginations of those sufficiently persecuted are nearly infinite — releasing evidence can only mitigate that fear and anger, unless it really does reach this level.

    History bears it out — evidence has an overall calming effect, no matter how damning.

  14. teapot: “Commonly accepted knowlegde”? Then why are there so many comments about how “harmless” a little waterboarding is?

    I very much doubt that the American or Western public really know how despicable these acts are. There was a reasons why American troops forced German civilians to look at the death camp victims they had rescued – at least those didn’t harbor any misconceptions on the horror incflicted by their side.

    And new agression aganst Americans? Get real – in those parts the Western world lost nearly all credibility and the extremist fringe will believe anything anyway.

  15. The evidence being supressed is said to include photos of Iraqi men, women and children being raped and sodomized by U.S. soldiers.
    If you think that this isn’t already known about in Iraq then your kidding yourselves.

    While the rationalisation might be about saving U.S. soldiers lives, it is just as likely to be about maintaining the myth of America as a force for good in the world.

  16. Apashiol is right.

    Uniformed US soldiers, forcibly sodomizing children in front of the mothers’ cells, in order to make their mothers tell where the fathers are hiding.

    The fathers’ crime, most likely, was not paying the local quislings bribes to keep the fathers from being reported as terrorist sympathizers. That’s how it worked in Iraq at the time; you paid the local goons to stay out of Abu Ghraib, or else you paid the USA’s torturers in blood and pain.

    I don’t know if all this really happened, but the entire Arab world believes it did, and in the countries where the photos have been circulating underground (such as Germany) also.

    That’s what Bush and Rummy were covering up, and that’s what Obama hasn’t got the balls to release. Or at least, that’s what everyone outside North America believes.

  17. I agree with a couple comments on here which point out that the release of those pictures will not cause the loss of more American lives. The people in the middle east already know that we have done these things. These photos are being censored from the view of the American public.

  18. So, just as a thought exercise . . . what SHOULD the government have the power to suppress? And under what circumstances?
    And not from an ideological standpoint. Look at it from the needs of practical governing.
    I’m honestly curious about peoples’ perspectives on this.

  19. pt68,
    Your question is difficult to answer in a comment, but just governments should protect the rights of their citizens, not hide their crimes. That includes the crimes of it’s politicians and military.

    It should not suppress dissent and seek to immunize itself from all criticism.

    If it is to have any moral standing it has to at least not break its own and international laws it has undertaken to uphold.
    It has to be accountable when it does break those laws.
    Not try to wheedle its way out out of responsibity under cover of ‘national security’.

    If not then don’t pretend your not a tyrannical power.

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