While the press have been investigating Gen. Antonio Taguba’s claim that photos existed that “show rape” of detainees by Americans, Congress and the Obama administration have been working behind the scene to pass a law allowing the executive branch to summarily withhold any photos of detainee treatment it wants for an effectively unlimited time. Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald reports that the White House is “actively supporting” a bill called The Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act of 2009 that would pre-empt the ACLU’s court battle with the administration and allow Obama to pre-empt any future efforts to force the government to disclose evidence of torture.
It’s one thing for the president to fight in court for the ability to withhold these specific photos in this specific instance. It’s another thing entirely to lobby for detainee treatment photos to get blanket immunity from the Freedom of Information Act. But that’s what Obama’s doing.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and usual suspect Joe Lieberman (I-CT), would allow the administration to easily suppress “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 Secretary of Defense claimed it was to protect the troops. The bill is reportedly sailing through Congress. “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?” Greenwald asks. Indeed. What kind of a president says “Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency,” and then supports such a law?